Chicken Diseases And Health Problems

How to Keep Backyard Chickens Healthy

In raising and maintaining backyard chickens, it is very important that they are well cared for if they are to stay healthy and fit. Having a good "chicken health care program" in place can make this a simple and effective process. There are four tasks involved in keeping chickens healthy and fit, and they are as follows:

Healthy Chickens
Healthy Chickens | Source

Four Key Tasks for Healthy Hens:

  1. Clean housing means healthy hens
  2. Chickens require plenty of fresh food and water
  3. Protect your flock from the elements
  4. Exercise your hens

Let's take a quick look at each one of these tasks individually to see just how each can impact the health of your backyard flock.

Clean Housing Means Healthy Hens

Why is a Clean Environment so Important to Chicken Health

If you pay special attention to the care and cleanliness of your coops, you can all but guarantee your healthy chickens are being provided a clean environment. Living in filth brings with it illness, disease and any number of bad conditions in your birds, (or any living creature for that matter).

You and Chickens

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Snack time for the girls!

Fresh food and water is very exciting to your backyard chicken flock. And it keeps them healthy too!
Fresh food and water is very exciting to your backyard chicken flock. And it keeps them healthy too! | Source

Chickens Require Plenty of Fresh Food and Water

Why is Having fresh Water and Food so Important for Backyard Birds

When your hens are hungry this means they are surely healthy. Chickens "live to eat," not so much "eat to live". There is nothing more exciting and pleasing to your flock than food and water. When these are clean and fresh daily, your flock will trill, coo, and be happy. For this reason it is very important that you make sure they are readily provided with plenty of fresh food, water, and snacks daily!

Henhouse Leak Patrol

Every so often our hen "Stevie" will check the henhouse roof for leaks,...so far so good!
Every so often our hen "Stevie" will check the henhouse roof for leaks,...so far so good! | Source

Protect Your Flock From the Elements

How Do I Keep My Backyard Chickens Safe From the Elements

Dry, warm chickens are most likely going to be the most healthy chickens. Having a watertight coop or hen-house is vital to good health in your birds. It can be near impossible to fully make a coop waterproof, but you can make sure that your birds have at least one really dry and warm spot within their housing quarters. Damp or wet chickens are extremely prone to getting colds and infections...yep, chickens catch colds.

Should you have a suspicion that your bird(s) have a cold (sneezing and sniffling, kind of like you and I would), smash up some fresh garlic cloves and mix into the scratch you feed, or add a teaspoon of fine garlic powder to each gallon of fresh water. The garlic can work as well on your birds as does on humans!

"Hmmm...this looks like it might be good!"

Exercise while free-ranging the day helps to keep the flock stress-free and in fit condition!
Exercise while free-ranging the day helps to keep the flock stress-free and in fit condition! | Source

Exercise Your Hens

What is Exercise for Chickens

To maintain a healthy body, your chickens require adequate exercise. Hens love to walk around the yard, scratch at bugs and worms, and will even flap their wings manically as they run across the yard in what seems like an attempt to become airborne. Don't fret though, it is pretty unlikely that a plump densely-built laying hen will gain much altitude above four feet or so. The action of the outdoors breaks up the monotony of coop life, while relieving stress and anxiety, it also prevents cannibalism from occurring in bored birds. A regular free-range outing in the yard keeps your hens happy and well-adjusted egg layers!

Troubleshooting Chicken Health (Chicken Diseases at a Glance)

