Almost everyone loves chickens. From the eggs, to the meat, to the crowing of the cock, there’s just something about the non-airborne avian that brings to mind the peaceful tranquility of a self-sustaining existence. What happens though, when your fowl are feeling a little … well, foul? Read on for some common chicken illnesses, and how best to handle them.
This one tops the list, as its one of the most recognizable. Symptoms include yellow-green diarrhea, difficulty breathing, and darkened heads and wattles. A bacterial disease, it spreads through raccoons, opossums, rats, contaminated water and food. Luckily, while it shares a name with a disease that is incredibly deadly to humans, avian cholera is not infectious to them. Less luckily, there is no real treatment, and even if a bird recovers, it can be a carrier. All infected birds will need to be contained and killed.
Another one that is easy to spot, Coryza presents with swollen heads, combs, and wattles. Looking almost like conjunctivitis, eyes will swell shut, and sticky mucus will present both there and around the nose. Often, the area under the wings will stay perpetually damp. The bacteria can spread through infected birds, water and simple surfaces. Unfortunately, this is another depressing one. While I’ve heard treatments exists, like Streptomycin and sulphonamides, they are not 100% effective, and are generally out of reach of the small-scale poultry operation. The good news is, while morbidity is high, mortality is quite low, and infected birds cannot become sick with Coryza again. So how you handle it may be best dependent on how much of your flock already has it. If it’s a large number? Perhaps best to just run its course. Be wary about introducing any more birds to that particular coop, however, as surviving birds can become carriers.
Vaccine: Bacterin can be effective at preventing certain strains, but no true vaccine exists.
Here’s a very common one. Thrush presents with ruffled, droopy looking feathers; white, crusty and inflamed vents (for those of you who don’t recognize this term, think the rear of the bird); and ravenous appetites. This one is a fungal infection, often occurring through moldy feed or water. Happily, that means this is easily treatable. Simply remove the offending substance(s), and treat with Nystatin.
Omphalitis, or Mushy Chick Disease
Here’s one you need to handle with care. This happens, as the name implies, on freshly hatched chicks. Their navels will be inflamed and blue, they will seem weak and drowsy, and will likely smell to high heavens. This one is another bacterial infection, meaning it can spread off surfaces, and between birds with weak immune systems. Antibiotics and extremely clean environs can sometimes help, but be ready for most chicks with this disease to die. The important thing is to clear them away from healthy chicks quickly, as it is a highly infectious bacterium. When you do this however, as I said, be careful! This disease is caused by staph and strep bacteria, which can easily infect humans. Put on some gloves, and wash your hands thoroughly when you’re through.
A humble homesteader based in an undisclosed location, Lars Drecker splits his time between tending his little slice of self-sustaining heaven, and bothering his neighbors to do his work for him. This is mainly the fault of a debilitating predilection for fishing, hunting, camping and all other things outdoors. When not engaged in any of the above activities, you can normally find him broken down on the side of the road, in some piece of junk he just “fixed-up.”