Although I have had great success with my chickens in the past there are many illnesses that your flock can become infected with. Honestly and with all sincerity I can say that if you start out with healthy birds from a quality source and keep your coop clean and your chickens without stress, never introducing new flock members, you should easily be disease free for as long as you keep your chickens.
There are, however, some things you can’t control that will affect your flock’s health. Wild birds and rodents bring disease into your coop or chicken yard. Their feed source may not be of the finest quality and may cause shorter life spans, etc. Adverse weather conditions that you may not have planned for are another factor out of your control.
If you have a healthy flock and a rooster you can save money replacing your chickens every year by purcasing a cheap incubator and hatching your own chicks. At any rate, below you will find some of the age-old illnesses to be aware of and in most cases their prevention. Do not consider this to be veterinary advice. If you are concerned about your farm animals check with your local vet, a farmer in your area, or your feed store for advice.
- Aspergilosis: Caused by a growth of mould in air passages. Symptoms in any flock member might be rapid breathing, rattling in throat, loss of weight, dragging wings, weakness, exhaustion. Symptoms in chicks might be sleepiness or diarrhoea. Prevention: Avoid mouldy grain and litter to keep flock free from infection.
- Bacillary White Diarrhoea: Caused by bacteria. The disease may be inherited from hens having infected ovaries, or is passed from chick to chick. Symptoms are chicks with white or creamy colored diarrhoea. Other symptoms might be: sleepiness, chilled, thin, rough plumage, and drooping wings. The heaviest mortality rate will be at less than three weeks of age. Prevent epidemics by keeping coop equipment clean.
- Bronchitis: Caused by the development of a common cold virus and by breathing in dust. Symptoms are cough, rapid breathing, whistling, rattling and bubbling in throat.
- Canker: Caused by the development of pus germs following injury or digestive troubles. Symptoms might be cheesy growths in the chicken’s mouth and/or throat. Prevention is to provide good quality feed and create a safer coop.
- Catarrh: Cause could be exposure to drafts, chills and dampness. Symptoms are thin discharge from eyes and nostrils, sneezing, difficulty in breathing, and a dull appearance in energy levels.
- Chicken Pox or Sore Head: The cause of these two is bacteria. Noticeable symptoms will be an eruption on unfeathered areas of head. They will appear small and gray at first but will increase until head is covered with scabs.
- Cholera: Cause: Bacteria. Symptoms are noticed as weakness, insatiable thirst, head drawn down, drooping wings, frequently full crops, and yellow or green diarrhoea.
- Gapes: Causes are small Y-shaped worm, about one-half inch long that are pale or red. These worms attach themselves to the interior walls of poultry’s windpipe, weakening the chick by sucking the blood, and eventually causing
strangulation. This apparently double-headed worm is really two worms, one of each sex, joined together. Symptoms are noticed in young chicks as frequent gasping; gaping; coughing; discharge of mucus and worms from throat.
- Intestinal Parasites (Worms): Symptoms are lack of health, dullness, low energy and worms are found in droppings.
- Leg Weakness or Lameness in Chicks: Caused by insufficient bone and animal matter in feed, close confinement, lack of exercise and over-heating in brooders. Symptoms are wobbly, weak-kneed movement.
- Liver Disease: Caused by improper feed, as in excess corn, lack of exercise, general inactivity of intestinal tract.
- Rheumatism: Caused by exposure to dampness and cold. Symptoms are a swelling of the joints, stiffness, and lameness.
- Roup: Symptoms are bad-smelling discharge from the hen or roosters’ nostrils; sticky discharge from the eyes; feathers under wings and on back smeared and sticky, where bird has wiped its head; sometimes coughing and sneezing, eyes stuck shut or swollen and closed, mouth forced open by cheesy growth; patches of canker in mouth and throat.
- Scaly Leg: Caused by a tiny mite which burrows under the scales and into the tissues of the leg. Symptoms are a scaly, rough, crusty appearance of feet and legs.
- Tuberculosis: Caused by a tiny germ organism. Symptoms are a steady loss in weight; paleness of comb, wattles and face; general weakness; lameness, ruffling of feathers and frequent diarrhea.
Of course these are just a few of the illnesses and troubles a chicken or small flock could suffer from. If you need more information a veterinary book is a great reference. On a personal note don’t waste any time in treating and removing any ill birds from the coop and away from healthy chickens. Disease and parasites spread quickly in a chicken coop. These diseases are just one of the reason’s the old farmer’s wife first said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”