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When Chickens Get Sick

How to Keep Your Flock Healthy, and What to Do if you Suspect a Sick Chicken

Raising chickens can be fun and rewarding, but, occasionally, you will have to deal with sickness within the flock. Sick chickens require prompt attention, but when you are faced with such an occurrence, what should you do? The poultry experts at Southern States have some helpful tips for how to keep chickens healthy and what steps to take when a chicken gets sick.

Keeping chickens healthy requires good flock management - keep your chicken coop clean and provide good-quality feed and fresh water. Keep the run area well-maintained and secure from wild animals which could carry disease. Preventing disease is much easier than trying to deal with it after it happens. You can increase your flock’s chances of being healthy by adding a small amount of probiotic like Sav-A-Chick Probiotic Supplement to their water when they first arrive, when they’ve been stressed, or after antibiotic use. Birds with strong immune systems are better prepared to fight illness and disease.

No matter how careful you are, sometimes a chicken will get sick. Respiratory diseases occur more often in the flock due to poor ventilation, high levels of ammonia from droppings, and dust. Some of the most common types of respiratory diseases in chickens include: infectious bronchitis, Mycoplasma gallisepticum, avian influenza, infectious coryza, and Newcastle disease. A correct diagnosis is critical when it comes to respiratory diseases. They can be hard to diagnosis and different strains require different treatment options. 

In addition to respiratory diseases, chickens can face other serious illnesses. Coccidiosis is the most common disease starting poultry will encounter. Fortunately, there is quality chicken feed that can help prevent this disease from infecting your flock. Southern States Chick Start-N-Gro contains amprolium which aids in the prevention of coccidiosis. Also, All Grain Start-N-Grow uses natural additives such as probiotics to help control coccidiosis. Other common poultry diseases include: rickets, lice infestation, roundworm and fowl cholera. Any of these illnesses, if left untreated, can spread quickly and wipe out your entire flock. (Click here to read more about treating internal and external parasites.) Maintaining high sanitation standards and controlling outside traffic – humans as well as other birds - is a big factor in avoiding disease within the flock. When adding new birds to the flock, always quarantine them for a period of time prior to introducing them to your birds to ensure they don't carry any diseases.

At the first sign of sickness - runny eyes, sneezing, or coughing - immediately remove the bird from the flock. Additional symptoms to look for include: lack of appetite, loss of feathers, difficulty breathing, wheezing, decreased egg production, swollen joints, lethargy, fever, diarrhea, or confusion.

Move it to a safe, quiet spot away from the flock. Your sick area should be large enough for the bird to move around freely; have food and water easily accessible. To avoid spreading disease, tend to your flock first, then the sick bird. Afterwards, change your clothes and wash your hands. If the chicken does not improve, call your vet. It is a good practice to take your sick birds to a local diagnostic lab to identify disease and seek treatment recommendations. If a disease is misdiagnosed, it can result in total flock loss because of incorrect treatment. In some cases, culling the sick bird is the only option to prevent spreading the disease to the rest of your flock.

Don't let fear of infectious diseases prevent you from raising your own chickens. Be aware of the potential risks and have a plan in case of illness. The best defense is to know your flock. Be familiar with their behaviors so that you can easily recognize potential problems early. Provide top quality chicken feed such as Southern States poultry feed containing primalac, a direct fed microbial (probiotic). The benefits of direct fed microbials are numerous. These probiotics can increase body weight, improve feed conversion, improve egg shell quality, and improve nutrient absorption helping your birds to fight off illness.

Keeping a close eye on your flock can help you recognize what is normal behavior and what symptoms warrant quick action. This can help ensure a healthy chicken flock. When it comes to caring for your flock, you can count on your local Southern States to find the information you need and the poultry supplies to help you get the job done.

Poultry Care Series
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