Main Causes for Chickens not Laying
I have 19a chickens, two have one eye shut all of a sudden, I am only getting one egg a day and they appear to have diarrhea, as the have poo stuck on their feathers around their butt...
Any ideas on what I should do?
There are a number of reasons chickens stop laying, and the few symptoms that you mention are really so broad that a number of things could be wrong with your chickens. After reading this only you will be able to assess which of the following is the problem.
The most common reasons for chickens not laying are:
1. Age of chicken - either too young or too old
2. Poor lighting program
3. Quality of feed and quantity of feed intake
4. Quality of water
5. Parasite Infestation
7. Changes to their routine and management
If your hens have been laying a good number of eggs in the past and there has been a sudden drop in egg production then the age is not the issue.
With your lighting program they should be getting at least 14 hours of light a day.
If you are giving your chickens adequate water that is clean then you can eliminate this as a contributing factor.
The next thing you need to look at is the feed. First of all make sure that it hasn't gotten wet and turned moldy. Moldy corn and feed are deadly to chickens.
Egg production will also drop off if your chickens are not getting enough Vitamin D. It is the Vitamin D that helps the chickens absorb the calcium needed for egg production.
Which leads me to my next comment. Chickens get very sick if they don't get enough grit in their diets and will cause a drop in eggs. Bags of oyster shell given as free choice whenever they feel they need it should always be given.
Another cause of chickens that stop laying is parasitic infections. Chewing lice, or the northern fowl mite both cause distress to the chicken and result in a drop of egg production.
An infestation of lice or mites can cause a drop of production by 10% and if there is a heavy infestation production could drop by as much as 20%.
Chicken Diseases and Diarrhea
Now let's look at the fact that your chickens have diarrhea and look poorly.
Diarrhea in chickens can mean a whole heap of things, so this one is difficult to diagnose without seeing the chickens, but make sure that your chickens are not getting too much salt in their diet.
Excessive salt can cause wet droppings. Fish meal, corn gluten meal, meat meal, sunflower meal and whey are all high in sodium. If these are already in your commercial chicken feed than any salt supplement should be reduced.
Check your chickens for worms. Either round worms or tapeworms could be the culprit.
Finally, let's look at disease. This is last on my list, because when people keep chickens and they notice a problem, they immediately think that their chickens have a disease, when in fact 9 times out of 10 what they have can easily be remedied by adjusting their living conditions and diet.
One of the first signs of disease is a drop of egg production. You didn't tell me if your chickens are listless, or still active and eating, which would have made it easier for a diagnosis.
Did it happen very quickly? Are they breathing with difficulty? Do they have any nasal discharge?
Are they off their feed? If so then they have probably picked up Infectious Coryza or Infectious Bronchitis.
With Infectious Bronchitis the chickens have a watery discharge from both nasal cavities and eyes, they will gasp trying to breathe, will be off their food and water and they stop laying as much.
With Infectious Coryza the symptoms are very similar but there is a particularly bad smell that will come from the chickens' nasal cavities. The discharge from the eyes and nasal cavities is thicker and sticky. Under the wings there is usually a moist area and the wattles, combs and heads can become swollen.
Although both diseases are common in backyard chickens, the news about either disease is not good.
They are both highly infection diseases, where Coryza is a bacterial disease and Bronchitis is a viral disease, and where culling is often the only option for chickens with Coryza as the survivors often become the carriers. There is no vaccine against this disease.
With Infectious Bronchitis the disease can spread via the air to about 1000 yards or more. It is also spread through contact, drinking water and affected surfaces. There is a vaccine against Infectious Bronchitis.
I suggest you get in a vet to give you a proper diagnosis.
You could, in the meantime treat your chickens. Separate the sick chickens from the rest of the flock and treat them with tetracycline. This is an antibiotic against bacterial infections, so will help out if your flock have just mycoplasma which is another chicken disease that is less dramatic than the other two just mentioned, but again has similar symptoms.
Tetracycline is certainly not an organic treatment, however, sometimes you have to go with what is best for your flock.
The dosage is 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.
Again, call in the vet for a proper diagnosis so that he can see the chickens first hand, and perhaps even take a blood sample to determine what really is the matter with them.
Let us know how you get on.