A Letter to Beginners Regarding Emergencies and Illnesses

micstrachan

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Apr 10, 2016
7,157
19,168
797
Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Greetings new chicken keepers!

Congratulations on starting your flock! I am certain you will find keeping chickens (or ducks, turkeys, etc.) most rewarding! Please also know that I am not among the most experience chicken keepers on the forums, but I have learned a few things and was reflecting on what I wish I knew right out of the gates. So I am putting together a few tips for you. The world of keeping chickens can be overwhelming with regard to dietary requirements, coop and run design, flock management, and how to deal with illnesses and injuries. I'm going to keep this very high level and not get into the weeds. Sound good? Great!

You are not alone, but you decide what's best for your flock. Back Yard Chickens is an amazing group of passionate bird keepers like you. We respect you and are here to help. We have everything from livestock keepers to pet owners and everything in between. There is no judgement here, so please don't feel you need to apologize for the way you keep your flock. You will find opinions and advice from all angles, so take it all into consideration and know that ultimately you are in charge of your flock. I have gotten into trouble by being wishy washy and not knowing which advice to take. Make your best decision and see it through.

Get to know your birds and vice versa
. Spend time with your flock. Get to know their individual personalities, voices, behaviors, laying status, and where they fit in the pecking order. This will serve you when trying to figure out if something is off. Also make sure they know you and are comfortable around you. If your birds are pets, this includes handling. At some point, I can just about guarantee you will need to handle a bird. Make sure your birds are accustomed to being handled. Spend time around them. Talk to them. Touch them. You might even practice gently wrapping them in a towel to keep them from flapping their wings. I also encourage you to do regular quick exams... feel your birds over quickly for crop being empty in the morning, breast muscle condition, and bloating in the abdomen. Feathers can hide a lot!

Be prepared. There is a multitude of ailments, injuries, illnesses and conditions you will read about and may possibly face with your flock eventually. It's really overwhelming, but in reality some situations are more likely/common than others. My suggestion would be to have a sick bay on hand, such as a dog crate so you can separate a bird, but keep him/her with the flock. (I use a mini coop and run that is kept within the main run). Be familiar with and prepared for the most common, urgent situations. Over time, if you hang out on BYC, you will learn about the others, as well. Except for catastrophic organ failure, most other conditions will not result in death within the first few hours. In my opinion, the most common, urgent situations include:
  • An egg bound hen
  • Coccidiosis
  • Injury/predator attack (first aide)
Know that just because a bird is acting sick does not mean they are dying. You will read that because chickens are prey animals, they are keenly skilled at hiding weakness and are probably quite ill once they show they don't feel well. This is true. However, they are also resilient. Just because a bird does not feel well does not mean they are doomed. If it's late summer or early fall and a bird is acting off, they might be heading into molt. You might be surprised how hard a bird can react to molt. It can be brutal!

Learn from your mistakes. You will make mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes this will cause you heartache. The important thing is that you learn from these mistakes and remember that you did your best.

Learn as much as you can and remember knowledge comes with experience. When you have time, in addition to getting to know your flock, hang out on BYC and soak in the information. Lurk on the boards, ask questions, and even chime in if you have advice or words of encouragement to offer. Even our most experienced members are occasionally stumped.

Enjoy your birds! This may seem like a no brainer, but sometimes we can get so caught up in trying to do everything right, we can forget to just sit back and enjoy. Watch their cute little quirks and listen to their voices. Sit with them and let them jump into your lap. Appreciate their beautiful feathers and enjoy their eggs (or meat, if you keep them for that purpose).

That's all I have for now. I hope this has been helpful. If anyone else wants to chime in (agree, disagree, add something I've forgotten/missed), by all means, please do!

My best,
Michelle
 

MissChick@dee

~ Dreaming Of Springtime ~
Aug 18, 2017
5,543
19,693
707
Caliente Nevada
Greetings new chicken keepers!

Congratulations on starting your flock! I am certain you will find keeping chickens (or ducks, turkeys, etc.) most rewarding! Please also know that I am not among the most experience chicken keepers on the forums, but I have learned a few things and was reflecting on what I wish I knew right out of the gates. So I am putting together a few tips for you. The world of keeping chickens can be overwhelming with regard to dietary requirements, coop and run design, flock management, and how to deal with illnesses and injuries. I'm going to keep this very high level and not get into the weeds. Sound good? Great!

You are not alone, but you decide what's best for your flock. Back Yard Chickens is an amazing group of passionate bird keepers like you. We respect you and are here to help. We have everything from livestock keepers to pet owners and everything in between. There is no judgement here, so please don't feel you need to apologize for the way you keep your flock. You will find opinions and advice from all angles, so take it all into consideration and know that ultimately you are in charge of your flock. I have gotten into trouble by being wishy washy and not knowing which advice to take. Make your best decision and see it through.

Get to know your birds and vice versa
. Spend time with your flock. Get to know their individual personalities, voices, behaviors, laying status, and where they fit in the pecking order. This will serve you when trying to figure out if something is off. Also make sure they know you and are comfortable around you. If your birds are pets, this includes handling. At some point, I can just about guarantee you will need to handle a bird. Make sure your birds are accustomed to being handled. Spend time around them. Talk to them. Touch them. You might even practice gently wrapping them in a towel to keep them from flapping their wings. I also encourage you to do regular quick exams... feel your birds over quickly for crop being empty in the morning, breast muscle condition, and bloating in the abdomen. Feathers can hide a lot!

