Health care for pet chickens

Healthy chickens are 'bright-eyed', alert and interested. You should always contact a vet if you're concerned about the health and welfare of your chickens, as well as for regular health check-ups, but here are some common problems to look out for.

close-up a free-range hen © Emma Jacobs / RSPCA

Signs of poor health

These include:

  • Hunched posture
  • Erect feathers
  • Head tucked under the wing
  • Reluctance to move
  • Hiding in corners

Feather pecking

Feather pecking is where hens peck and pull at the feathers of other hens, sometimes leading to more serious injuries and even cannibalism. It can affect hens in any system, including commercial farming systems and hens kept as pets. Outbreaks of feather pecking can happen suddenly. Read more about this in our guide to laying hen feather cover.


Chickens need regular worming, particularly if they're kept in the same outdoor area for more than a month. You should also check them regularly for parasites, and in particular:

  • Lice - these are 2 to 3mm in size and can be found all over the body. They lay their eggs around the shafts of the feathers
  • Red mites - these are smaller and can be found under the wings, or in crevices in the chicken house

We have more advice on caring for chickens at home and how to create the best environment for pet chickens.

Find out more