The Five Most Common Backyard Chicken Flock Diseases

What to Look for In Sick Chickens

The growing popularity of keeping a backyard flock of poultry for their nutritious eggs, or even their meat, means that people who have no experience with chicken diseases are now faced with learning to diagnose and prevent the spread of pathogens among their flock. Although the backyard is generally a much more healthy living environment than a large commercial farm, owners of a backyard flock need to be familiar with common chicken diseases that might affect their flock.

Fowl Pox

Although this disease is also called chicken pox, it is not the same as the human disease. Transmitted directly from chicken to chicken or by mosquitoes, fowl pox is a viral disease that can be prevented by mosquito control and vaccination. The dry form of the disease is characterized by warty bumps on the face or legs. In the wet form, lesions form inside the mouth and air passages. Chickens can get both types at the same time. As this is one of the chicken diseases caused by a virus, there is no treatment.

Respiratory Diseases

There is a wide range of conditions that can cause coughing, sneezing and runny eyes in chickens. Consulting a vet knowledgeable about chicken diseases is the best way to discover what is causing the problems in your flock. Avian flu has respiratory symptoms as well as other viral chicken diseases.

Infectious Bronchitis

Infectious bronchitis is highly contagious and also affects the respiratory tract, but other symptoms may be present as well. Great difficulty breathing is noticed primarily at night. The chickens will eat and drink less, and egg production drops significantly. If eggs are laid, the shells are rough and the whites watery. This is also a viral disease and there is no treatment. Try to keep the chickens warm and comfortable, avoiding drafts.

External Parasites

External parasites include fleas that can also infect your household pets. Search for fleas around the head area, looking closely near the comb and eyes. Treat all external parasites with medication developed for chickens. Mites are tiny and may not be noticed, but can spread disease in your flock. Tics also affect birds and can transmit diseases. Lice are another common parasite on chickens.

Internal Parasites

Internal parasites are less common than external parasites, but young birds with immature immune systems may be particularly susceptible if they are exposed to older birds that carry parasites. Worms are quite common but rarely cause serious problems in the birds. If you notice weight loss or diarrhea, take the bird's feces to a vet for examination. Coccidiosis can be fatal to young birds, so keep the coop clean and dry to help prevent this disease.

As with human diseases, the best method of caring for your backyard flock is to practice prevention methods. Thoroughly cleaning the chicken coop, protecting your chickens from exposure to disease, buying vaccinated chicks, and maintaining an overall healthy environment for your backyard flock will go a long way in preventing chicken diseases. Keep any newly acquired chickens isolated from the flock long enough to be sure they are disease free. Most chicken hatcheries vaccinate chicks at one day old, preventing many of the most common virally caused chicken diseases.

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Comments 4 comments

Teresa Coppens profile image

Teresa Coppens 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

Our family raises its own backyard flock of chickens on our farm. We lose chickens periodically expecially in the cold winter months but in general we keep a healthy flock. Your advice is solid and I am sure comes from lots of experience.

Hurry and Habit profile image

Hurry and Habit 4 years ago

I have five Rhode Island Red over one year old! They look very heathy! Three to five, and sometimes 7 eggs a day. I really have fun with them!

Hurry and Habit profile image

Hurry and Habit 4 years ago

Thank you for your great advices! I clean the hens coop first thing every morning. As much fun as they are they have totally eaten all the lawn in the back of the house!

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

Thank you so much for sharing this gem.It is my dream to become a backyard farmer ;no sign of it becoming reality yet but you never know and in the meantime I can daydream.



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