Chickens are often considered part of the family. If we walk the family dog, why not walk the family chicken, too? As it turns out, providing sufficient exercise for your flock is extremely important for maintaining healthy, happy, and productive layers. Here’s why.
About Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome
Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome (FLHS) is a noninfectious disease that affects the liver and abdominal cavity of poultry and is typically seen in high-producing laying hens. FLHS occurs when high-energy diets are fed to birds in restrictive environments that do not provide enough room for sufficient exercise.
While a few cases have been reported to affect males, studies show that high-producing laying hens are at a greater risk of developing FLHS due to increased production of estrogen from overly active ovaries. Signs of this condition can vary, but the most common symptoms are overly plump body condition, pale combs, reduced egg production, and sometimes brittle eggshells due to impaired calcium metabolism.
FLHS can lead to liver rupture, hemorrhage, and sudden death due to internal bleeding. This condition is one of the leading causes of noninfectious mortality in backyard flocks. While a direct cause for FLHS has not yet been established, experts believe that this condition is the result of a combination of nutritional, genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors.
How to Lower the Risk
Practices like monitoring feed intake and providing enough pen space for adequate exercise can help mitigate the risk of FLHS. While free-choice feeding is common practice for poultry operations, there are always gluttons in every species. The average adult hen will consume approximately 4 to 6 ounces of feed per day, so this amount should be used as an estimate to monitor flock feed consumption.
Exercise can be encouraged by allowing birds to free range, increasing pen space with access to fresh forage, or yes, taking your family chicken for a stroll through the neighborhood. Chicken harnesses are a thing. Forreal. And they’re cute. Giving the flock access to a garden, bedding, or other compost materials to scratch also helps improve body condition. Scratching not only helps to break down the waste into quality soil, but also provides great exercise for the flock.
So, Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
Just to get a little exercise! What’s all the fuss about?!
As always, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions! We are here to help.
Leeson, Steven. Overview of Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome in Poultry. Merck Veterinary Manual, www.merckvetmanual.com/poultry/fatty-liver-hemorrhagic-syndrome/overview-of-fatty-liver-hemorrhagic-syndrome-in-poultry
Fatty liver haemorrhagic syndrome. The Poultry Site. (2019, February 20). https://www.thepoultrysite.com/articles/fatty-liver-haemorrhagic-syndrome