(click column header to sort results)
PROBLEM/ DISEASE  
CAUSES  
SYMPTOMS/SIGNS  
PREVENTION SUGGESTIONS  
TREATMENT SUGGESTIONS  
Weird Egg Shells
Poor nutrition, disease issues, general hen health.
Soft or cracked eggs.
Oyster shells in feed. Feed quality mash. Check for disease.
Proper nutrition.
Colds, Sinus issues, Air Sac disease
Egg transmitted, contact with infected birds and even healthy carriers.
Coughing, sneezing, runny nose. Stress or sickness increases seriousness. Transmitted slowly through flock.
Don't mix ages of birds. Get chicks or poults from MG-free birds.
Encourage eating. Antibiotics or garlic can help.
Burns from Ammonia
Ammonia gases forming in wet or damp bedding.
Lopsided shaped eyes, watery eyes, swollen faces, blindness may occur.
Keep litter and bedding clean and dry.
Clean out wet / damp bedding or litter and feed vitamin A.
Brooder Pneumonia (Aspergillosis)
Inhailing mold spore from moldy food, bedding, or dust.
Gasping. Appetite loss. Increase in thirst.
Avoid mold sources and avoid dust.
Disinfect, clean living space, change bedding.
Broodiness
Hen really wants to hatch an egg.
Hen lingering in nest, keeps coming back to nest after being chased away.
Remove eggs from nesting boxes. Provide a place for birds to roost.
Move hen to a new pen. Remove eggs promptly, remove hen from eggs. Allow hen to hatch an egg.
Bumble Foot
Bruises or cuts on feet allow organisims to get in.
Lameness, feet are swollen, scab on foot pad.
Avoid high roost and sharp objects in chicken areas and bedding.
Open abscess with a clean sharp tool. Remove pus, thoroughly apply iodine or sulfa ointment.
Cannibalism
Too crowded, bright colors (usually red), too hot, not enough feed or water, pure boredom.
Pecking at each other.
Provide enough food, water, space, and things to do.
------
Coccidiosis
Consuming contaminated droppingd. Invades intestine lining and grows to cause further damage.
Most prevalent bird disease worlwide. Possible high mortality rate. Huddle, pale, droppy, eat less, drink less. Reduced production. Blood in droppings.
Use coccidiostats (prevetion drugs). Screen droppings.
Use preventive drugs (coccidiostats). Screen droppings from birds. In acute outbreak give recommended drugs in water according to directions. May want to try adding 1/4 c. vinegar to each gal. water.
Infectious Coryza
Recovered seemingly healthy birds are still carriers. Affected Poultry shows. Sick birds, dust, or water contaminated by discharge.
Comes on very quickly. Swollen sinus, discharge from nose, eyes may get stuck closed, drop in egg production and eating.
No age mixing.
Sulfa drugs or antibiotics are helpful in some cases. Use as directed by a vet.
Issues with Leggs
Accidents, inadequate nutrition, lack of vitamins, slick surfaces, bacteria, virus and infections.
Swollen joints, soft bones, twisted legs, broken bones, swollen feet, paralysis.
Determine causes.
Use appropriate treatment for causation. Use peat moss & wood shavings as bedding, never newspapers.
Lice
When housed with ducks and geese this is likely the cause. Dry or chewed skin.
Reduced appitite, diarrhea, sleeplessness, low egg production.
Roost paint and clean housing.
Use Sevin Dust on adult birds.
Lymphoid Leukosis (Big liver disease)
Viral. Egg born or transmitted to really young chicks from older birds.
Weight loss. Green droppings, tumors, enlarged liver. Sick birds are bound to die. Deformed, thick leg bones.
Brood far away from older chickens.
NONE
Marek's Disease (Range paralysis)
Herpes virus, airborn or contaminated dander. Contaminated bedding, or infected birds.
Gray eye, enlarged feather follicles, paralysis of wings, legs, neck.
Vaccinate day-old chicks. Only buy vaccinated chicks.
NONE
Newcastle Disease
Viral. Contaminated shoes, clothing or equipment. Contact with contaminated birds.
Gasping, coughing, nasal discharge, uncoordinated bird, paralysis. Rapid spread, super high death toll. Adults might only show loss in egg production or respritory symptoms.
Vaccination.
NONE
Omphalitis (Mushy chicken disease)
Unsanitary hatchery or coops.
Chicks huddle, dropped heads.
Maintain sanitary conditions where chickens live.
------
Pasty White Rear Ends
Low activity, transportation stress.
Droppings adhere to rear-end of bird.
Use scratch feed and increase activity in birds.
Remove dropping debris from rear using a mild soap and water.
Avian Pox
Virus. Direct contact with infected birds. Mosquitoes carry the virus from wild & other birds.
Dry Pox: Small yellow warts on wattles, comb, and face. These grow in size. Dark brown scabs form and fall off. Wet Pox: Yellow cheese-like soars in mouth and windpipe.
Vaccination, especially in areas with high mosquito populations.
Swab soars with Lugol's Solution of Iodine.
Pullorum Disease
Eggshell penetration. Eating or contact with droppings of infected carriers.
Pasted vents in 1 - 21 day old chicks. Sudden death or huddling. Pneumonia.
Purchase pullorum-free chicks.
A Variety of medications and antibiotics. Follow instructions on labels. Distroy birds.
Rickets (Young chicks abot 4 weeks or so)
Vitamin D & Calcium deficiency (nearly impossible to give too much of either).
Crippled chickens
------
Increase vitamin D as advised by a vet.
Worms
Roundworms: Eggs directly spread from bird to bird through droppings. Tapeworms: Fly transmitted generally.
Slow growth and ravinous behaviour. Roundworms: 3 - 6 inches long. Tapeworms: Flat ribbon-like and segmented (can look like white rice around rear).
Rotate birds in yard, coops, and runs. Screen off heavily soiled fecal covered areas.
A variety of drugs. Follow instructions on labels.
Information derived from the University of Minnesota Poultry Science Dept. @ www.ansci.um.edu/poultry/resources/diseases.htm

