Whether you have a large flock or just a few chickens, keeping your chickens healthy should be a priority. The basics include making sure your birds have plenty of space, good feed, clean water, and clean quarters. But are there other things that you can do to keep your birds happy and healthy? Read on if you’d like to know!
There are a number of infectious diseases that birds can get including High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI), and Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) and less likely, but occasionally seen in North America, Low Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (LPAI). How do you protect your chickens from these diseases? Following these simple guidelines should help to protect your birds.
- Avoid other farms with birds, but if you do visit, make sure you wash your hands well, wash your clothes, and change your shoes before you visit your own birds.
- Keep other birds away from your flock, including wild birds if possible as they can carry diseases that your birds can catch. If you visit someone with pet birds you will also want to wash your hands and clothes, and change or disinfect your shoes.
- Always clean and disinfect any equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings, including feeders, waterers, or cages. This should be done weekly or more often if needed.
- Have one pair of shoes that you only wear when you are with your chickens, or disinfect your shoes before you work with your birds.
- Avoid sharing tools, equipment, or cages that have been used for other chickens unless you have cleaned and disinfected them well.
- Always wash your hands well before handling, feeding, or working with your chickens. And always wash them well afterward for your own health.
- If you exhibit your chickens or take them to the fair, if possible, quarantine them from the rest of the flock for two weeks.
- Control rodents and other critters from getting into your coop; rats and mice carry diseases that can make your birds ill.
- Last, but not least, if any of your birds die and you are unsure of the cause, or if multiple birds die, or begin to get sick and die then call your veterinarian. Always dispose of dead birds appropriately, so that other birds don’t get sick.
How can you tell if your birds are sick?
- green, watery diarrhea;
- stop eating, or eating very little;
- no energy;
- sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, or gasping for air;
- not laying, or eggs are thin, oddly shaped (not first time layers who might have these issues);
- tremors, drooping wings, circling, or not moving.
If your birds show any of these symptoms contact your veterinarian.
For further information check out www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home, which has information on animal welfare and health.
If you have further advice or questions let us know. May your chickens be healthy and happy!