Is it normal to have sick chickens, or do I have a problem?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Sjisty, Sep 1, 2010.

  1. Sjisty

    Sjisty Scribe of Brahmalot

    May 18, 2009
    I have about 50 chickens of varying age and breed, mostly Brahmas. Occasionally one gets sick and dies, no matter what I try. When I say occasionally, I mean sometimes one in six to eight months or, as right now, two in one week. Is this normal? Should I be looking for something? They are free range chickens. I turn the shavings in the coops weekly and scrape poop boards daily. Food is dry and fresh. Water is clean with ACV added. Treats range from fresh fruits and veggies to stale bread, pasta, and yogurt.

    Of the two chickens who have been sick this week, one was about 8 weeks old. One day he looked a little "puffed up," the next day he died. The other one is about 18 weeks old, a pullet. She has diarrhea and is not eating. No wheezing. Poop is white and liquid. She had no noticeable symptoms until two days ago and still has no real symptoms other than not eating and diarrhea. By the way, she and the one who died yesterday were not cooped together and pretty much stayed separate from each other while free ranging as they weren't members of the same "flock." The other eight who were cooped with the one that I lost are fine, and so are the other 10 in the flock with this sick pullet.

    Another contributing factor - it has rained almost every day for the last couple of weeks, so I wonder if that is a factor. Some of these guys just don't know enough to go in out of the rain!
  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member 11 Years

    Rain shouldn't have anything to do with it unless they are getting mold in their coop or food.
  3. spish

    spish De Regenboog Kippetjes

    Apr 7, 2010
    do they feel thin? do you worm your chickens?
    as ive sadly found out a bad infestation can kill younger chickens
  4. Sjisty

    Sjisty Scribe of Brahmalot

    May 18, 2009
    I do worm them about three times a year with Eprinex. The little one that died yesterday had not been wormed as it was hatched since the last worming. He didn't feel thin. The pullet was wormed. She is thin, but she hasn't eaten much in that last two days. I have her in the kitchen and am dribbling water down her throat every so often. Yesterday she ate a few kernals of corn and a pinch or two of bread, but nothing else and nothing since about 3:00 yesterday afternoon.
  5. Sonoran Silkies

    Sonoran Silkies Flock Mistress

    Jan 4, 2009
    Tempe, Arizona
    Could be coccidiosis. Wet ground can contribute to it. Not all forms of coccidiosis cause bloody stools, and adult birds can and do get it.
  6. MotherJean

    MotherJean Songster

    My grandfather was a commercial poultry farmer, so my perspective differs somewhat from many here on the forum. Since the vast majority of folks here have small backyard flocks regarded more as pets than livestock, any deaths at all are considered unacceptable and abnormal. In your particular case (50 chickens of varying breeds and ages) I wouldn't consider your losses extraordinary - troubling for you, but not extraordinary. There are a number of reasons why backyard flocks are likely to suffer illness and death at a greater rate than commercial poultry farmers:

    1. Lack of immunization. Unless you are the rare exception, few small flock keepers routinely immunize their chicks for common poultry diseases.

    2. Preference for treatment of sick birds rather than culling. The risk of treating, of course, is that you may be giving a disease more time to infect more birds - possibly resulting in land and buildings that harbor disease well after one or two sick birds have died (think of disease like Marek's).

    3. Most well-managed commercial poultry farms practice bio-security, including the practice of "all in-all out." For someone like you, that would mean selling/butchering all 50 birds, thoroughly cleaning housing, removing manure, disinfecting, and then replacing all 50 birds from a single source. Every time you introduce another group of chicks or adults to your flock, you run the risk of introducing disease to the rest.

    4. Free-ranged birds are more susceptible to injury, illness, and death than are caged birds. They are more likely to encounter toxins, predators that injure and kill, disease-carrying wild birds, wetlands harboring mosquitoes that spread Avian Influenza, etc. etc. Early symptoms of illness are frequently missed in free-range birds. By the time we notice that a bird is sick, it's often too late to treat. Worse, it's almost impossible to know how long a bird has had diarrhea or has not been eating, drinking, laying. We can't treat what we can't diagnose. And, we can't diagnose without a pretty good idea what the symptoms are and how long they've been present.

    5. Last (but not least) for folks who have a strong aversion to treating their birds with anitibiotics, chemical wormers, and the like, a higher level of losses might be expected. When we refuse to employ such things except as an absolute last resort, we're going to have more deaths.

    So long as we follow these sorts of practices with our birds, I think we need to expect some losses in our flocks. Truly, the person who does not quarantine new birds, does not vaccinate, and refuses to cull seriously ill birds, are likely to experience more than just a few losses.
  7. Sweetpeaswan

    Sweetpeaswan Chirping

    Aug 5, 2010
    Motherjean gave some great insight, having run a feedstore and dealing with 100's of chicks my self she's spot on,
    and at least where i was concerned i made sure all our little peepers got the mareks vaccinations good luck!
  8. Sjisty

    Sjisty Scribe of Brahmalot

    May 18, 2009
    Thanks MotherJean. It's nice to know that my losses, although I'm not real happy with them, are not exceptional.

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