Many people enjoy raising backyard chickens out of the joy that comes with owning and chickens and because of the fresh eggs that they provide. In fact, many this form of urban farming is becoming so popular that people across the country are building chicken coops and keeping chickens in their backyards. However, chickens like any other animal or pet also are susceptible to many diseases that can occur no matter how clean you keep a chicken coop or how well the animals are looked after. Thus, to help you identify when your chickens may need your aid here are the top diseases that backyard chickens may develop.
First on the list are external parasites which can range in size from a small mite that only measures about .5mm and can be hard to even see up to ticks that are about a centimeter in size. You may also notice fleas that nest on the chicken’s feathers as well as lice that resemble the same type that young children often get in their hair.
Some parasites are more harmful than others and can lead to mild conditions such as irritation and feather damage or can cause life threatening diseases such as tick fever. Depending on the severity of the infection your feed store may carry parasite sprays and drops that you can give the chicken, although severe infections will require a trip to the vet before it spreads to all of your chickens.
Internal parasites can also infect chickens and are usually more harmful to chickens since they can cause diarrhea, pale combs, and severe weight loss. If you notice any of these symptoms it is possible that your chickens have worms much like puppies get. Regularly cleaning up the feces of your chickens will help keep worms from spreading and infecting your chickens in the first place. If you notice worms you should head to the vet with a feces sample for a diagnosis of type so that they can give you the proper medication. Additionally, during this time period you should not eat any of the eggs that your chickens produce.
A popular disease that is specific to chickens is Marek’s disease which is a viral infection that spreads from chicken to chicken via dust and feather dander. It is extremely hard to cure in your chicken coop due to the fact that it can tolerate harsh environments for a long period of time and can even spread on your clothing from bird to bird.
Marek’s disease usually affects a bird at a young age attacking their white blood cells and results in cancer developing in the bird. The first time you may notice it is when the chicken’s legs become paralyzed although sometimes the paralysis can affect the neck and wings of the bird. Other symptoms include breathing problems, weight loss, and diarrhea. Since you cannot cure the disease it is important to have your chickens vaccinated or be sure that the chicks you buy have previously been vaccinated.
Another exclusive disease that strikes chickens is fowl pox which is also a viral infection. The disease can be spread from chicken to chicken by fighting or by biting at insects. It enters the chicken’s body by a scrape or scratches and will manifest itself when the scabs start to form over the entry point. Most of the time chickens will recover from the infection without intervention but sometimes they can get ill from another secondary infection. The good news is that once a chicken recovers from the fowl pox just like the human form of chicken pox they are immune for life.
Although most of these diseases can sound awful in nature, outside of the Marek’s disease most are not serious and be prevented by practicing good hygiene when it comes to your chicken coop. The best way to prevent your chickens from getting sick is to keep their chicken coop clean by scrapping out the feces from inside the coop and enclosure on a regular basis. Changing the water and food on a daily basis is also important to prevent disease from spreading from bird to bird.