When you are raising animals, it is always stressful and frightening when they get sick. Here are some common ailments that can strike backyard chickens, and tips for prevention and care.
Not all chicken deaths are caused by disease. Check outour article on chicken lifespansto find out more about how long a chicken lives and the threats they face from predation.
The Importance Of Biosecurity
Biosecurity means preventing diseases and pathogens from entering your chicken flock from the outside.
When you buy new chickens, especially full grown birds, always quarantine them away from the rest of your flock for 10-14 days. This not only allows a period of social and territorial adjustment to a new home, but also allows time for disease symptoms to emerge in the new birds before you mix your flock. This is a great practice with any new animals you introduce to your home. The steps to biosecurity are discussed in the video below.
Dangers From Wild Birds
Wild migratory birds也会将病原体引入你的鸡群，但你可以通过在院子里不放喂鸟器或鸟浴来限制它们与鸡的接触。
If you live near a body of water that attracts geese and other migrating fowl, fence your chickens away from the water’s edge. Pathogen exchange usually happens through feces, so keep your chickens away from those areas even when there are no wild birds present.
Dangers From Mammals (Including Humans)
Rodents and their droppingscan also be disease vectors and potential predators. Discourage rodents by only feeding your chickens as much as they will eat in a day so that there is not extra food in their coop on a regular basis. Change their bedding frequently and keep an eye out forrat droppings.
Internal Parasites: Worms
Roundworms are spread through contact with infected feces, so cleanliness and separation from wild animals and unfamiliar chickens are the best preventative measures. Tapeworms, on the other hand, are transmitted by host creatures, including slugs and insects.
Danger From Pets
Domestic cats and dogs carry some of the same varieties of worms that live in chickens, and can transmit these parasites to your home. Always monitor your house pets for signs of worms and treat any infestations. If you suspect worms, either in your chickens or household pets, it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and treat them. If you want a definitive diagnosis, seek out any small-animal veterinarian.
If you suspect worms, quarantine the affected chickens, and thoroughly clean the coop. If possible, rotate your chickens to a new area. Feed your chickensoral dewormers它们每三个星期就会撤退一次，以打破蠕虫的繁殖周期，因为它们可以在鸟的身体内外生活。
Most farm and garden stores carry at least one brand of dewormer suitable for poultry. Ask the staff at the store for advice on what they recommend.
Diatomaceous earth(DE) as a feed additive has beenshown to be moderately effectivein controlling internal parasites, especially as a preventative measure. Some people try to use garlic and onion as dewormers, but there is evidence that alliums have no effect in worm control.
如果你的羊群处于危险中——如果你的地区有大量的候鸟或野猫和野狗——葱属植物是值得尝试的预防措施。However, keep in mind that feeding chickens alliums can make their eggs taste “garlicy.”
External Parasites—Lice and Mites
Like many animals, chickens can play host to parasites that live on their skin and in their feathers, such aspoultry lice and various mites. External parasites can cause lesions and scabbing, lethargy, and reduced egg production.
Catching parasite infestations early is essential since they grow and develop quickly. Once a population of parasites is well established, they are much harder to eradicate.
Before any treatment begins, make sure to quarantine affected chickens away from the rest of the flock. A number ofpesticide productsare designed to treat parasitic infestations, both on the chicken’s body and in their coop, including organically-certified pesticides likepyrethrum.
If you want to avoid chemicals of all kind, trying using DE to treat parasites. The downside of DE is that it needs to be applied both heavily and repeatedly, externally. Always wear respiratory protection when applying pesticides of any kind, including DE.
Of course, thoroughly cleaning their coop is necessary, and if possible, rotating them to a new part of your yard is best. Chickens will need to be treated regularly for several weeks as eggs continue to hatch on their bodies.
Signs of respiratory illness may include sneezing, wheezing, heavy breathing, and frothing or foaming at the eyes and beak. Respiratory illnesses have bothviral and bacterial causes. One owner has captured their chicken with sinusitis in the video below.
Viral diseases cannot be cured, they are only managed with quarantine, clean surroundings, plenty of water, and dry, warm shelter. Chickens are particularly susceptible to respiratory diseases in the winter, so be sure your chicken coop is not drafty or damp, and give your chickens a heat lamp for the cold months.
Chickens can contract digestive complications, not all of which are contagious. The most common problem is diarrhea, which can cause fatal dehydration, especially in young chicks. Like respiratory illnesses,diarrhea can be caused by both viruses and bacteria, and not all the causes are treatable.
Other digestive problems include:
- Oral sores. These are treatable by a vet.
- Impacted, or blocked crop. Caused by a muscle paralysis or ingesting a foreign object which blocks the crop.
Antibiotics are not effective against viral illness, but viruses can weaken a chicken’s immune system and make them vulnerable to secondary bacterial infections.E. coli is a common culpritof these infections, and it can quickly cause fatal blood poisoning.
Secondary infections and septicemia are treatable with antibiotics. Talk to a veterinarian to be sure you are treating your birds the best way possible. Below is a video on how to give your chicken antibiotics from The HenCam.
Diagnosing Unknown Killers
Typically by the time you know something is seriously wrong, chances are a chicken will already be dead or too sick to treat. It can be hard, even impossible, to know for sure what pathogen killed your bird, especially if you haven’t seen clear symptoms developing. If you don’t know what kind of illness your chicken has or how to treat it, you can try to find a place that will perform a necropsy, or a post-mortem diagnosis, on the animal.
Manyuniversity extensionsoffer this service affordably and if they do not, they will likely know where to refer you. A necropsy can tell you what your chicken died of, giving you the knowledge needed to treat or vaccinate the other birds in your flock to prevent more losses.
Even if one chicken succumbs to an illness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your whole flock will die of an epidemic. Chickens can die ofheatstroke、脱水、寒冷、衰老、器官衰竭和其他非传染性健康问题，更不用说捕食了。
Clean Coop, Healthy Chickens
不要太担心疾病会破坏你后院的鸡群。基本护理可使禽鸟保持健康并将患病风险降到最低。Every coop andchicken tractorare designed differently, so keeping a hygienic environment for your birds may not look the same as your neighbor’s cleaning routine.
If you are worried about pathogens, you can sterilize with vinegar or bleach. Allow the coop to air dry before adding clean bedding. Check out this video for cleaning your coop as an urban farmer.
Rotating Chicken Habitats
Having access to more lush and diverse foraging ground increases chickens’ nutrient intake and boosts their immune systems. And of course, sunlight and fresh air are some of the best health supports available. However, even with the best care and biosecurity, there are some common contagious health problems that can trouble chickens. If you have a mobile chicken house or chicken tractor, clean the structure before moving it onto new ground, to minimize the transfer of disease.
Focus On The Basics
Make sure your birds have clean water and bedding, lots of fresh air, shelter from the rain and cold, and shade in the heat. And of course, to keep yourself and your animals healthy, always wash your hands after handling chickens. Even healthy birds can transmitdiseases like salmonella, especially to children. Ninety percent of the time, keeping yourself and your pets healthy is just a matter of preventative care and good biosecurity.