Ask the Experts Oct/Nov 2023

Expert advice on feeding corn, lash eggs, broody hens, chicken coops, and heritage birds.


Is cracked corn okay in summer or what is the alternative?


Hi Janice
Corn is a nice treat for chickens, but shouldn’t be fed to them as their main diet. Offer some as an occasional treat; they’ll enjoy scratching for it. Corn does contain a lot of sugars and starchy carbs that can lead to poultry developing fatty livers or other health issues if they consume too much
regularly. Cracked corn also takes more energy for them to digest than plant matter.

There’s an odd misconception making the rounds of social media that corn is a “hot” food and will overheat your chickens in the summer. But the “heat” generated from corn is a calorie count, derived from metabolizing
sugars. This is how food can keep you “warm” in the winter, by providing the body with the energy it needs to function. However, corn won’t overheat your chickens in any season any more than eating a cupcake will overheat a

Focus first on making sure the birds receive the right amount of protein for their activity and age levels. Layers need 16% to 17% protein daily. Older birds who’ve stopped laying can use 15% protein. But most birds need
more protein in the cold months to generate enough body heat.

This article (link below) might give you some more specific information about what’s in chicken feed to see the nutrition they need.

Carla and Marissa

Lump on Leg

About two weeks ago, my chicken wasn’t using her left leg and hopping on her right leg. For the first week, she flinched when I touched the leg, and I could not extend it without her showing signs of discomfort. In week two, she extended the leg more and didn’t appear to be in as much pain, but now there’s a lump the size of an olive above her left joint where her feathers start to grow. The lump is soft to the touch and is the same temperature as her body. She’s no longer complaining when I touch it. What can I do to
help her?



This lump is most likely an “isolation,” where the body walls off infection so it doesn’t spread. Don’t worry; that’s what the body is supposed to do! Your
chicken probably suffered a puncture wound that she’s now healing from. Monitor the lump for any heat, redness, or size increases; if that happens, you may need to call a veterinarian to obtain antibiotics. But if her body continues to heal as it should, the lump will eventually reabsorb into the body. But keep in mind that this reabsorption usually takes longer than we think it should, so be patient.


Water/Lime Mixture Disposal

What’s your preferred method of disposal for your water/lime mixture when your water glassed eggs are all used up? I did mine in a large 5-gallon bucket. I want to start fresh. Just not sure if there’s a good use for the old mixture.

Barbara Bernard


Lime water (calcium hydroxide) is alkaline, and not considered hazardous by the FDA. But it’s still alkaline. So I have several recommendations.
Pouring down the sink:
You can add a diluted acid (such as acetic acid) to lime water to bring it to a pH between 6 and 9 before pouring it down the sink. Wear gloves at a minimum. You might consider wearing a mask just to make sure you don’t breathe anything in.
If you’re on a septic tank, I don’t recommend pouring lime water down your sink.
Lawn disposal:
Given that you only have 5 gallons, you can neutralize the lime water and spread it over a large area of lawn or pasture without damaging plants or causing harm to the soil.
Soil amendment:
If you have a garden plot that is acidic, you can spread the lime water over it to tweak the pH. Again, you should test the soil pH to be sure, depending on what you’re trying to grow. Root vegetables love alkaline soil.


Broody Hen

I have a question about how long to leave an egg under a broody hen. I know about 21 days is standard, but how long past the 21-day mark should you let the egg stay under the hen?

I’ve seen an egg laid on June 26, with a hen sitting on it by the 27th, and hatched on the 16th of July. I had another egg laid on June 29 and hatched on July 18. A third egg was laid and sat on June 27, but as of July 18 hasn’t hatched, and I don’t hear scratching or peeping. Can I let it stay under the hen until July 20?


Hi Becky,
Thank you for writing to us! This is a great question!

While 21 days is average, it’s not the ultimate rule. For instance, if the weather is cold or if the hen gets off the nest more often than most hens do, it can take a few extra days. And, if the weather is hot, the eggs can hatch as early as day 18. Also, keep in mind that a hen doesn’t lay all the eggs at once; she lays one a day, until she has a clutch, then sits on them. It’s the sitting stage when eggs actually incubate, so they all hatch within the same timeframe rather than the 10-plus days it may have taken her to lay all those eggs.

