Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fatty Livers and Heavyset Chickens

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by Melissa Caughey of Tilly's Nest

For years in my medical career, I have been diagnosing patients with fatty liver diseases. It is estimated that approximately 20% of adults have fatty liver syndrome, with the percentage rising in children at an alarming rate. You can imagine my shock when I learned that chickens too could suffer from Fatty Liver Syndromes of their own! Yes, we are discovering that chickens like people that suffer from obesity, have poor nutrition, and a sedentary lifestyles are developing fatty liver syndromes themselves.

A dear chicken friend of mine had been spoiling her flock with handfuls of sunflower seeds everyday. Her flock came down with Fatty Liver Hemmorhagic Syndrome (FLHS). One of her chicken passed away quickly without warning. She decided to send it for a necropsy. It was then that she learned answers to her questions. She had a few remaining birds in her flock and had to make some changes. She had been loving and spoiling them to death.

My chickens' dream- a field of sunflowers down the road from my house.
Fatty Liver Hemorrhagic Syndrome is a non-contagious illness that is caused when chickens ingest fatty foods, too many calories, and have a sedentary lifestyles. It can also arise from a lack of available Vitamin B7 and Choline chloride. Toxic chicken feed has also been the cause, but often it is multifactorial. Overtime, fat deposits in the liver. A once dark, healthy, red organ appears yellow and greasy from fat deposits.The liver becomes enlarged and looses it's structural integrity.  When the chicken strains, such as laying an egg, the liver begins to hemorrhage. Once this happens, the condition can be fatal.
Cantaloupe is a great source of Inositol that aids fat metabolism.
Dietary changes are key. It is important to feed your flock a well-balanced chicken feed with a source of biotin. Biotin is found in soybeans, broccoli, cauliflower and spinach. It is best to avoid suet (rendered fat) and excessive amounts of sunflower seeds. It is also important to be sure they get plenty of exercise and activity.

There are average weight guidelines for hens and roosters of each breed. If you are concerned, research those and you can even weigh your chickens. Or you could just implement healthier changes in their diet and lifestyle.

I am happy to share that once my friend received that terrible new as to why she lost one of her favorite henny girls, she was able to make some changes for the flock that was still alive. They now get plenty of exercise, less fatty foods and plenty of vegetables and fruits. It has been over a year now and the others are still alive and thriving.

If you would like to learn more about Fatty Liver Syndromes in chickens, I invite you to visit my this post on my blog.
Sharing fresh fruits and veggies now and then are part of a well-balanced diet.

Photo Credit: Tilly's Nest-copyrighted, all rights reserved.

10 comments:

  1. yep, that's called "loving them to death".

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  2. Spinach is very rich in oxalic acid and is outright poison if consumed in large quantities for the kidney in particular. For humans it is better eaten with a Bechamel Sauce or similar that precipitates oxalic salts.

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  3. Oxalic acid is found in many popular vegetables including- beet greens, asparagus, carrots, purslane, and collard greens. Spinach is not as rich as some plants with oxalic acid, such as rhubarb. Because chickens eat spinach does not mean that they will automatically die. The levels of toxicity vary among different plants and sometimes toxins need a cumulative effect to become toxic. A real key to keeping chickens is everything in moderation. Too much of anything is never good.

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  4. I had read recently on several different chicken keeping sites that you should feed your chickens a slightly higher protein diet in winter (including giving sunflower seeds). Is this accurate or am I too loving my chickens to death?

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    1. Protein is usually increased when they are molting not during the winter. Molts usually happen in the fall. This is because both eggs and feathers are predominantly protein. It is not necessary to increase their protein in the winter. People sometimes give the flock a bit of scratch just prior to roosting in the winter to help fill their bellies so that they can metabolize the food while sleeping and generate heat.

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  5. Is dry oatmeal a good option for pre-roosting treats, too?

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  6. This one is really beneficial for the chickens.

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  7. Is it okay to give them sunflower seeds two or three times a week?

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  8. Would feeding corn to your chickens also cause fatty liver disease?

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