There are many things that you need to understand and do to obtain proper chicken health.
Some questions that you may ask yourself are:
What is disease? It is defined as a departure from health that impairs normal body function. This departure from health is caused by two types of factors known as direct and indirect causes. The direct causes fall into two categories known as infectious and non-infectious.
Infectious diseases result from a living organism invading the body. These most commonly include viruses and bacteria, as well as a variety of internal and external parasites. Infectious diseases can definitely effect a chicken's health.
Non-infectious diseases are caused by other circumstances such as nutritional issues, chemical poisons, traumatic injury, or even something as simple as excessive stress.
How do diseases spread? Diseases can spread both vertically and horizontally. Vertically means that disease can spread from an infected hen to her chicks, or from an infected cock through his semen fertilizing the eggs. Disease spreading horizontally means that the disease came from one bird to the next through direct or indirect contact.
Direct contact is easy to understand. It simply means that when birds peck, preen, or mate with one another they pass diseases on. Indirect contact requires a vehicle to transport the disease.
Examples of this are:
How do I help prevent disease in my flock? The latest fancy word that the industry uses to describe disease prevention is "bio-security." I know, it sounds like a government originated terrorist word, but it makes sense.
No single measure can provide a utopia for your flock, where no disease will ever infiltrate the flock, but you can take some precautions to keep good chicken health within your flock.
Some commons sense measures for you to use to obtain good chicken health are:
Flock History: A flock history is basically keeping a record of everything pertaining to your chickens. It seems extreme and difficult, but it really is not.
You need to write down when you bought your birds and from whom. You need to write down what you feed them and when. You need to write down hatching dates for chicks and when and how you cleaned the coop.
When you have all of this information at your disposal, you can make an educated decision about what might have went wrong when you do have a disease or an infection within your flock. It will then be worth any extra time that it took to keep these records.
Medicate Only When Necessary: As I stated before, part of the reason that most people want to raise their own chickens is to make sure that the eggs or meat that they will be eating is the healthiest possible for their family.
So, why would you want to raise your own chickens, just to fill them up with drugs that you are trying to avoid in the first place? Using drugs casually on your flock without using every prevention method possible first, will only cost you money and increase your problems.
Instead of over-medicating, work on a prevention program to control the biggest problems that are prevalent in your area.
Spending time getting to know your chickens can be important. If a problem begins, you will be able see the change and take action.
Vaccinating against serious diseases is usually done when certain areas are at risk.(check with your county extension agent).
Provide a Sound Environment: The way that you house your chickens plays a vital role in their health. Whether it is cage confinement, confinement housing, free range, or yard and coop, doing this properly can increase the health of your birds.
However you decide to keep your birds, to obtain proper chicken health, you need to protect them from cold, heat, rain, and wind. You will need a good fence to protect them from four legged predators and possibly a roof fenced in to protect them from flying predators.
The most important thing about your chicken house is the ease of cleaning. If it is hard to clean, human nature tells us that you will do it less. Also, make sure you have enough feeders and waterers distributed throughout your chicken house.
Next, be sure that your chicken coop is properly ventilated. The more fresh air in the house the less the chance of the build-up of microbes that can cause disease. Proper ventilation will provide good air-flow without making it drafty in your coop. This may require you installing a fan.
Practice Good Sanitation Around Your Chickens: You can help assure your chickens' health by using proper sanitation methods. Good practice would include properly washing hands before handling chickens and their feed.
You should try to avoid introducing outside birds to your flock. If you have show birds, this may be impossible, but any time you bring in a new bird, you are taking a chance of effecting your chickens' health.
Also, if you visit other people's flocks you should take precautions such as wearing baggies over your shoes or spraying them before and after with a disinfectant. This will protect your birds and theirs from spreading disease.
Feed Your Flock a Balanced Diet: The easiest way to ensure that your chickens are getting a balanced diet and obtain proper chicken health is to purchase feed that is designed to suit your flock's stage of maturity. You can learn more about feeding your chickens in our chicken feeding section.
You can read about chicken health and nutrition on the health and nutrition page in this section.