Check Your Chicken Terminology Knowledge

Chickens love a backyard to call their own!

Perched above the yard, "Pru" assesses just where to begin her day.
Perched above the yard, "Pru" assesses just where to begin her day. | Source

Your Backyard Flock's Health

When tending to your flock of chickens be sure to follow the four important tasks of; keeping a clean henhouse; supplying plenty of fresh food and water daily; protecting them from the elements; and allowing them to get some regular exercise, which will keep your feathered friends happy and healthy. This will provide you and your family with years of farm fresh eggs, as well as a very healthy and entertaining flock of birds.


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Comments for "Troubleshooting Chicken Health" 20 comments

K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Robin~ What a fantastic experience to offer your children! I would love to manage my own honey hive; I don't because I am allergic to bee stings [and an Epi-pen packs quite a punch]! I agree that Wib Magli has a great hub on the Honey Business--I wish I had written it!

Glad the chicken coop specs were on point, and I wish you and the kids all of the fun and bonding you can wrap your arms around!

HubHugs~


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thanks, K9 for all of the information! Those are great tips to look for when buying a chicken, and I'll make sure that we do that. I think we are buying an assembled coop, and your coop specs per chicken are the same as what was recommended. The kids are really excited, and I'm getting bees this weekend, too (thanks to Wib Magli and his outstanding Hubs!) We are going to have our own little urban farm on the street! Eggs and honey! Yumm! ;)


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Robin~ How much fun are the neighborhood kids going to have raising hens!? LOTS! I highly recommend Orphington Buffs as a very social, friendly, and productive breed. They are not the most ornate birds, but if handled (manned) from very early on they can be like (slightly nervous) feathery little dogs. Make certain to buy 'sexed' chickens, so you don't end up with a noising rooster (unless you are ready to have fertilized eggs which can be a little shocking when cracked open). Make sure the birds have been vaccinated as well. Check that they don't show any signs of leg disorders like limping, twisted, or very thick ankles--all signs of a not so healthy chick.

The Buffs get to be around 5-7 pounds, and should lay about an egg a day (after 6 months old). Have the children feed them healthy snacks (apples, lettuce, a little rice, oats, grapes) right from their hand straight out of the gate. Right from chickhood.

As for a coupe, you will want no less than 2 square feet inside the hen house, and 4 square feet in the run PER BIRD. Make sure it has a watertight roof, or that there is a spot within the house that the birds can get to that is always dry and warm. Personally, I got a coop kit and put it together myself (well, with help). I think you will find this the cheapest way. But, you can buy a fully assembled coop as well. I would try a local feed supply house. If you have a relationshi with them, they might just special order and assemble one for you at a regular price!

I am excited for your kids! They are going to have a blast! Let me know if I can help further with information!

HubHugs~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Hi Doc, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I gotta tell ya, a chicken sneeze is pretty cute. But, if it continues, a little healthy intervention is in order.

Sure nice seeing you here today!

HubHugs~


Robin profile image

Robin 4 years ago from San Francisco

Fantastic Hub and so applicable to us right now as our neighbor is getting a coop this weekend. Four families in our neighborhood are each having one chicken in the coop for the kids to take care of. Do you have any recommendations on the best coops or the laying hens that are good with kids?


Doc Sonic profile image

Doc Sonic 4 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Awesome hub, K9. Very extensive and well-organized. I've never been around chickens, so the idea of them sniffling and sneezing is funny to me. Not so funny, though, to the chicken or its owner, I imagine.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Eiddwen~ Thank you so much for your comments! Always nice to see you.

