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New to Chickens - Is illness common with small, backyard flocks?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I have yet to get my first baby chicks as we are still working on the coop - should be able to get them in January - my question is thus ... How common is it for your backyard hens to get sick in a flock size of 6 or smaller, in a small outdoor yard - with a predator-proof coop - they will have access to good foods and free ranging in the yard and our weather tends to be mild to hot - never very cold here in Florida.

 

I know that my local feed store does not buy vaccinated chicks - they say its because their customers don't really need it  as we are all small backyard owners - flocks don't tend to mingle.

Life and ink, they run out at the same time, or so said my old friend the squid. ~ Jimmy Buffett

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Life and ink, they run out at the same time, or so said my old friend the squid. ~ Jimmy Buffett

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post #2 of 15

Chickens do get sick at some point in their lives. But you can avoid many issues by keeping your birds wormed on a regular basis. Round worms are everywhere and are devastating killers if they are not kept at bay.

 

Keep your facilities as clean as possible. Cleanliness is the key to good health in many ways. 

 

Use proper ventilation in your coop. Approximately 1 square foot of vent space per bird in the coop. Chickens put out a lot of moisture through pooping and breathing. This moisture needs to go somewhere. It tends to rise and if your vents are put in properly, this moisture will go up and out the eaves. Slanted roofs are nice because the air enters on the low side and goes out the high side. Have the chickens roost lower to the ground out of this moving air. They will make their own heat bubble and all moisture is wicked away. Poor ventilation causes all kinds of respiratory issues and makes for lots of frost bite as well when the water falls back down as frost.

 

Don't over crowd your birds. 5 square feet per bird in the coop, 10 square feet per bird in the run. This helps with aggression and over all health.

 

Make sure you have enough food and water stations. Higher birds in the flock can starve out the lower ranking birds which can lead to dehydration and egg binding, or starvation and weak birds. So at least 2 stations for a small flock.

 

Feed them right. Keep the treats down to 10% of the diet. Hens need large amounts of nutrients to lay eggs and will draw from their bodies if they don't get it in their diet. This leads to weakness. 

 

Probiotics....can't say enough. 70% of the immune system lies in the intestinal tract. Harmful pathogens tend to take hold here and they don't stand a chance in an oxygen rich healthy environment. 

 

Get them out to free range! Good for exercise and burns calories, breaks up boredom and stimulates their minds. Less chances they will turn aggressive on each other when they get outside time.

 

I am a crop checker. I check them every morning and each night at roosting time. A healthy bird will go to bed with a full crop and will awake with an empty one. If either of these isn't as it should, something is wrong. 

 

So just a few ideas. Unfortunately birds do get sick. But you can prevent many issues along the way. Get to know your birds. Sit with them and know how each of them works. This way you can spot if Lucy is off one day. Or Ethel looks like she isn't all there today. The sooner you find something wrong and treat it, the better the chances you can save them.

 

Oh and always buy chicks or grown birds from places you trust like hatcheries or private breeders. Swap meets, Craigslist and other unknown sources can sell you sick birds.

 

Good luck! :-)

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

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Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply
post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seatrout00 View Post

flocks don't tend to mingle.

The problem with that feed stores mentality is that fact that if in close proximity chickens will mingle, wild birds do mingle and they will also fly over and/or will cross paths with your birds in other ways to transmit diseases... There are even concerns that some new strains of the avian flu might become airborne, if not now in the future... Bacteria is everywhere as are many protozoa and other pest like mites and worms... So in the end the birds still run a risk of illness and you will likely have to deal with it at some point...

Also air quality and cleanliness play a major role in the birds risk to potential illness...
Edited by MeepBeep - 12/15/15 at 3:24pm
post #4 of 15

No, illness is not common to small, backyard flocks.   There's no need for vaccines or meds if the chickens are raised as naturally as possible in all ways. 

 
A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.  Proverbs 12:10
 
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A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.  Proverbs 12:10
 
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post #5 of 15

Oh and keep in mind genetics. Birds can have genetic issues that may pop up immediately or may lay in wait to years later. You never do know is something is brewing in your birds until it happens. Another good reason to know your flock. :-)

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply
post #6 of 15
Hot tends to be more dangerous to chickens than cold. They can handle temperatures a lot colder than you will ever see with just a little help with shelter. You need to make sure they have good ventilation in the coop and plenty of water and shade.

