Ask the Expert — August/September 2017

Ask the Expert  — August/September 2017

Mystery Chicken

Do you know what kind of chicken that is is on page nine of the April/May 2017 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine?

— Norma Grainger


It looks like the chicken that’s on the Ideal Poultry ad on page nine is a Mille Fleur d’Uccle. They are a beautiful and friendly Bantam breed that make a great addition to a backyard flock. The article below gives you more information about Belgian d’Uccles.

Belgian D’Uccles: A True Bantam Chicken Breed

Hope this helps!


Stopping Broken Eggs

I have three different breeds of hens, so it makes know for sure who is laying which egg, but luckily my Rhode Island Red is my brown layer. I believe my Light Brahma has been the one laying the largest brown eggs I’ve been getting for several months now, and my third chicken is a White Laced Cornish and I think she is the last of the three to lay eggs, and they are a very light brown, smaller egg. Back to my beautiful Light Brahma giving us our first eggs, the large brown ones, and they were perfect. For about two weeks now, these eggs have been cracked on the smaller end. Twice the eggs are totally smashed, and with nothing left but smashed eggshell? I had run out of the ground oyster shell, and I thought maybe that was the reason the small end, which I guess is the first part of the laid egg that hits the surface first. Today is the second day it was totally smashed. Can you please give me some advice on why this might be happening, and if there is anything I can do to change this behavior? These three beauties are my first chickens, and I have really fallen in love with each of them. Your Countryside Daily has already given me so much information! Thank you!

— Melody Larson


Hi Melody,

It can be hard to determine exactly what’s going on through an email, but some general advice may be helpful. First, make sure you are feeding your hens a high-quality layer feed. That will give them good calcium for laying strong eggs. If you run out of the oyster shell, you can always feed your eggshells back to your hens for extra calcium. Just wash the shells off, let them dry and then break them up into small pieces. Also, make sure your nest boxes are lined with lots of fresh chips or straw. That will cushion the eggs as they are laid.

Hope this helps!

Spur Trimming 101

My rooster’s spurs are so long. I don’t know the safest and humane way to clip them, please any suggestions would be appreciated! Thank you!

— Beth Gorsline


Hi Beth,

Rooster spurs can be daunting when they get long and can cause damage to the hens during mating. Luckily, this is easily remedied.

There are a few options depending on the temperament of your rooster. Even if your rooster is docile, make sure he is safely secured before you start.

The easiest method is to clip the spurs just like you would clip a pet cat or dog’s claws. Since a rooster’s spurs are large and won’t fit into a standard clipper, you’ll need something a little bigger. You’ll also need to make sure it’s sharp so the spur doesn’t split as you’re clipping. (That can be painful!) Clip small amounts at a time making sure not to hit the inner soft bone.

You can also file a spur if it’s not too long and your rooster is patient and easily handled since this can take a bit of time. Filing can also be done after clipping to remove any sharp edges.

There is also a hot potato method where you warm up a potato in the microwave and then fit the potato over the spur making sure not to touch the leg. Leave the potato on the spur until the potato cools and then gently twist the spur so that it pops off. This will leave behind the exposed inner soft bone. The spur will grow around that over time, but in the short term, that area can be tender and painful.

Whatever method you choose, there is the risk of bleeding, so make sure to have some styptic powder or cornstarch on hand to stop any blood flow. And be prepared to treat the wound if an accident should happen.

Hope this helps!


Chicken Treats

We have some dried dates that have been in our refrigerator for awhile (nobody felt like eating them…) and they are not moldy.

I was wondering: Can chickens have dates? I couldn’t find anything online.


— Clair Cardwell


Hi Clair,

It’s funny, but dates aren’t usually included in the lists of what can chickens eat, but they’re also not included in the lists of what chickens can’t eat. After some research about pet birds eating dates, it’s clear this is a murky subject. Some say dates have high amounts of tannin and shouldn’t be given to pet birds. Others say the pit is poisonous and should be avoided. Still, others say dates are fine, but to remember they’re high in sugar and shouldn’t be given often; only as a treat.

A good rule of thumb, with a few exceptions, is that if it’s fine for humans to eat, it’s ok for your birds. But if you’re unsure, it’s probably best to air on the side of caution and not give them to your birds.

