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How To Use Leg Bands For Chickens

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Keeping track of large flocks is a difficult task. Even the most experienced chicken owners have a hard time remembering past a specific number. But thankfully, there is a little trick to keeping things in line. Legbands are a useful thing to have in a flock. And you might find that getting your system down sooner rather than later helps even the novice. Let’s look at how to use leg bands for chickens in ways that work best for you. 

Why Do You Need Them?

Breeders use leg bands for more than just telling your birds apart. While this is definitely a useful way to use leg bands, here are a few other ways to use them. Once you pinpoint how to use leg bands for chickens, it is easier to choose a style.

Tracking Generations

Any experienced breeder can tell you that keeping track of generations is no easy task. An easy way to do this is by getting colored bands for each generation. You could even take this a step further by tracking numbers of the bands to distinguish each bird apart. 

Medical Files

Another great reason to use leg bands is to keep track of each bird’s medical information. Any time your chickens see the vet, you might want to keep the medical records. You can easily file these away and organize them by numbered leg bands for chickens. 

Tracking Traits

And finally, the last reason to use leg bands is to track which birds produce what traits. Breeders can look at the flock and know which chickens produce colored eggs, best temperaments, or even beautiful colors. People also use them for tracking which birds have bad genetics that you don’t want passing down to future generations. 

Style Of Leg Band

There are many types of leg bands on the market. You might like some over others for practical reasons. But each one has its pros and cons, so let’s take a look at them. 

Metal

Metal leg bands for chickens are known for their durability. They don’t easily break or fall off, and your hens are less likely to break them in daily activity. Metal bands are also easy to size and put on, so anyone can do it. Most of these metal bands are lightweight aluminum, so your chickens won’t even notice them. Metal leg bands are best for people who are using leg bands to keep medical records. The downside to metal leg bands is that they aren’t usually colored, and the numbers are harder to see than other varieties. 

Plastic

These are the most common of all the leg band styles. Since they are lightweight, colored, and numbered in easy to read print. You can buy large packs of these bands for reasonably cheap and in multiple sizes. Most plastic leg bands even come with easy sizing clasps to make the process quick and painless. No extensive tools are needed to secure them, and removal is just as simple. These bands are perfect for almost any reason you are using leg bands. The downside to plastic bands is that they aren’t too durable. Many chickens get them snagged on fencing or pick them off themselves. 

Rubber

If you are using leg bands on young chicks, you will want a band that gives a little. Rubber leg bands for chickens stretch while they grow, and they don’t cost a fortune. These elastic bands are great because they are reusable, and you don’t have to worry about your chick outgrowing them too fast. The downside is that they easily break if pulled too hard. 

Zip Ties

For owners who don’t have a huge flock, a cheap and easy solution is colored zip ties. You can size these DIY leg bands for chickens quickly and get them off as fast as you put them on. They even make cute zip ties for poultry with adorable charms on them. DIY leg bands are perfect for backyard keepers that are only trying to tell their hens apart. The downside to zip ties is that they can snap easily. And if you don’t file the edge down, the sharp edge will irritate your hens. 

Spiral Bands

Do you love the idea of metal bands but want something simpler? Spiral bands for chickens are brightly colored and straightforward. Their lightweight material and durability give you all the same benefits as metal bands. But they don’t have numbers on them, so they work better when distinguishing hens apart. You could even use them to mark generations or traits depending on your flock size.

Flexible

Flexible leg bands are made especially for growing chicks. Their thin, flexible material is perfect for a chick’s sensitive skin. And since they are so pliable, your chicks won’t mess with them as much. Most of these flexible bands are even adjustable to grow with your chicks. The only downside is that they can easily fall off if they get snagged or stretched.

How To Size Leg Bands

Sizing your chickens for the perfect leg band size is crucial. Too tight and your chickens could lose circulation to their feet. Too large, and the leg bands could fall right off. The perfect leg band should fit securely yet loose enough to twist.

Most companies have their own sizing charts for the best fit. In general, small hens need 9/16 inches, medium sizes are 5/8 inches, and larger breeds are 11/16 inches. But to make sure that you are getting bands that fit perfectly, you might want to measure the diameter of their leg. To do this, you will need a few things:

  • Towel
  • Sewing tape measurer
  • A lending hand

The person that is lending you a hand should hold the hen securely. Placing the towel around the body can help keep hens from flapping around. Then you should measure the leg just above the ankles. Now that you have your hen’s leg size, you can pick the perfect size leg band. If your hen is in between sizes, it is best to round up instead of down. Going too small could have consequences.

Once you have the perfect leg band, you will attach it similarly. With a helping hand, secure the hen and place the chicken leg bands. Depending on the style of leg band you buy, some attach without any extra tools, but others will need to be pinched closed. Metal bands are the most common that need a tool to close them, but be very careful. Gently close the band without pinching the chicken as well.

How To Size Chicks

So we’ve talked about how to use leg bands for chickens, but what about chicks? Chick leg bands are usually sized by how old the chick is. This is where rubber leg bands come in handy for chicks. Because chicks grow so fast, you will need to check the leg band fit weekly. If you have metal or plastic leg bands, they will need to be cut off and replaced weekly. But with a stretchy band, you might get away with changing them every 2-3 weeks instead. 

The only reason to keep leg bands on chicks is if you have too many to keep track of. Leg bands can help you keep track of which ones get sick or have difficulties. They also pose a small risk for growing chicks, though. If you don’t check the bands weekly, they can quickly grow into the leg and cause infections. But most backyard keepers don’t put chicken leg bands on until fully developed to prevent any accidents.

Are There Cons To Using Chicken Leg Bands?

As you can see, there are so many great reasons to use leg bands. And with so many different varieties, it can be hard to choose which one works best for you. But are there any risks you take with leg bands? While there aren’t many, here are a few.

Rust

Metal or metalcore leg bands, like spirals, always have the possibility of rust. Rusty bands could cause infections in your hens if they develop cuts. The leg bands will also break if they get rusted through.

Hold Dirt

If your run is dusty and has a lot of dirt, bands could hold that dirt. You might not think this is a huge deal, but if your hens get hurt, it could lead to infections. Keeping the area clean should be your priority when using leg bands.

Snagging

The biggest risk you have with leg bands for chickens is that they get snagged. If you use stronger bands like plastic or spirals, catching could cause injury. When your chicken gets caught, they try to get away. The bands then either cut into the leg, or your hen could accidentally break it trying to escape. To prevent snagging, you will need to check the fence and run daily for anything that could catch the band.

Irritation/Pecking

And finally, not all chickens are ok with leg bands. You might find that your hen’s legs get irritated or that they pick at them frequently. Bright shiny things are also appealing to other hens, which could cause pecking on others. When you first put the bands on, you will need to keep a close eye on your flock to ensure that they are all doing ok. If you notice irritation happening, you should check the sizing and change band materials immediately.

What Are Your Favorites?

There are so many excellent chicken leg bands on the market. And now that you know how to use leg bands for chickens, you will be prepared for anything. All you need is a system and the materials for success.

Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!

why use leg bands on chickens pin

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