How to prevent ill-health,
what's normal and what's not, and what you can (or can't do to help a sick bird).
Birds can pick up all sorts of diseases from their environment. A sick chicken will be listless, crouched over, its feathers will be fluffed up, it will be sitting separate from the rest of the flock and generally looking quite miserable. Unless you are confident and you know the cause and its not infections, a sick bird should always be quarantined from the flock in a warm place.
There are a large number of diseases that can affect birds and one of the most common causes of illness is coccidiosis, which occurs everywhere in the environment but can build up to high levels when birds frequent an area, such as feeders, waterers or doorways, of if an area becomes wet, for example around a dripping tap.
Keeping your flock healthy isn't just a case of medicating sick birds or waiting around for disease to strike.
Simple precautions, proper management, sanitation and a bit of bio-security control can help you avoid a lot of common problems.
Keeping your poultry free of parasites
Free range poultry will be exposed to a number of parasites in their environment, the following is a guide to control roundworms and tapeworms.
Free range birds will all be exposed to roundworms to some degree, so in order to keep worm burdens at a manageable level then worming every three months will usually suffice. There are a number of products available that can be given in drinking water or given individually if you only have a few hens.
These require a secondary host, such as snails and insects to complete their life-cycle. Tapeworm eggs are usually visible to the naked eye in the faeces and look like a grain of rice. There is only a need to treat your birds for tapeworms if you see the eggs in the faeces.
As mite numbers increase in warmer weather you may start to see signs of mite infestation in your chickens. The signs differ depending on the mite but can be seen as damaged combs and wattles, scaly legs, pale combs, feather loss and damaged skin. Mites themselves may be seen on chickens, their perches or eggs.
Aside from the clinical signs of the chicken you may also see increased feed requirements and decreased egg laying. This is caused by anaemia which can in worst cases cause death
Treating the chickens and hen house for parasites
Eradication of all mites and lice can be difficult so treatment of chickens and hen house may need to be repeated to achieve success. Diatom powder can be used to dust chickens. The treatment should be repeated in 7-10 days to get the next stage of the life-cycle.
The hen house will need to be cleaned, bedding removed and sprayed with an insecticide such as Diatom powder or ripcord spray.
How to care for
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