Do you know exactly the day that your hen began incubating the eggs? If so, then I recommend leaving them under her until day 24. After that, the egg is most likely no good. Have you candled the eggs to see how they’re doing? If you candle it but see a red line where the yolk and chick meet the air cell, that means the chick has perished within the shell. If light permeates
through the entire egg and you don’t even see the shape of a yolk, that means it never developed and is so decayed that the yolk ruptured. Both of these eggs should be removed — very, very carefully, so they don’t break — from the nest so they don’t explode and spread bacteria onto healthy eggs.
Good luck, and please let us know if you have any further questions!


Lash Eggs

My hen laid three lash eggs between June 28 and July 4. The vet prescribed Clavamox 250 after the second lash egg and bloodwork/smear showed elevated WBC on July 2. She’s 4.88 pounds. I’m giving her approximately 320 milligrams twice daily (approximate because I’m breaking the tabs and
giving her one 250-milligram tab plus 1/3 of another). She was also on Meloxicam for five days to help with inflammation, but I’m on day eight now and have about five days left of Clavamox. Do you think Clavamox is a
good medicine to fight salpingitis/lash egg?

Nicole Schroeder


Clavomox (amoxicillin and clavulanic acid) is used in chickens for bacterial infections such as pododermatitis, and respiratory disease. So yes, Clavomox is an effective antibiotic for the bacterial form of salpingitis. But, as you know, not for the viral version.

Have you noticed any other symptoms of bacterial spread such as peritonitis?

If your hen heals and begins laying again, talk to your vet about medicine withdrawal times to know when it’s safe to eat her eggs again. Typically 7 to 10 days.

Because both the bacterial and viral versions are contagious, keep the infected bird isolated from the rest of the flock until she’s cleared of the antibiotics and is symptom-free. In the meantime, clean the heck out of the
coop and run to keep your other birds from getting infected. Use a 2ppm chlorine solution (1 tablespoon of chlorine in a gallon of boiling water) and clean their coop, nesting boxes, waterers, and feeders. Rinse everything well and let air dry.


First Chicken Coop

We’re about to start our very first chicken coop. We have two main questions:
• Where can we purchase NON-GMO chicks?
• There seems to be a plethora of TOO much information out there … is there perhaps just one single book or resource that you recommend above all others to get started with raising chickens?

Meg Hinkleman

In terms of a couple of good single sources, I’d use books by either Gale Damerow or Christine Heinrichs. (Links below).

As far as GMO chickens go, there’s really no such thing.
There’s a lot of odd information out there about “GMO,” and sadly, much of it is wrong. There are no GMO livestock that have been modified at the genetic level in a lab. Breeding and cross-breeding affect genetics but aren’t the same. Humans have been breeding animals for millennia.

Are you interested in heritage breeds? (I’ve included a link to The Livestock Conservancy also.) They aren’t hybrids. Examples are Orpingtons, Barred Rocks, Buckeyes, Jersey Giants, etc. There are tons of hybrids on the market.
Most are bred for certain characteristics such as egg-layers or body size for meat birds. Any bird called a “sex link” is a hybrid bird. For instance, Red or Black Sex-Link layers are bred so that the male and female chicks are easily
recognizable. Sexing heritage poultry is harder.

Hybrids are useful birds, depending on the flock you want. I’ve often included sex-link birds in my flock when I want significant egg production and don’t want to raise roosters. In a separate coop/run, I’ve also raised heritage birds to take advantage of their characteristics, such as good mothering or gentle roosters. (Brahmas are delightful.)

I hope this all helps. Don’t hesitate to send pictures of your flock and set-up! I’d love to share your journey with our readers.

Heritage Chickens

How to Raise Chickens, 3rd edition, Christine Heinrichs

The Chicken Health Handbook, 2nd edition, Gale Damerow

Mystery Egg

Any guesses what kind of egg this is? It definitely has an embryo. My husband found it by a pond at his job with others that were smashed.

Karmin Garrison


This looks like a duck egg. That “dirty” appearance is from a cuticle, similar to the protoporphyrin “brown” layer in chicken eggs, meaning it gets applied at the very end. Duck egg cuticles are more solid and can be scraped off. Cayuga eggs have such a dark cuticle that the first eggs for new layers may come out almost black. That black Cayuga cuticle fades as the lay cycle extends, so they may become light gray.


Sudden Death

My 18-month-old Brahma died two weeks ago while we were on vacation. We had a chicken sitter. They told us that they found these weird-looking, egg-like substances.

