Without a doubt, the best thing you can do to insure your chickens’ health is keep things clean. Water needs to be fresh. Feed bins need to be closed to rodents and other pests. Nesting boxes, brooders, and coops need to be regularly hoed out and checked for infestation of any kind.
But sometimes mother nature winds up and throws a fast-ball of internal and/or external disease or parasites at your flock, so it’s up to you to recognize the pitch, and knock it out of the park. Sometimes it’s not easy to know what to do for a sick chicken. Hopefully, I can help.
Baby Chicks and Coccidiosis
One of the most common health issues to befall a baby chick is coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is caused by protozoan parasites from the genus Eimeria. It is a naturally occurring parasite that lives in a specific area of a chickens’ intestinal tract. Baby chicks are not likely to be affected negatively by coccidia if their brooding area is kept’t relatively free of manure. It is only when the chicks graze on manure due to a lack of feed, or an overabundance of droppings, that they get an overdose of the parasite.
Symptoms of coccidiosis include droopy posture, rough or ruffled appearance, wet poop with mucus, reduced consumption of feed, and weight loss. Bloody droppings are also a sign and a reason to take quick action.
Prevention of coccidiosis is achieved by cleanliness and also by the use of medicated chick feed. Adult chickens can also get the disease, although less commonly. Treat affected chicks and chickens by adding Amprolium to the chickens’ water supply. If the birds are too sick to drink, you can try dropper feeding. Baby chicks are likely to live long, healthy lives if they make it to the eight-week mark.
Fowl cholera is a very infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Pasteurella multocida. This disease causes a high death rate in a flock, and is caused by bird-to-bird transmission, eating infected feed and water, contact with dead birds, and infected droppings. Because death is so swift (6-12 hours), symptoms are hard to observe.
Rodents and other pests like skunks and raccoons can carry fowl cholera.
Once a flock is infected, the best treatment is to try to prevent onset of the disease to the uninfected by administering antibiotics to drinking water. A complete clean out, including disinfection, must be done to the living area of the flock. Carcasses must be burned or buried so that no further contact can be made by the live birds.
Avian Bird Flu
“Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species.- That’s from the CDC website.
The avian bird flu is a flu. It is spread from bird to bird, bird to other animals by ingestion of carcasses, bird to hard surfaces, and on and on. The bottom line is that it acts just like influenza in people in that it has a devastating effect on the respiratory systems of its victims, especially the fragile victims, which all chickens are.
The flu has many symptoms. Diarrhea, sluggishness, raspy breathing, hemorrhages of legs and feet, inflamed heads, reduced feed and water intake, and in some cases, death. Egg production is obviously affected overall, but individual productivity is also reduced. Egg quality can also be affected.
The best way to fight the avian bird flu is to keep your flock from getting it in the first place. This may sound simple, but the threat comes from many paths. To protect your flock, you will want to isolate them from contact with wild bird sources like ducks and geese. That includes thoroughly cleaning your hiking shoes, or boots if you walk or hike in areas where you might pick up waterfowl manure.
If you add new chicks or chickens to your flock, you will want to isolate them for a few weeks to make certain that they are healthy. Don’t think that it can’t happen to you. The USDA has documented well over 700 cases, in both poultry and non-poultry specimens, of avian bird flu in the US since February 2022.
Keep your chickens away from varmints like raccoons, skunks, and opossums because they can be carriers, including rodents.
Mareck’s disease is a herpes virus that spreads through the air on skin and feather dust. Of course, when this dander lands, the litter is contaminated. Marek’s is extremely contagious and has some hideous symptoms including paralysis, gray eye, enlarged feather follicles, and tumors of internal organs. If your chickens get Mareck’s, they probably won’t make it.
Prevention s really the only way to stave off the scourge of this disease. Baby chicks must be vaccinated on the day of hatching, or while still in the egg. Vaccination is easy to do, and vaccines can be purchased online or at farm stores. Additionally, make sure the baby chicks that you buy are vaccinated.
Once a chicken gets Mareck’s, there is no treatment.
Otherwise known as salmonella can cause intestinal problems in your poults and chicks. Eggs can get salmonella on, or in them, when being laid, or from touching manure after being laid.
Symptoms include drooping wings, diarrhea, excess peeping, huddling near heat, pasted vents, and closed eyes. Keep in mind that these indicators are also common with other poultry illnesses, so your chicks may not have paratyphoid just because they exhibit some of these symptoms.
The easiest fix to paratyphoid is cleanliness, proper egg handling, and rodent and snake control (carriers). Treatment includes antibiotics and other drugs.
Happy, Healthy Chickens
By now you’ve noticed that there is a common thread that runs through the entries above – cleanliness, tidiness, sanitation, etc. is very important to raising healthy chickens. While prevention can be a little tedious and monotonous perhaps, it’s a lot easier to stop your flock from getting disease than it is to treat them once they are sick. You can find medicine for prevention and treatment online, or at any good farm store.
Although this list of maladies is not exhaustive, I hope you have found some good information on what to do for a sick chicken.
Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to help.