Whether this is your first batch of chickens or 1000th, chances are, at some point you will deal with chicken illnesses. Most chicken illnesses can be avoided and in this post we want to give you a short run through of the most common and most avoidable chicken illnesses that we have personally dealt with.
Pasting – This is a condition in which a chick (usually under 1 week old) develops a hard layer of droppings over their vent which causes waste buildup and death if not dealt with quickly enough. Pasting is usually caused by stress and can easily be avoided. The most common stress inducers are, being too cold, too hot, or scared. Therefore, it is extremely important to keep your chicks comfortable. Keeping a thermometer in their brooder and knowing the signs they display when they are too hot, or cold is imperative. If they huddle together, they do this for warmth, this will mean they are cold. If they are spread out beyond the lights and are laying around the borders of your brooder, then they are too hot. If they are at an even spread through your brooder, then they are just right! Scared is a whole other thing and can be very detrimental to their overall stress levels. The most typical sign of them being scared is huddling together in a corner of the brooder attempting to hide from whatever it is they fear. Stress is a huge issue, but not the only thing that can cause pasting. Another factor that leads to pasting is digestive enzymes. You want to help build this up as quickly as possible as this helps them digest their food and maintain healthy levels of good bacteria vs bad bacteria. The best thing we have found to help is by mixing apple cider vinegar with their water. We add in apple cider vinegar everyday for the first week.
Coccidiosis - Coccidiosis is a parasitic infection that causes the chicken's dropping to be loose, watery, and sometimes bloody. The number one cause of coccidiosis is droppings in the chicken water or feed. Make sure your feed and water are always free from chicken droppings! Keeping your chickens clean and dry is another way to avoid coccidiosis. On our farm we use the “deep bedding” method. This method serves two purposes, heat and health. The deep bedding method is where you continually add bedding material (carbon sources such as pine shavings, dry leaves, etc.) to soiled or wet bedding. Eventually as the layers pile up the bedding in the lower layers will start to break down creating a composting cycle that generates heat and helps keep them warm. This also works by providing a barrier between the chickens and the manure underneath, preventing them from sleeping in droppings. So to prevent coccidiosis keep your water clean, feed clean, and keep your chickens clean and dry.
Mites - These are tiny eight legged organisms that can quickly infest your chickens. Mites are carried by other birds, rodents, and other animals so simply keeping a clean coop will not prevent your chickens from becoming infested but there are a few tips to help reduce the risk of your chickens contracting mites.
Keep feed locked up - Preventing other animals from visiting your feed can help decrease your risk of another animal passing mites to your chickens.
Provide a dust bath - Chickens like the bathe in dust! They will roll around and kick dust all over themselves. This helps keeps mites at bay!
Quarantine - Quarantine any new bird before adding them to your flock to be sure they are mite free.
Pay Attention - Check on your flock regularly and look for signs of mites. Catching them early is key. Common signs of a mite infestation are a dirty vent area with clumping in the feathers, change in appetite or egg production, pale vent, and feather pulling.
Hopefully this information helps keep your flock clean and healthy!