Ask the Experts – Backyard Poultry

Poultry know-how from experts Marissa Ames and Carla Tilghman.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Cherie’s tom Turkey.
Dried blood always makes wounds look extra nasty, even when they are healing.

My tom turkey has a rather large patch on his chest. It is thick, black, and very nodule-like. His feathers are coming out very easily. He’s eating and acting normally. Please give any info on this.
Cherie Hernandez

That looks like a callus or infected skin from a wound. Maybe he scraped it, or he was attacked. We’d recommend you apply a wound-healing and moisturizing solution to it regularly, and the scab should eventually lift off and allow feathers to grow back in.

Trim the feathers away from the edges of the wound and keep the area clean. Isolate the bird from the flock, if possible, to keep others from pecking him. If you can’t isolate him, you can camouflage any redness by dusting the area with cornstarch after applying wound-healing products.
There are several decent products on the market:

  • HoneyCure Natural Veterinary Wound Care ointment
  • Hen Healer by Manna Pro
  • Vetericyn’s Poultry Care Plus
    After the wound and any infection have healed, you can apply coconut oil to keep the skin supple until feathers grow back in.


I have an egg in waterglassing that has gotten cracked. Do I remove that egg or do I have to discard the whole 6-quart bucket of eggs?
Thank you.

Hello Deborah,
Thanks for your question about a cracked egg in waterglassing.
The answer is layered:
~ If the egg has just cracked while you’re removing another egg, the remaining uncracked eggs are probably fine. You can crack open one of the other eggs in the jar and smell it. It should smell like an egg, without any sour or decay smell. Then, remove all of the unbroken eggs, discard the broken one, and add a fresh lime/water solution. Candle the eggs to identify micro-cracks before submerging them again. In 2 to 3 days, check the jar for smell. If anything is off, discard the whole batch.
~ If the egg cracked a while ago, and/or the water is cloudy, and/or the batch smells odd or bad, you’ll have to toss out the whole jar.
~ Keep in mind that the “float test” only identifies eggs with large air pockets. It doesn’t identify spoiled eggs and shouldn’t be used to determine decay, especially since air can’t seep into the shells of submerged eggs.

I have two small adult chickens that were just killed, leaving only feathers near my back door. They’re entirely intact, but both have a hole in their abdomen and it looks like their insides where eaten but there was not a lot of blood. Could it be a crow? I initially thought it was my dog, but she’s been around the chickens for a little over a year and she’s amazing with them, so I don’t see her hurting them. I did see some feathers in her mouth but no blood anywhere on her or in her mouth, not on her paws or anywhere! So, I’m thinking they got attacked by a crow or another animal and she was trying to help. I’m a little baby, so I cried like crazy and didn’t take a photo Please let me know if you have any ideas as to what happened so I can
find a solution to help my babies survive.
Daisy Brewer

Hello Daisy,
I’m sorry to hear that you’ve lost hens. That’s always so sad. The injuries you describe sound a lot like a raccoon. They’ll often kill more than one bird at a time and eat the breast meat and entrails. Usually, there are lots of feathers everywhere and they often move the birds away from the coop.

Dogs tend to bite repeatedly all over the birds, so you’ll see lots of bite marks.

Raccoons most often will hunt at night, as they’re nocturnal. If your birds were killed during the day, then you might also have a rabid or ill raccoon in your area. If you see a raccoon during the day, consider contacting animal control. I’ve linked an article below that has lots of details about how different predators attack chickens. Not pleasant reading, but useful.

Do you feel comfortable with how your birds are housed, in terms of protection? Please feel free to send pictures of your coop and fencing. Overall, it sounds like you need to keep your poultry penned-up during the day and night.

I’ve searched all over the net and can’t find incubation egg-handling procedures when there’s disease in the flock/pen. If the disease is in the
flock/pen, it’s on the eggs. I don’t want to crosscontaminate with eggs from separate flocks in my existing incubators. Then, hatching and infecting the
hatchlings, continuing the cycle. What would you recommend? Egg disinfection? If so, how? Using what concoction without affecting the fetus’s growth?

I raise organic only and have been treating with oregano oil, colloidal silver, VetRx, a poultry drench, and organic ACV added to the water with the same
other ingredients given orally. So far so good with the adolescents affected. But the chickes would be fine one day, then lethargic and thin, then die overnight by the heat lamp. I’m currently growing my flocks and
maintaining 18 in this particular pen. There were two Billy goats temporarily in the pen as a quick separation from two does that dropped kids. I’ve read your article and removed the goats and will bleach the pen today.

So it’s possible there’s cryptosporidium from the goats. Any advice you can offer about the eggs and incubation would be most appreciated. And thanks
for posting your articles. VERY helpful! In Southwest Louisiana.
via Email

Egg disinfection or any kind of washing would compromise the bloom and would actually leave the eggs way more susceptible to any diseases that might be in the incubator. While cryptosporidium shouldn’t pass within the
eggs, it could pass to chicks if the eggs were incubated with feces on them and baby chicks consumed the feces. This is technically possible because Cryptosporidium parvum oocysts can remain infectious for 6 to 8 months outside the body. Overall, most diseases do NOT pass through eggs* UNLESS it’s a disease on the outside of the shell AND the incubator is dirty enough to allow that disease to continue. This is how “mushy chick disease” occurs: Bacteria from dirty incubators enter the umbilical areas of hatchlings.

I advise that you: 1) Disinfect the incubator at least two days before setting the eggs. 2) Do NOT incubate eggs from coops that are currently dealing with diseases. Get those chickens healthy first. Only incubate clean eggs from healthy chickens, and change out the bedding daily if you want to collect eggs for incubation.

