Looking the best way on how to keep chicken healthy and happy? You’ve came to the right place here.
In addition to providing your chickens with a clean coop and a healthy diet, you also have to take certain precautions to maintain the health and wellness of your birds.
Like all animals, chickens are prone to developing certain diseases and chickens are no exception.
In this article you will learn the basics about the most common diseases affecting chickens healthy so you can identify them and get started with as soon as possible — that is the key to a fast recovery.
Table of Contents
Common Health Problems
You already know that keeping your chickens on a healthy diet is the key to their wellbeing.
Even if you are careful about making sure that your chickens’ nutritional needs are met, however, they could still get sick.
The fact of the matter is that chickens can carry and transmit diseases just as easily as any other animal.
Your best course of action is to familiarize yourself with the diseases most commonly seen in chickens and to learn how to diagnose and treat them.
You will find all of this information and more in this section.
Some of the most common diseases affecting domesticated chickens is:
- Avian Influenza
- Avian Pox
- Egg Binding
- Infectious Bronchitis
- Infectious Coryza
- Marek’s Disease
- Newcastle Disease
Also known as avian flu, this disease is known to occur in nearly all species of birds, not just chickens.
Avian influenza comes in two forms — mild and highly pathogenic.
The mild form of the disease produces symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, diarrhea, diffculty breathing, drop in egg production, and low mortality.
The highly pathogenic form of the disease causes facial swelling, dehydration, and severe respiratory distress.
The virus responsible for avian influenza can survive at moderate temperatures for long periods of time and it can live indefinitely when frozen.
This means that the disease can easily be spread, even from infected carcasses or manure as well as contaminated clothing, equipment, and insects or rodents.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for this disease and the highly pathogenic form is often fatal.
When avian influenza occurs in the mild form, it can be controlled with proper nutrition and sanitation.
Treatment with broad spectrum antibiotics may help to reduce secondary infection.
Even after a flock recovers it may continue to spread the virus and vaccines are only available with a special permit.
Quarantine is the recommended treatment for this disease.
Anyway, when I wrote this article, the world is facing a Coronavirus (COVID-19). This virus isn’t infeccted animals but deadly to human. I hope the vaccine can be found soon.
This disease is also called “chicken pox,” though it is very different from the disease of the same name that is known to affect humans.
Avian pox is known to affect most types of poultry and chickens of all ages are susceptible.
There are two different forms ofthe disease. One is characterized by dry, wart-like lesions growing on unfeathered areas.
The second is characterized by wet, canker-like lesions growmg inside the mouth and throat.
The dry form of avian pox typically manifests on the legs, head, and other unfeathered areas.
The lesions usually heal within two weeks, though healing may be delayed if the scab is removed before completely healed.
The wet form of avian pox often leads to secondary respiratory infections
which can become very serious.
It is possible for a chicken to have both forms of avian pox at the same time.
Avian pox is usually transmitted by direct contact between infected and uninfected birds, though it can also be transmitted by mosquitos.
The avian pox virus can enter the bird’s bloodstream through the skin, eye, or respiratory tract and it tends to spread fairly slowly.
Unfortunately there is no treatment for avian pox, though vaccination is possible to help stop an outbreak.
The best methods for preventing this disease involve mosquito control, vaccination, and proper sanitation measures.
This disease is known to affect all species of fowl as well as humans and other animals.
Botulism is a type of poisoning that is caused by consumption of spoiled food containing a neurotoxin that is produced by the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
The most common symptoms of botulism include paralysis and loose feathers.
Paralysis can set in quickly, within hours after eating the poisoned food, and it can affect the legs, wings, and neck. In many cases, the feathers
on the neck also become very loose.
If the bird consumes a lethal dose of the neurotoxin it will become paralyzed and die within 12 to 24 hours. Death is usually a result of paralysis ofthe respiratory muscles.
If the dose ingested is not lethal it will typically cause the bird to become dull and lethargic.
Botulism cannot be spread from one bird to another but it can be harbored by fly larvae that has fed on decaying carcasses or other organic matter.
Unfortunately, botulism is a very deadly disease that can kill an entire flock within a matter of hours or days.
The only treatment is to remove the spoiled feed and to flush the entire flock with Epsom salt in water.
The dosage rate should be 1 pound of salt per 1.000 hens in water or in a wet mash. Adding potassium permanganate to the drinking water may also be beneficial.
The disease known as coccidiosis is caused by a parasitic organism that can be found on the ground or in contaminated feces.
Once ingested, the parasite attaches it self to the lining of the bird’s intestinal tract where it multiplies and begins feeding.
This causes the intestines to bleed which may result in bloody stools or bleeding from the cloaca.
Infected birds will spread the parasite in its feces starting several days before symptoms begin to present.
It usually takes about three days for infected chickens to start displaying symptoms of coccidiosis.
In most cases, infected birds will start to droop and they will stop feeding
and huddle together.
By the fourth day you will begin to notice blood in their droppings — bleeding may increase until the bird dies from excessive blood loss.
It is possible for an infected bird to recover after which point it will be immune to recurrent infections.
There are several treatment options available for coccidiosis in chickens, though drug-resistant strains are becoming a major problem.
The best ways to prevent this disease include using medicated feed, maintaining proper sanitation, keeping litter dry and clean, and avoiding overcrowding in the coop.
Egg binding is a condition that can affect any female bird. This condition occurs when the egg becomes stuck in the oviduct and the bird becomes unable to pass it.
Fertilized eggs usually take about 20 hours for the shell to form and, once formed, it takes about an hour for the egg to move from the uterus and out of the bird’s body.
If the shell of the egg isn’t hard enough or if the bird is dehydrated, it could have trouble passing the egg and it might become stuck.
