What percentage of backyard flocks....


8 Years
May 14, 2011
Smoky Mountains
Lot of talk about closed flocks and not giving away eggs or selling chickens. But I wonder just what percentage of backyard flocks are carriers. We've only had chickens for a few months, and we've had probably 2 or 3 things already run through our flock, including, what looks like at this point, dry pox (black spots on comb). I'm starting to get the feeling it's pretty common...
First flock of chickens we got was when I was ten and we've had chickens on and off since then(I'm 45) and pretty much on for the past 7 years. I've never had illness of any kind in my flocks. I've had a few heart attacks which were pretty sudden and quite obvious to diagnose(I'm a nurse)...but no illnesses.

Good preventative animal husbandry counts for so much and I don't mean dosing with meds from the day you bring them home...I've never vaccinated any chicks, fed any medicated feeds nor given any meds or used unnatural chemicals in my flocks.

You and I have similar climates...you in the Smokeys and me in the Blue Ridge. Moist, cold in the winter, moderate temps for the rest of the seasons. You might look into/review the breeds you obtained, where you obtained them, and how you managed them when trying to determine why you are having so much illness in your flock.

ETA: I do not keep or have any kind of biosecurity measures, nor do I keep a closed flock. I feel the best defense against disease is a good immune system.
Last edited:
I differentiate between carrier type respiratory diseases and all other minor things. I've never had anything like mycoplasmosis/CRD, Coryza or any other carrier type illness in the flock. Have had a fungal infection this summer due to highly unusual and prolonged hot/humid weather for this area (those are not contagious), have had one chick get pneumonia once, have had reproductive malfunctions (almost exclusively hatchery hens) and bumblefoot, but again, not contagious carrier stuff.

I think certain parts of the country have higher incidences of respiratory illness of certain types than others so you can't say an overall percentage for the entire country that applies equally to all areas, IMO.

If I did have something contagious that had a carrier status hit the flock, I would not treat it--I have a cull-only policy for that.
I agree lots of minor things seem common. Here in TX, almost every farm I know of vaccinates for fowl pox, since it's so common here. We just got lucky so far, since our immediate area has very few mosquitoes. I have also heard/read that almost all farms have mycoplasma of some sort, and even the hatcheries have it, but I think is pretty minor and doesn't kill the birds. Here was a message from another post by the VP of Ideal Poultry:
"Let me give you an example of how we feel it would be detrimental to our customers if we were MG clean.
If you take your chickens to a county fair and you are clean but the bird in the next cage is not - guess which bird gets sick most of the time. Not the positive bird - it will be the negative bird.
We will be glad to answer any questions in regard to MG and how it affects your flock. "
I have purchased LOTS of birds from Ideal and they are very healthy, so that's why I don't worry about mycoplasma.
NPIP doesn't test for all the common things, even though we did get tested anyway because we show our birds. I think if anyone gets a disease that causes a lot of deaths in adult birds or something, they should close their flock to avoid passing it along, but just 1 bird with some minor ailment once in awhile doesn't seem to be a reason to close a flock (at least to me).
Last edited:
I have also heard/read that almost all farms have mycoplasma of some sort, and even the hatcheries have it, but I think is pretty minor and doesn't kill the birds.

I don't agree with that, though. That is one thing I would cull for because it would make them all carriers and I couldn't sell chicks, adult birds or even hatching eggs since it can be passed vertically. To me, deaths aren't even the point. It's the living carriers that worry me. Some wouldn't cull for it, could just close the flock, and I understand that, IF they are still careful not to carry any germs off their property to other flocks. All I know is that birds who left here and went to an NPIP person who tested for MG always tested negative, so I can say at least, at that point, I didn't have MG in my flock. I don't like the "everyone has it" statement many make because I think it makes folks lax in their biosecurity efforts. After all, if you can't keep it out, why try? At least, that's the way some would take it. Things happen and we deal with them the best way we can; nothing is foolproof, but we need to try to keep disease out and not become lax about that, no matter how common others tell us it is.

