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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices


  Chickens: Ducks: Geese:
Female hen duck goose
Male rooster drake gander
Young chick duckling gosling

Basic Animal Care Practices

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.

  • Should have commercial chicken/duck food available at all times. All domestic poultry should be provided with a source of calcium, such as ground oyster shells. Chickens, turkeys, quail, and pheasants should have access to gravel to aid in digestion of food.

  • Should be provided with shelter that protects them from snow, rain, extreme cold, and wind. In the summertime, shade is extremely important - chickens/ducks/geese can die of heat exhaustion. Shelter should be properly ventilated to minimize ammonia odor; fans can be used to cool the birds. In the wintertime, must be kept warm enough to prevent chickens' combs from becoming frost bitten. This can be done with heat lamps to keep the temperature above 32 degrees - if the water doesn't freeze, the temperature is okay.

  • Shelter should provide chickens and turkeys with a place to roost and should be cleaned on a regular basis.

Additional recommendations

  • Poultry raised on the ground need to be wormed at least once a year.

  • Veterinary care as needed. Look for respiratory diseases (eyes seem half shut, breathing sounds raspy or rattling) and for diarrhea. Healthy birds should not have fecal matter matting the feathers around their hind quarters.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: thin (feel the breastbone to see if it is prominent); unkempt feathers (healthy birds keep their feathers clean); frostbitten combs and wattles (red skin under chicken's chin); feather picking; abrasions because of overcrowding.

Housing Conditions: overcrowding - this can be fatal in chickens; too hot or too cold for safety of birds.

Behavior: dull, minimally responsive, not interested in surroundings, depressed; open-mouth breathing if respiratory diseases are present, if conditions are too hot, or when stressed.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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