Health Issues in Rescue Hens

This article covers some of the common health issues that newly rescue hens could suffer from. Don’t be too concerned though as with the right advice and treatment, most if not all can be solved at home.

Mites & Lice

Mites and Lice can live on the hens and it is highly recommended that you would powder them for mites straight away.  You should also treat the chicken coop to prevent any mite eggs from hatching. This should then be done regularly over the coming weeks reduce the risk of any mites breeding.


Similar to cats, dogs and other pets, chickens can suffer from worms.  There are different products to help control worms, it is suggested you use one for the hens within the first few days of getting them home.  Typically they are added to the food or water, over three consecutive days.

Feather Pecking

If your hens are missing some of their feathers it is recommended to spray them with Gentian Violet Spray.   This will stop the hens from pecking at each others feathers, cover up wounds and also allow their feathers to return good condition. We have Gentian Violet Spray available in our online shop to help with this.  In the second week, we suggest repeating the gentian violet spray.

Brittle Bones

A lot of the calcium that a hen takes in goes into making strong egg shells.  In the case of rescue hens, this can result in weak bones as the amount of calcium they have access to will have been regulated by the food they eat.  Providing a good quality oyster shell grit is very important as this is soluble and can be converted into extra calcium as required.  

Overgrown Toenails / Foot Issues

Long and overgrown toenails can be caused if the hen was not able to scratch around.  These are not an issue in regular hens as they naturally wear them down.  It is possible to trim the toenails, but be careful not go close the vein in the toe which can be seen on close examination.

We also recommend checking their feet for any issues, particularly if they have been on wire floors.

Vitamin Deficiency

We recommend giving the rescue hens a vitamin boost.  In my opinion, there is nothing better than Apple Cider Vinegar into the hens water. This will help boost their immune system, helping them to grow stronger every day. Remember to give this in a plastic drinker, as the acid can react with metal drinkers.

Suffer from coldness

Rescue hens have come from a shed with thousands of hens and chances are it was very warm in there.  They also may be missing features which keep them warm.  If it is cold outside, they can get cold as they adjust to the outside world.  Give them an opportunity to acclimatise and make sure that their coop is good and cosy, with lots of bedding.   I have seen chicken jumpers used, which apart from looking very trendy would likely help the hen to adjust.   There are patterns available for these online.

Particular care should also be taken to exposed comb and wattles, that is the skin at the top of the head and under the hens chin.  A coating of vaseline helps greatly here.

Easily spooked

They may not be used to cats, dogs, loud noises or even affectionate human contact.  As mentioned throughout our guide give them space and time to adjust to their new surroundings and take care not to startle them.

It is also very important that their coop is cleaned out regularly. Keep the hens happy and healthy. Bed them with nice clean soft wood shavings or chopped straw.  Those are some of the main items, but if you spot something we should add please let me know via the Contact Us page.