ETA: I do not buy started birds (that includes chicks) from any individuals, flea markets, auctions, swaps, etc. Only rarely do I get hatching eggs from certain breeders I know and trust because I know their culling practices, which cuts down on the way anything could come onto my property.
Hi Jefross,

What a good question. Sometimes, I think that we small flock owners who come in new don't pay enough attention to bio-security. (or don't even know about it)--- Also remember that a lot of times people come to the forum when they are having a problem, often a health problem with their chickens, and so there are more sick chicken posts here, than people saying stuff like: "-- today was a great day and my chickens performed beautifully. "

When I read the chicken books before getting chickens, they mostly summed it up as -- you will probably never have any health problems with your flock---but in case you do, here is a chapter on chicken diseases, then it listed a few. On the opposite side of the coin, people say, "if you KNEW all the chicken diseases possible, you would Never get chickens." ho ho ho.

Some folks are blessed with hardy chickens and great micro climates and no health problems. Other people can be very diligent about taking excellent care of their flock and still get slammed with something---even something awful.

Depending too, on the place someone originally gets their birds, sometimes you just don't know exactly what you get/got. I also think that sometimes a seller doesn't know what a bird may have, or a bird may get sick just in the stress of changing homes. Sometimes too---the use of the land from years back has an effect on what could be dormant in the soil.

I wish there was a check-up or blood test or something that could guarantee total health. ---

It is good that when someone discovers that they have birds that are 'carriers' that they do close flock, stop selling birds etc.

If there were a lot of contageous diseases going around, there would be more sick chickens than there are. There are a number of wild birds, worms, insects etc. that can also spread parasites and diseases to flocks---so even perfect chicken raising isn't 100% certain that the birds will never catch anything, especially if they free range.

With all that in consideration, I would guess that a small percentage of flocks have health problems and most birds are either healthy or have something that is easily treated such as round worms, that are pretty common in livestock and can even be carried to our chickens by thier eating worms. ---- So I go back to what the chicken books say -- most backyard raisers won't have health problems.
I have zero doubt that one of the birds we picked up from a poultry exchange, before we knew better, was probably a carrier. Problem is, nothing showed itself until it was too damaging to our family to cull and start over. We live in the middle of the woods, in the mountains, and all manner of things interact with our flock. Nothing has come around and effected our whole flock. But there were some sneezes, then some throat gurgling from mostly my brown leghorns that I got from a chicken/comfrey farmer near me...website all sparkly and stuff, never would have thought badly about them. All 3 of those birds have been sick. 2 of them we had to shoot up with Tylan when they progressed to foamy eye. And I'm guessing they passed it to my light brahma.

So far, we have not lost any birds. I will say we are now seeing some little black spots on the combs of some birds. Have iodine at the ready in case it gets bad. I'm pretty devastated at this point. We are locked into this flock now. There's no going back. There are things I won't be able to do. Best possible outcome is to do a little inter-flock breeding so we can have fun with hatching, but any ideas I had on selling eggs or chickens at this point is finished, until enough time has passed that our current girls are barely laying, and I might be able to make an argument for culling the whole flock and starting over.

In a community like we have here on BYC, you tend to get the "most" interested in the hobby itself. But there are scores of people who have backyard flocks who don't know anything about the online community. I know some of those people. They're everywhere around here, and when asked will tell you that their flocks have issues on an off all the time. Just part of owning chickens, they say. All of them free range. So it makes me wonder how many here on the site who will say they've never had a problem...how many have daily free ranging birds?

It's pretty devastating to put so much time and money into a flock that you fall in love with, and mere months later realize the whole flock is a mess probably. Oh, I have some birds who haven't shown any signs of any illness. But having lived months with those who do, I'd say chances are pretty good that if they weren't the original carriers, they surely are now. By the way, we no longer go to livestock exchanges or buy random birds off farms we know nothing about. I just wish we'd leaned that lesson before all this happened. We could still have the beautiful flock we have, but with a future of more than egg sandwiches with it.
Yeah, with so many chickens in the area, and probably one of the worst mosquito seasons on record this year, it was like the perfect storm for chicken illness. Between that, and the thousand birds that visit our yard during each day...much of what we experienced can be easily explained away...
Fowl pox isn't a huge deal, at least the dry type isn't. They look bad for a couple of weeks, the yukky spots go away and then they are immune, not carriers, so that really isn't the worst thing to happen. Some in areas where it is common vaccinate for it.

You have a good point. Most have no idea that their chickens didn't have a simple cold, that chickens don't get "colds" as such. They treat it or don't treat it, have carriers and have no idea they do or what that even means. BYC is an invaluable source of information, especially if the members read and study the Emergencies section.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom