So, you would like to know how to treat your sick chicken? Well, you’ve stopped at the right page.
Chickens are arguably the most popular backyard livestock, providing owners with eggs, meat, and companionship. So, it makes sense to worry and feel sad when your chickens get hurt or become sick.
Fortunately, there are several steps chicken owners can take to provide appropriate care to their sick birds and help them recover.
In this post, we will help you identify sick chickens and how to treat them effectively. We will also highlight common chicken diseases and efficient ways to protect your flock.
How To Identify a Sick Chicken?
Before anything else, you need to know that chickens are prey animals. That means your bird can be hurt or sick long before showing any signs and symptoms. This explains why vets recommend regular checkups to ensure the flock is healthy.
Another thing, chickens often bully sick birds by pecking their combs or wattles, worsening the condition. Because of this, an ailing backyard chicken tends to hide its symptoms to the best of its ability.
As a chicken owner, you should be able to pick up on subtle cues when your chickens are under the weather. Below, we’ve mentioned a few common indications of a sick bird, including:
- Discharge from the eyes/nasal discharge
- Limited movement or inactivity
- Hiding from other flock members or human
- Sneezing or Coughing
- Pale comb or wattles
- Diarrhea or unusual droppings
- Lack of appetite
- Reduced egg production
- Changes in behaviors–spending more time resting or sleeping
- Unusual posture and difficulty in walking or standing
- Dropping feathers
If you observe these signs and symptoms, it’s time to start the treatment process.
How To Treat a Sick Chicken at Home?
Finding a vet willing to treat your sick chicken is difficult. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to ensure your bird has the best chance of survival and to prevent spreading the illness to other flock members. Check them out!
1. Isolate and Quarantine the Sick Chicken
If you notice one of your birds is sick, separate it from the flock. This way, you can prevent the infection or disease from spreading to other chickens, especially if it’s contagious. Separation also helps to protect the sick chicken from bullying by other flock members.
Next, establish a quarantine zone. Ensure the area is clean, quiet, dry, and warm. It should also be well-ventilated and safe from wild birds and predators. Place the bird in a cleaned and disinfected dog crate, separate chicken coop or rabbit hutch, and move it to the quarantine area.
It also helps to wear boot coverings when interacting with the sick bird inside the quarantine zone. Afterward, you can dispose of them to prevent contaminating other areas of your farm or backyard. Also, remember to clean your hands with soap after handling the bird.
How long the ailing hen will stay in quarantine depends on the type of disease and vet’s advice. Even if she doesn’t develop any serious complications, avoid returning her to the flock because this could spell disaster for the other chickens.
Experts recommend keeping an ailing bird in quarantine for at least 4 weeks. This is enough time to monitor, diagnose, treat, and re-test for illness.
2. Hydration Matters
Ensure your sick chicken stays hydrated, even if it means offering her water with a dropper or spoon. Water plays a crucial role in the chicken’s metabolism by regulating body temperature. This is important, considering chickens can only lose heat through their comb and feet or by spreading their wings or panting.
Water also helps chickens to digest food and eliminate wastes from their bodies. But if a chicken suffers from diarrhea, it may become dehydrated and unable to fight the disease.
To prevent this, provide the bird with enough water. You can also add some electrolytes or vitamins to the drinking water to ensure she stays hydrated. If you don’t have an electrolyte solution, use a sports drink.
3. Encourage Healthy Eating
A sick bird will most likely have a reduced appetite. However, you can encourage your chicken to eat by providing nutritious food. Consider adding minerals, vitamins, and probiotics to the diet to support the bird’s digestion and immune health.
You can crush the food and mix it with milk or water (warm) to make it easily digestible. Most hobbyists recommend using a syringe or spoon to feed sick birds when they have no motivation or strength to eat.
But this can prove dangerous because the food might accidentally enter the windpipe, causing the bird to aspirate. So, it’s better to place mash-like food in a bowl or dish and gently dip the hen’s beak in.
4. Prioritize Rest and Recovery
Before we forget, avoid changing your hen’s diet if it’s eating normally. Sure, you might get tempted to provide the bird with supplements or dietary supports like garlic, apple cider vinegar, or oregano to boost her health. But these might shock the chicken’s immune system, worsening the condition.
Instead of altering her everyday diet, focus on providing the bird with a comfortable environment and sufficient time to rest and heal. You can direct your attention to boosting her healthy once she has recovered.
5. Do Not Medicate a Sick Chicken Randomly
Yes, you might know how to create a secret concoction that heals any chicken illness or infection. But without an understanding of the underlying issues, you might increase the severity of your bird’s condition.
Before rushing to antibiotics, home remedies, or dewormers, consult a state veterinarian for the proper diagnosis and treatment. Also, follow the prescribed dosage correctly to prevent ineffective treatment or toxicity.