Be prepared. There is a multitude of ailments, injuries, illnesses and conditions you will read about and may possibly face with your flock eventually. It's really overwhelming, but in reality some situations are more likely/common than others. My suggestion would be to have a sick bay on hand, such as a dog crate so you can separate a bird, but keep him/her with the flock. (I use a mini coop and run that is kept within the main run). Be familiar with and prepared for the most common, urgent situations. Over time, if you hang out on BYC, you will learn about the others, as well. Except for catastrophic organ failure, most other conditions will not result in death within the first few hours. In my opinion, the most common, urgent situations include:
  • An egg bound hen
  • Coccidiosis
  • Injury/predator attack (first aide)
Know that just because a bird is acting sick does not mean they are dying. You will read that because chickens are prey animals, they are keenly skilled at hiding weakness and are probably quite ill once they show they don't feel well. This is true. However, they are also resilient. Just because a bird does not feel well does not mean they are doomed. If it's late summer or early fall and a bird is acting off, they might be heading into molt. You might be surprised how hard a bird can react to molt. It can be brutal!

Learn from your mistakes. You will make mistakes. Unfortunately, sometimes this will cause you heartache. The important thing is that you learn from these mistakes and remember that you did your best.

Learn as much as you can and remember knowledge comes with experience. When you have time, in addition to getting to know your flock, hang out on BYC and soak in the information. Lurk on the boards, ask questions, and even chime in if you have advice or words of encouragement to offer. Even our most experienced members are occasionally stumped.

Enjoy your birds! This may seem like a no brainer, but sometimes we can get so caught up in trying to do everything right, we can forget to just sit back and enjoy. Watch their cute little quirks and listen to their voices. Sit with them and let them jump into your lap. Appreciate their beautiful feathers and enjoy their eggs (or meat, if you keep them for that purpose).

That's all I have for now. I hope this has been helpful. If anyone else wants to chime in (agree, disagree, add something I've forgotten/missed), by all means, please do!

My best,
Michelle
:woot:bun Go Girl!
 

MissChick@dee

~ Dreaming Of Springtime ~
Aug 18, 2017
5,543
19,693
707
Caliente Nevada
Good post!
To me my chickens are pets.
People keep chickens differently for different reasons.
I’m blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with mine. One thing that is so fascinating is their communication. Get to know their subtle clicks, clucks and chirps.
I have all hens. Some people are under the impression that only a Roo will alarm about predators. Simply not true. The girls will alarm me. If you know what to listen or look for.
Some will make a loud purr some will trill some make a sharp high pitched cluck or bark. All have different languages and voices.
My Alfa hen makes a certain call (to warm the others) that she’s about to give out a peck!
She also makes a call to “get your butt in the run Now!”
I have to admit that if I open the door and there’s silence...my heart drops and I grab my gun (just what I do)
So listen to your birds even the wild birds. Get to know their language. I just can’t get enough.
Now body language that’s a whole nother post!
Best wishes
 

micstrachan

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Apr 10, 2016
7,157
19,168
797
Santa Cruz Mountains, California
Good post!
To me my chickens are pets.
People keep chickens differently for different reasons.
I’m blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with mine. One thing that is so fascinating is their communication. Get to know their subtle clicks, clucks and chirps.
I have all hens. Some people are under the impression that only a Roo will alarm about predators. Simply not true. The girls will alarm me. If you know what to listen or look for.
Some will make a loud purr some will trill some make a sharp high pitched cluck or bark. All have different languages and voices.
My Alfa hen makes a certain call (to warm the others) that she’s about to give out a peck!
She also makes a call to “get your butt in the run Now!”
I have to admit that if I open the door and there’s silence...my heart drops and I grab my gun (just what I do)
So listen to your birds even the wild birds. Get to know their language. I just can’t get enough.
Now body language that’s a whole nother post!
Best wishes
Good point about knowing their calls! There are two distinct calls I have noticed:
• The general alarm call, which sounds very much like the egg song to my ears
• The aerial predator alarm call... this is the distinctive purr you mentioned. I call it a “trill.”

Edited to add: Sorry, just noticed you also called it a trill. Very dinstinctive!
 
Last edited:

Shadrach

Roosterist
Jul 31, 2018
14,195
100,381
1,512
Catalonia, Spain
My Coop
Good point about knowing their calls! There are two distinct calls I have noticed:
• The general alarm call, which sounds very much like the egg song to my ears
• The aerial predator alarm call... this is the distinctive purr you mentioned. I call it a “trill.”
I can’t remember if you have a rooster?

Other calls that are reasonably easy to identify are;
Call sign call. When a hen approaches another.
Escort call; when a hen has laid an egg or wants escorting to or back from an egg site to the flock. (egg song)
Take cover call; the call a mother hen makes to her chicks in the event of danger.
Return to me call; given by mother hen when she wants the chicks to come out from hiding.
Ground predator call. I’ve not heard a hen give it because there has always been roosters here but I think they might.
Human/known dog/cat other call; given by rooster.
Broody call; often given by hens before they actually sit.

The above are fairly easy to identify by watching and listening to your chickens.
 

micstrachan

Crossing the Road
Premium Feather Member
Apr 10, 2016
7,157
19,168
797
Santa Cruz Mountains, California
I can’t remember if you have a rooster?

Other calls that are reasonably easy to identify are;
Call sign call. When a hen approaches another.
Escort call; when a hen has laid an egg or wants escorting to or back from an egg site to the flock. (egg song)
Take cover call; the call a mother hen makes to her chicks in the event of danger.
Return to me call; given by mother hen when she wants the chicks to come out from hiding.
Ground predator call. I’ve not heard a hen give it because there has always been roosters here but I think they might.
Human/known dog/cat other call; given by rooster.
Broody call; often given by hens before they actually sit.

The above are fairly easy to identify by watching and listening to your chickens.
No rooster here. Hens definitely give a ground predator call. :)

My Bridgey calls me to escort her! I didn’t know that was a thing! (I think in my flock, I’m the rooster).
 

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