Chickens, like humans, can get sick with everything from a common cold to more serious diseases. How can you spot the early symptoms, and ensure your flock remains fit and healthy?
Read on to discover the most common chicken ailments, and how you can help treat or prevent them. And remember, if you are in any doubt as to why your chicken is ill, isolate it from your flock and call in the vet asap.
Starting off ….
The key to keeping your chickens healthy is to make sure they have the best of everything; the best draught-free and secure chicken coop, the best food, fresh water, and enough room to spread their wings. Most important of all, they must have YOU, to clean the coop regularly and keep an eye of their welfare.
Cleaning your chicken coop must become a regular part of your life, not something you remember to do now and again. Dirty unkept living quarters is where alot of your problems can begin, so this is why it is our first point.
Effective cleaning cannot happen while your hens are resident, so temporarily evict them into their outside pen with a tasty treat or two, while you get on with the cleaning.
Bedding must be changed regularly, particularly if it gets damp. Make sure you remove all bedding, even from the corners, and wash and scrub away any that sticks in place. Allow the coop floor to dry if necessary before putting in new bedding.
Roosting areas should be cleaned and disinfected regularly, especially under the perches themselves, where parasites and insects can lurk.
Water dispensers and feeding dishes should be scrubbed clean, rinsed thoroughly and dried before returning to use in the run or hen house.
No Draughts Please, We’re Chickens
Chickens do not like draughts, but their chicken house should be well ventilated. Well-designed chicken coops have special windows or ventilations holes that allow fresh air in, but don’t cause draughts.
The Best Food and Water (and a bit of grit)
Now, we’re not suggesting that your chickens should fed on the finest grains hand picked by peasants in some distant land, or they should only sip spring water from the Italian Alps, but good food and fresh water does make a big different. While your chickens can gain up to 25% of their protein by foraging, you should also supply then with a good quality complete chicken food, to keep them in top laying condition.
Eggs are composed of up to 65% water, so you must supply plenty of it. Chickens, however, are terrible at keeping their own water supply clean, so you should refresh it as often as possible to avoid contamination.
Chickens need grit in the gizzards to digest their food (more on gizzards later), so if your chickens do not have access to natural grit in soil or grass, you should supply some.
Like any animals, your chicken can be susceptible to a number of pests, diseases, and disorders. Even the healthiest chicken in the cleanest coop can be vulnerable, so on the next page is a quick check list of what a healthy chicken should look like.