Some of the most common symptoms of egg binding include loss of appetite, abdominal straining, watery diarrhea, pale face/comb, and hard abdomen.
The hen might also make frequent trips into and out ofthe nest box or exhibit abnormal movement. Egg binding can be tricky to diagnose especially in Ayam Cemani chickens since they do not lay as frequently as other breeds.
Just because a hen hasn’t laid an egg for a few days doesn’t mean it is egg-bound.
Egg binding is a very serious condition that can become fatal if not treated. This condition can be caused by a lack of calcium in the bird’s diet or improper nutrition in general.
It may also be secondary to another illness or the result of a sedentary lifestyle.
Once you have diagnosed your chicken with egg binding you need to remove the egg as quickly and safely as possible — you may need to call a vet.
Also sometimes referred to as 1B, infectious bronchitis is a disease that only affects chickens. This disease is caused by a virus and it is incredibly contagious.
The virus can be spread through infected carcasses, unsanitary conditions, contaminated feed, even through the air.
The virus can also be transmitted from a hen to her eggs, though infected eggs typically do not hatch.
The severity ofthis disease may vary depending on the age and immune status of the flock— it may also be influenced by environmental conditions.
Infected birds usually decrease their food and water consumption and they may start making chirping sounds.
Chickens with IB often produce a watery discharge from the eyes and nose along with labored breathing or gasping.
In laying hens, egg production may drop significantly but will usually recover within 6 weeks, though at a lower rate.
There is no specific treatment for this disease, though antibiotics may be helpful in combating secondary infections.
When brooding-age chicks are infected, raising the temperature by 5 degrees may help to reduce symptoms.
There is a vaccine available for this disease and proper sanitation can help with prevention as well.
Also sometimes called roup, infectious coryzais a disease known to infect chickens, pheasants, and guinea fowl.
This disease can be transmitted through bird-to-bird contact, even from chickens that have recovered from the disease (they still remain carriers).
It is common for new additions to a flock to introduce the disease because, in many cases, infected birds don’t show symptoms.
Contaminated feed and water are other common modes of dispersal.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with infectious coryza include swelling of the face, foul-smelling discharge from the eyes and nose, and labored breathing.
Diarrhea is another common symptom and young birds often display stunted growth. This disease is not typically fatal, but it can reduce egg production rates.
The disease can last for as little as a few days to as long as two or three
The best treatment option for infectious coryza is antibiotics like sulfadimethoxine.
Alternative treatments include erythromycin, tetracycline, and sulfamethazine.
The best way to avoid this disease is to maintain proper sanitation and to avoid mixing flocks.
Chickens can be vaccinated for this disease starting at 5 weeks.
Also known as acute leucosis, Marek’s disease is a type of non-respiratory viral disease.
This disease is known to affect chickens between the age of 12 and 25 weeks, though older birds can be infected.
Marek’s disease is a form of cancer that results in the formation oftumors in the nerves which cause lameness or paralysis.
Tumors can also form in the bird’s eyes and internal organs — symptoms vary depending on the location of the tumors.
When tumors develop in the eyes, infected birds may exhibit irregularly shaped pupils or developed blindness.
When tumors form in the internal organs, symptoms may include loss of coordination, paleness, weakness, labored breathing, and enlarged feather follicles.
At the end stages of the disease, infected birds are often emaciated in appearance with pale, scaly combs.
Marek’s disease can be transmitted through the air and it can live in feces, dust, and saliva.
Infected birds carry the virus in their blood and can infect susceptible birds for the rest of their lives.
There is no treatment for this disease, though chicks can be vaccinated to prevent tumor formation. The vaccine does not, however, prevent the virus from infecting the bird.
Also known as pneumoencephalitis, Newcastle disease is highly contagious and known to infect all types of birds as well as humans and other animals.
Outside of avian species, the disease usually only causes mild conjunctivitis.
In birds, however, Newcastle disease presents in three different forms – the mildly pathogenic form (lentogenic), moderately pathogenic form (mesogenic), and the highly pathogenic form (velogenic).
The most common symptoms of Newcastle disease include sudden onset of hoarse chirping in chicks, watery nasal discharge, facial swelling, labored breathing, paralysis and trembling.
Depending on the type, mortality ranges from 10% to about 80%.
In laying hens, this disease may also lead to a drop in egg production along with decreased consumption of food and water in most birds.
Unfortunately, Newcastle disease is easily transmitted short distances by air or through contaminated feed, shoes, equipment and wild animals.
There is no treatment for this condition, though antibiotics can be administered for 3 to 5 days to help prevent secondary infections.
There is a vaccine available for this disease and proper sanitation will help with prevention.
How to Keep Chicken Healthy and Preventing Illness
The key to keeping your chickens healthy is two-fold. First, you have to feed your chickens a healthy diet that meets their nutritional needs.
If your chickens do not get the nutrients they need, they will fail to thrive and they may even succumb to nutritional deficiencies.
Additionally, chickens that aren’t properly fed may become stressed and, as a result, may have a weakened immune system.
This puts them at an increased risk for contracting various diseases.
The second component involved in keeping your chickens healthy is to maintain proper sanitation.
Chickens can be a little messy so you need to follow a routine to keep your coop clean.
Using wood shavings or other bedding on the floor of the coop will help to collect moisture and feces — it is also easy to just sweep away the dirty bedding and replace it as needed.
You should also clean and sanitize your feeders and waterers on a regular basis, especially if they become contaminated with feces.
In addition to maintaining a healthy diet and proper sanitation you should also be careful about adding new birds to your flock.
It is very easy for one chicken to pass a disease on to another so you should quarantine all new birds for at least two weeks before adding them to the flock.
This may mean keeping an extra chicken coop around.
You can also use this coop to quarantine chickens that are sick to prevent
them from infecting the rest of your flock.