HubHugs~


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

So very well presented and informed. I know that this gem will benefit so many chicken owners.

Take care

Eddy.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

ChapliSpeaks~ Thanks for sharing our thoughts here! Smart idea on your part, shopping for farm fresh eggs / healthier egg sources. The farmers market is a great choice! That is where backyard eggs can be sold legally (for the most part, and with a particular permission from the town or city). Otherwise it's illegal to sell backyard eggs (you can give them away, just can't sell them). The "egg board" has many safety requirements for the eggs we see for sale in stores, so they don't like it when those rich healthy fresh eggs make it into the mainstream without all of the precautions in place. They have such rules to protect us against poorly managed / diseased mass production farms that neglect health and safety of their flocks. You know, those you do it simply for a buck and don't really care about the animals.

I sure appreciate you making it by today!

HubHugs~


ChaplinSpeaks profile image

ChaplinSpeaks 4 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

I have learned so much from reading this hub about chickens! Raising chickens sounds like hard work, but with such an awesome pay-off. Not quite ready get chickens myself, but I definitely will be looking for healthier eggs at a farmers market now instead of the grocery store! Excellent Hub. Voted up and sharing.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Ruchira~ Outstanding point. The health of our livestock and food supply is directly related to our health and well-being. Having even a smidgen of control in this area makes me a happy free-range egg-eating gal!

Thank you for sharing your remarks today, honored you made it by.

HubHugs~


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

I agree India...any health concerns of chicken will get into us if they are not nurtured properly. Their products are consumed on a daily basis by man and we ought to take care of them.

thanks for the awareness and a thorough hub.

voted up as useful


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

PAM!! I am so happy to see you today, I hope you are doing very well. (I Love your new profile picture.)Thank you for leaving your comments here, I really appreciate the support. I am having a blast with my little backyard flock, I wouldn't change a thing...well, maybe the morning time chicken noise they produce. It can get a little loud when they want something!

HubHugs Pam~


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

Interesting hub about chickens. My grandparents had them when I was young. I wish I could have them now. Great information in your hub.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

cara! Nice to see you today my friend! What a fantastic memory to have; farm fresh eggs for breakfast, and farm fresh chicken for dinner! I started raising hens for eggs as a direct defense against the mass produced egg. I read somewhere that a store bought egg actually has MORE bad cholesterol than a farm fresh free-range egg. There is some controversy surrounding this thought though. For me, the fun of having the birds and enjoying the harvest far outweighs any other reason!

Thank you for making it by today!

HubHugs~


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Agnes~ I am so glad you found the chart helpful! Thanks for asking a really good question! I hope the sneezing in your birds goes away soon. Monitoring the progress is the most important thing.

As for the side to side head movement in your rooster, this could be because he is feeling romantic. This is how some roosters "dance" in an attempt to attract a female for mating. It can also be a sign of assertiveness, compare it to a "guard dog" who paces a fence line. The tilt and sway of the head with one eye fully facing forward is meant to mesmerize a mate or competitor; I always think of the term "cock-eyed" when watching this exchange.

I hope this helps you and your flock!

Cheers~


cardelean profile image

cardelean 4 years ago from Michigan

My inlaws have a farm and used to have chickens. When my husbands grandparents lived there, they would have fresh chicken for dinner on Sundays as well as collect the eggs for eating. The yolks used to freak me out but now that I know so much more about some of the yucky things that are done to our food, I wish I still had that available to me!


Agnes Penn profile image

Agnes Penn 4 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

Thank you for this chart it came at such an opportune time. I'll be trying vinegar and garlic for my roosters' sneezing. Have any idea why they'd move their heads side to side? I've one rooster that has done this for some weeks. He's the "guard dog" and my fav so I hope it's not serious. Again, great hub! Note: my chickens fly up to 8 feet high.


K9keystrokes profile image

K9keystrokes 4 years ago from Northern, California Author

Teresa, I couldn't agree with you more! I love my farm fresh eggs, and so do my neighbors! I haven't mustered the nerve to eat any of own chickens, as they all have names. ;)

Thank you so much for sharing your comments and for the nice remarks on the hub. I really appreciate it!

HubHugs~


Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Great hub on chicken raising and associated health problems. It is so satisfying to cook your own eggs with deep orange yolks. Raising your own chickens for meat is also satisfying. Its hard to go back to store bought after you've raised your own!

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