Hope this helps!


Feeding Chickens

Can you over feed chickens, and would too much feed affect egg laying?

— Linda Champlin

Hi Linda,
Overfeeding chickens is possible; especially when they don’t get free range time to exercise or are given too many treats. Chickens can become overweight. This leads to health problems, just like it does in humans, and can result in fewer eggs being laid.
It’s important to find a good, well-balanced commercial feed that’s given in feeders free choice. From there you can feed treats, but they should be nutritious and make up no more than 10 percent of a bird’s overall diet.
Below are some links below that you may find helpful.
Enjoy your flock!


Ice Water in Hot Weather

I love your magazine and wait eagerly for each edition. In the February/March 2017 issue, there was an article on giving chickens ice water. Your readers need to check out advice with a vet before doing the advice given. I am NOT putting down your magazine at all. Please don’t think that. I heard from someone that it’s a good idea to put ice in the chicken water, so I did. I killed every one of my chickens. I went to a friend and ask why this happened. He told me that certain animals such as chickens and pigs cannot have their body temperature changed quickly or they go into shock. Pigs and chickens cannot sweat, so their temperature needs to stay the same. I also asked a veterinarian and he told me the same thing. My friend, when he was a child, was taking care of pigs for a neighbor. He thought he was being kind and gave them ice water. He killed every pig. I give my chickens new water several times a day when it is really hot, but no more ice water. Thank you and hope this advice saves someone from going what I went through. It is hard to raise a bunch of chickens from peeps and then have them die, like this or in any way.

— Linda Caldwell


Hi Linda,

The fatalities you experienced with your flock are heartbreaking and this is a good topic to explore especially since it’s hot weather season in most of the country.

A visiting poultry veterinarian said he doesn’t know of any mechanism that would explain this being a problem. As a comparison, he said we drink ice water when we are hot, and it doesn’t kill us.

Very cold water can cause vasoconstriction (tightening of the blood vessels), which could slow blood flow throughout the body. This is usually seen in the blood vessels in the skin and extremities, though. This can actually have the effect of limiting cooling of the body core since less heat will be transported out to the extremities by the blood.

However, drinking cold water most likely doesn’t create enough of this effect to be noticeable. Since the water would go to the crop, it wouldn’t be drastic enough to cause a problem. Spraying birds with icy water or immersing them in cold water would be more likely to have this effect.

Not surprisingly, this hasn’t been researched in chickens!

There is some research on humans though, from the late 1950s. They overheated people to a rectal temperature of 104 degrees F, then compared methods of cooling. They also referenced one person, who was submerged in ice water to cool his body for heart surgery. This didn’t kill the person. Interestingly, they found that exposure to moving air, with or without wetting the skin, cooled the body faster than immersion in cool water. So, it might be good to point out that a fan (or somewhere with a natural breeze) would be better.

Again, this hasn’t been studied, so there could be some mechanism we’re not aware of. The best guess is that the deaths have been coincidental, possibly due to overheating.

Hope this helps!


Odd Eggs

I found this. I don’t know what it is. A gross, black, bloody, spongy egg? A blood clot? I cut it open and it oozed out a yolk. The outer part was thick, black, spongy and looked burned. What is it?

— Kris Gibbs


Hi Kris,

Wow, that’s not normal!

It looks like a large clot of blood. The hen must have hemorrhaged in her oviduct (or possibly from her ovary), and it passed through like an egg. From the pictures, it looks like there was at least some normal shell inside? It’s hard to tell what might have caused something like that. It would be good to monitor your hen to make sure she doesn’t continue to bleed.

If this happens more than once, you’ll want to look for things that might be causing injury — something the hens are flying into or hitting that might cause trauma to the abdomen, etc. You might also make check the diet. A lack of Vitamin K might cause poor clotting so she’d bleed more than usual.  Some mycotoxins can interfere with proper clotting, too. It does look like the blood clotted, however, so that’s most likely not the problem.

Hopefully, you won’t see this again!


Ask our poultry experts about your flock’s health, feed, production, housing and more!

Please note that although our team has dozens of years of experience, we are not licensed veterinarians. For serious life and death matters, we advise you to consult with your local veterinarian.

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