There are many diseases and common ailments that can affect your chickens on the homestead. Having an awareness of these diseases and sicknesses can ensure for faster treatment, thus reducing the risk of affecting the entire flock.
Most of the common ailments below are easily found and treatable or preventable. This can save you stress, time, and money in the long run. As with any pet or animal that is taken into your care, a veterinarian should be chosen that works with chickens and birds regularly. Keeping chickens warm can be key to keeping them healthy, if you are having a particularly harsh winter, consider purchasing a chicken coop heater.
Common Ailments In Chickens
This virus has many strains, the most infectious is H5N1. This virus is a lot like the human flu virus in humans. It is contracted through the feces or expelled air of another infected chicken or wild birds. Currently, there is no strain of this virus in the United States as of recently.
Bumblefoot happens when a bacteria called Staphylococcus enters the pad of the foot, causing it to become infected. This usually occurs when chickens are kept in a rocky yard, a rough roost, or allowed to walk on wire mesh. The pad of the chicken’s foot forms a pus-filled sack and turns black. This is often difficult to cure. A preventative is to provide thick bedding to protect their feet.
This usually takes place in very young chicks. It is caused when the feces is looser than normal and sticks to the down at the vent. The feces harden and seal the opening so that the chick cannot release anymore feces. Eventually, the feces builds up internally and dies. A simple treatment for pasting up is to use warm water and wipe the hardened mass from the area. If necessary, some of the feathers can be removed from the area also.
This is a common disease among larger breed birds and unvaccinated flocks. It is spread through the dander on the feathers by the wind. Marek’s disease is often referred to as chicken herpes. The only treatment available is to cull the infected birds. Blood tests will indicate whether the birds are resistant or not. Vaccines are available.
This is one of the most common ailments in young chicks. It is sometimes referred to as Coxy. Indications of this disease include; blood in the feces, chicks huddled up with their feathers ruffled, and no interest being shown in eating and drinking. Feces sampling is the best test to check for Coxy. It is caused by high heat or humidity and is easily controlled with medicated chick starter feed.
Preventing Common Ailments in Chickens
Most common ailments in chickens are preventable. You will learn the normal behavior of your chickens over time. When one doesn’t seem to be acting normal, usually there is a problem. Below are some tips for preventing sickness and disease from spreading through your chickens.
- Keep bedding thick and clean.
- Remove a sick bird from the flock as soon as possible.
- Don’t introduce new birds to a flock until you are sure they are healthy.
- Routinely check perches, fencing, and nesting boxes for roughness or damage.
- Repair or replace any damaged or rough surfaces and fencing that could injure your chickens.
- Choose a veterinarian and use their services regularly to observe sick birds or to vaccinate any new birds.
- Keep feeders and water containers clean at all times.
- Make sure to thoroughly inspect chickens you are purchasing, especially from another individual.
Your local agricultural center, local feed and farm stores, and your vet can all provide more detailed information on what to watch for when raising chickens.
For more information read 13 Common Chicken Diseases Every Chicken Keeper Should Know by Morning Chores.
Read Next: Adult Chickens on Your Homestead
This post has been updated since its original publish date of October 2016.