Luck plays a part, but how you manage your chickens has a whole lot to do with how healthy they are. You can find a lot of different opinions on that. Some people vaccinate and medicate their chickens a lot, some feed them all kinds of things to supposedly help keep them healthy, some try to raise their chickens in a sterile cocoon to try to keep any threat away from them, some never medicate for anything. All different methods have their proponents. Some have strong opinions.

I’m in the camp that I don’t feed mine anything special and don’t try to keep them in a sterile environment. I expose mine to their environment and depend on them developing a strong immune system. I expose mine to dirt soon after they are hatched if I brood them myself. If a broody hen raises them she exposes them to dirt real soon too. I do all I can to keep their area dry. A wet brooder, coop, or run is a breeding ground for problems, mainly diseases or parasites but they can have other problems with too much wet. This is probably the only thing we’ll all agree on but sometimes when it sets in wet for a spell there is not a lot you can do in the run.

I try to see that they have a fairly balanced diet. They get a processed chicken feed plus get to forage. They also get scraps from the kitchen and a lot of stuff from the garden but I don’t go overboard on these. I want to keep their diets fairly balanced.

I keep a closed flock. That means I do not take mine to shows or expose them to other chickens. I do not bring in other older chickens. The only way I bring in outside chickens is to get hatching eggs and hatch them myself or get chicks from a mainline established hatchery. Mine don’t have a lot of chances to pick up diseases from other chickens so I don’t worry about vaccinating them. If yours are going to be exposed to other chickens then vaccinations may be in order.

I’ve never wormed my chickens or treated them for mites or lice. I regularly check for mites and lice and have never seen any. I butcher a lot of chickens throughout the year and always check intestines for roundworms and tapeworms. I’ve never seen one so I haven’t treated for them. Some people treat for these parasites on a regular basis but I don’t.

We all do this differently based on our experiences, knowledge, or what we read. I often say there is no one way to do much of anything with chickens that is right where every other way is wrong. There are usually a lot of different ways that can work.

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

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When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

 

"If you make every game a life-and-death proposition, you're going to have problems. For one thing, you'll be dead a lot." — former North Carolina coach Dean Smith

 

http://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

Reply
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 


I was considering putting the baby chicks on medicated chick feed to help with bacterial infestation, as coccidia seems to be a prevalent infection with the little ones. Is this advised?

 

I am familiar with cleanliness equals healthy - as I have raised fish, reptiles and mice and rats before and this was also the case with them. A dirty environment stresses the animals and allows pathogens to thrive.

 

Oh ... and roundworms - yes they are a constant problem - especially where we have raccoons. I was considering using DE in the hen's feed on a regular basis - but I am all ears to hear other treatments that have proven effective.


Edited by Seatrout00 - 12/15/15 at 3:33pm

Life and ink, they run out at the same time, or so said my old friend the squid. ~ Jimmy Buffett

Reply

Life and ink, they run out at the same time, or so said my old friend the squid. ~ Jimmy Buffett

Reply
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seatrout00 View Post


I was considering putting the baby chicks on medicated chick feed to help with bacterial infestation, as coccidia seems to be a prevalent infection with the little ones. Is this advised?

I advise it, especially if you are introducing them to older birds or an existing flock, but others will almost certainly advise against it...
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 

Well .... there are pros and cons I would expect. If its antibacterial food, then it will kill beneficial bacteria as well as problematic bacteria - so that might not be very useful. On the other hand, I do not have any other birds - none in the house or pets outside, other than wild birds flitting about. Our chicks - which we hope to get in January, will spent their first month inside the house in a large dog crate brooder - we have one dog and two cats who are pretty healthy - save for my dog's allergies - which is not contagious.

Life and ink, they run out at the same time, or so said my old friend the squid. ~ Jimmy Buffett

Reply

Life and ink, they run out at the same time, or so said my old friend the squid. ~ Jimmy Buffett

Reply
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Seatrout00 View Post

Well .... there are pros and cons I would expect. If its antibacterial food, then it will kill beneficial bacteria as well as problematic bacteria - so that might not be very useful.

In the US most medicated feed is simply a thiamine blocker (Amprolium) not an antibiotic, and as long as the bird has a balanced diet it will not cause any thiamine deficiency issues, it does not 'stop' cocci it just retards it's growth/reproduction so the chicken has a easier and longer time to build up a natural immunity...
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