*Mycoplasma can pass vertically in-ovo. Most other vertical infections, such as salmonella, occur after the chick has hatched, if eggs are collected from an infected hen, or if the eggs hatch under an infected hen.

When a nest is found, can the eggs be moved and will the mother set on them? I’m writing about a tame guinea nest.
Sadia Cox

The answer to all of this is, “It depends.” The wilder the bird is, the stronger its instincts toward self-preservation. Often, wild animals that feel threatened will abandon a situation where they haven’t yet invested much parental effort. If you moved a wild bird’s nest, that bird may feel in danger since humans are predators, and the bird may never sit on the eggs again. Once the eggs hatch, the parents often feel a stronger bond and will parent/protect the next more. But that can vary based on species; where one fights to protect its babies, another has evolved to lay more eggs as
its biological answer to predation and therefore will abandon the endangered nest to save itself.

If you’re talking about domestic poultry, then the answer is, again, “It depends.” Some breeds go broody very often, and stay broody for so long that you have to physically restrict them from a nest if you don’t want them to hatch eggs. I once had a Narragansett turkey that lost so much weight after staying on a nest for four months that I gave her duck eggs just so she would hatch them and start eating regularly again. I had removed her from the nest so many times, but I couldn’t break her broodiness. And I had a
Lavender Ameraucana chicken that went broody so often that I could never depend on her for eggs, but she raised about four shipments of chicks for me each year. Another chicken, a Black Australorp, stopped being broody
the moment I moved her nest. I wanted chicks from her, but when I put the eggs in a safer location, she decided not to hatch them.

If you’ve encountered a wild nest, it’s best to leave it alone. You can add some implements to make the nest safer, though, without moving it — such as rocks and fencing that camouflage the nest better. You can even do this with poultry, when you don’t want to break the broodiness. I built a cage around a turkey’s nest because she had a specific area where she wanted to hatch her eggs, so I brought in some small fencing panels to predator-proof her little area. And some hens will do great if you put a nest within a dog crate, put the hen in the crate, and close the crate door until the hen gets reacquainted with her new location.

Though I haven’t provided a strong “yes” or “no,” I hope I’ve provided enough information to help you decide whether to move the nest.

Can a 1-month-old chicken have crushed eggshells for calcium and grit?

We don’t recommend feeding eggshells and full-sized grit to chicks this young. Their crops and gizzards aren’t developed enough yet to handle the regular grit, and too much calcium will damage the kidneys of a chicken that isn’t laying eggs. Chicks that live in brooders and eat chick feeds should be offered grit, and there are some “chick grit” products available that have smaller-sized stones.

Look for chick feeds that contain 18% to 22% crude protein. Think about adding a dish of freely available calcium, such as oyster shells or crushed eggshells, when you start seeing eggs appear. This could take 4 to 9 months,
depending on the breed.

What’s the best way to take care of nine drakes? All were dumped over the last few years in our country neighborhood. Our nearest town allows chickens and ducks, so all unwanted boys are ditched out here.

Those we rescue live in a very small pen with a water bucket. A couple have been there for about 1 year, and one is new as of 2 months ago. Any more that are dumped, I’ll take to the local shelter, which typically takes
dogs/cats/birds/small animals. The wild animals here usually get the roosters pretty quick, but for whatever reason, not the drakes. I’m sorry if I sound callous but dumping your pets elsewhere isn’t doing anything but
making it someone else’s problem. Anyway, the 12 that are currently at a large animal rescue need a better place to live, which I’d like to make. A nice horse trough with pea gravel under it, a really big enclosure (20 x 30,
maybe?), and a shed to spend the night.

I know nothing about ducks. These are all boys. I won’t be getting any girls or adding anything to the group. I’d like to give the boys a nice life for whatever time they have left. I’ve read ducks live anywhere from
5 to 20 years, so there’s a lot of wrong info available.

Most of the info is for breeding, having eggs, raising ducklings, not much about abandoned drakes no one wants.

So, all boys need a nice place. Do I need two enclosures to rotate so the ground can recuperate, or is that big of a space okay standing alone?

Thank you for your concern and for providing a healthy place for these drakes! The biggest concern with keeping that many males is the fact that they’re males. Since you don’t plan to keep females, there will be less fighting since there are no hens to fight over, but there still might be squabbles. Provide a large area, so all the boys can find their own spaces, but build a separate cage just in case you need to separate the boys into
different bachelor pads according to personalities. Other than that, drakes just need the standard care that ducks get: food, fresh water that’s deep enough for them to dunk their bills, and shelter from too much bad weather. A swimming trough is an added bonus that’ll enhance their joy and quality of life.

Calcium deposits on an eggshell. Photo by Mary Bowers.

I was wondering why this happens to my eggs. The ladies are free-range and have free-choice oyster shell.
Mary Bowers, Bowers Farm

These look like “wrinkled” or “lopsided” eggs, not at all uncommon. It technically could happen because of stress during the very final stage of the shell process. The deposits are most commonly from a defective shell gland or from too much calcium or vitamin D in the diet.

Fun (and important) fact: These calcium deposits are also how a hen gets rid of excess calcium in her diet. Chickens that don’t lay eggs can’t eliminate excess calcium, and it can severely damage their kidneys — which you won’t see until they die far sooner than a healthy chicken should. This is
why roosters and chicks should receive “growers” or “game bird feed” and not layer feeds.

We’ve attached two articles that include lots of information about eggshell variations.
Carla and Marissa

White Leghorn hen.

Can you help me identify this rooster? Article link:


The white chicken in the article and attached here is a White Leghorn hen (not a rooster). They’re an Italian breed (Livorno or Livornese) originating in Tuscany. They’re a nervous bird, but have good egg production, about 280 eggs annually.

Originally published in the August/September 2023 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine, and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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