I figured they were lash eggs. My Red Star just laid a lash egg and right after that, laid a soft egg. I’ve cleaned everything in the coop and run really well. I’ve isolated her. She’s eating and drinking well. What do you think the prognosis is and what about my other hens? We have seven hens and no roosters. They have plenty of room.

The birds don’t free range as we live high in the Rocky Mountains where there are lots of predators. They live in a fortress. My husband is a builder.

Kathy Whyte

Hi Kathy,
It depends on whether your chickens have salpingitis of bacterial or viral origin. If bacterial, treat with antibiotics, such as tetracyclines. If viral, you can treat symptoms, but there’s no vaccine currently on the market. If you go the antibiotic route, remember that there’s a withdrawal time, and you shouldn’t eat any of their eggs (even ones that look fine) for at least two to
three weeks after you’ve finished giving the medicine. Clean the coop from top to bottom with antimicrobials, and put down all fresh bedding and food. Clean their waterers with bleach and rinse thoroughly. Prognosis really depends on the age and health of your hen to start with. Sadly, the hens don’t recover well from salpingitis. Even if she lives beyond 6 months, she’s
unlikely to lay eggs again.

Chickens in Uganda

I am in Uganda but I would like to import those blue egg-laying chickens and rear them in Uganda. Is this

Herbert Kasiita
Hello Herbert,
Your best bet is to go to your local Ministry of Agriculture for information (link below).
Often, countries also have a non-governmental service that trains farmers and helps connect them with products and breeds. Link below for CABI.
We don’t recommend shipping birds from the U.S., as it would be cost-prohibitive. Neighboring countries like Nigeria may have some stock that came in through South Africa. You can also go onto Facebook or WhatsApp to find groups for farmers in your area. For instance, the Uganda Livestock and Heritage Show is at Cooper House in Kampala. There’s also the Kisakyeville Poultry and Livestock Farm, also in Kampala.
Let us know what you find out.

Carla and Marissa


Your article was one of the only things I could find regarding random items in chicken eggs. We have a wild chicken that laid eggs under our house in Hawaii. Everything seemed fine until I checked on them today … they’re all broken open and one has a piece of hose in it; one has a little piece of wood; one has a rock. We have no experience with chickens or anything of the sort was just wondering if you’ve ever seen this or know what could’ve caused it?!
Jesse Owens

Hi Jesse,
This definitely looks like the work of rodents. They’ve broken the eggs open, eaten the yolk, and are now using the shells as little storage units for found items. Who knows why rodents gather some tidbits and save them, but they do.

Sick Hen

I have a young buff hen, 12 to 13 weeks old who’s very sick. She’s in quarantine in my laundry room. She no longer stands up, so I hold her up so that she can drink water. Her initial symptoms were a spastic-like movement, and she would fall on her side or roll over and not be able to get up. When I hold her, she can stand up for a few minutes.
We had one other hen two months ago display these symptoms and we lost her and another hen that we found dead in the coop three weeks ago with no symptoms before death. The sick chick doesn’t live in that coop. She was in a nursery coop nearby. This chicken is really going downhill. If I have to euthanize her, I don’t know how to do that. I have been burying all dead chickens in the back of the pasture. Please let me know if you have any suggestions on what to do. Treatments recommended? How to humanely euthanize? This is a painful decision.
Peggy Rush

I’m so sorry for your distress. Because you’ve had several birds die with the same symptoms, I’d be very concerned about Marek’s disease (Gallid herpesvirus 2). Young birds are most susceptible with deaths occurring between 8 and 20 weeks of age. It first appears as nerve spasms and progresses to paralysis of the legs. A veterinarian exam is needed to confirm Marek’s, along with a post-mortem exam.

Marek’s is highly contagious and can spread through your whole flock, even if they’re in separate pens.
You should isolate and destroy any birds showing signs of illness. Take the bodies to a vet for confirmation of Marek’s. If Marek’s is confirmed, your other birds are likely to be infected. You’ll have to consider if you want to euthanize the whole flock. In the meantime, you need to clean and disinfect everything: coops, runs, waterers, and feeders. You should also consider vaccinating any new chicks you buy, since a positive postmortem proves that Marek’s is endemic in your location and can spread from wild birds or debris.

Best of luck with hard decisions.


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