6. Prepare for The Worst-Case Scenario
If your chicken overcomes the illness, re-integrate her into the flock like a new bird. Place the hen in a secured space where the flock can see and hear her, but cannot attack. After a week, the chickens will get used to her presence, and you can safely introduce her to the flock.
In the worst-case scenario, the condition might persist despite your efforts to treat it with medicines and natural remedies. If this happens, resort to euthanasia or mercy-killing to ease your hen’s suffering.
Most vets are willing to euthanize pets outside their office hours, so contact your local veterinarian for euthanasia services. It’s also wise to perform a postmortem on the chicken to determine the cause of death and protect the surviving flock.
5 Common Chicken Diseases
After discussing the general chicken treatment steps, let’s shift our focus to common chicken diseases, their symptoms, and potential remedies.
1. Mites and Lice
Chickens are prone to mites and lice, especially during the warm seasons. But if not dealt with immediately, they can become a nuisance. These external parasites feed on the chicken blood, causing several symptoms, including:
- Loss of feathers
- Pale combs and wattles
- Reduced egg production
- Scab on legs and feet
- Blood spots on eggs
If you identify these symptoms in your chicken, there’s a high chance you are dealing with an infestation.
The best way to prevent mites and lice from affecting your flock is regular inspection of the coop–specifically during the night because that’s when they feed.
You can tell your chicken has mites if you spot clumps of round, hard-shelled, and red or light grey creatures under the wings. And if you regularly interact with your birds, you might develop itching sensations.
Before introducing new birds into the flock, quarantine and dust them to remove external parasites. Aside from wood ash, you can use food-graded diatomaceous earth (DE) for chicken dust birth.
Additionally, remove any wild bird feeders and secure chicken feed to discourage wild animals from visiting.
Common Poultry Mites
- Red Roost Mites
- Scaly Leg Mites
- Northern Fowl Mites
Did you know salmonella bacteria causes at least 1.2 million diseases and over 450 deaths in the US annually? Surprisingly, this staggering number of salmonella infections originate from food, with chicken-based foods leading in the list.
But you can also get salmonella when you come into contact with infected chickens or their droppings and don’t wash your hands properly. But how do you know if your chickens have this bacterium?
Well, there are several symptoms infected birds display, irrespective of the strain of salmonella. These include:
- Ruffled feathers
- Poor growth
- Reluctance to move
- General weakness
- Yellow diarrhea
Isolate and quarantine any chicken that displays these symptoms. After that, consult the vet for the best treatment options. In most cases, antibiotics like Amoxycillin can help treat salmonella.
Remember, prevention is better than cure. Therefore, keep your chicken coop clean and vaccinate your birds to keep salmonella infections at bay.
3. Marek’s Disease
Another common chicken illness worth discussing is Marek’s disease (MD), or fowl paralysis caused by the chicken herpes virus. It affects the bird’s nervous system, causing tumors to form in major internal organs.
Although this condition is preventable through vaccination, once a chicken develops clinical symptoms, it will live with the virus for the rest of its life. Even worse, it can transmit it to other flock members.
While not all birds infected with the virus will get sick, some might display symptoms such as:
- Partial paralysis
- Irregularly shaped pupils
- Tumors in the liver, ovaries, heart, and kidney
Unfortunately, Marek’s disease has no treatment. Therefore, infected chickens should get removed from the flock and euthanized.
4. Fowl Pox
Fowl pox or avian pox is a viral infection common in chickens, turkeys, and wild birds like pigeons, ducks, and quails. Chickens infected with the pox virus usually have proliferated lesions on unfeathered skin areas, like the comb, eyelids, wattles, and face.
In dry (cutaneous) form, the lesions become thick scabs. But in wet (diphtheritic) form, the lesions develop in the bird’s respiratory system, affecting its mouth, trachea, and even eyes. In this state, the pox virus can be life-threatening.
This virus is transmitted to birds by biting insects like mosquitoes. It’s also highly contagious and can spread through the chicken’s feather debris, sloughed-off scabs, blood, and skin dander.
As for treatment, there’s no cure for fowl pox. Most times, it clears on its own. But you can help your hen by treating the scabs with a diluted iodine solution or applying ointment to them.
The best way to prevent fowl pox in your flock is to control mosquito infestations, vaccinate chicks, and quarantine new birds before introducing them to the flock.
5. Infectious Bronchitis
Infectious bronchitis is a chronic respiratory disease that affects backyard chickens. It’s caused by an avian coronavirus, also known as infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which targets the bird’s respiratory and urogenital tract.
In egg-laying chicken, IBV reduces egg production and damages the kidneys. Besides that, the bird might display other clinical signs, including:
- Nasal discharge
- Gasping or coughing
- Loss of appetite
- Huddling under a heat source (small chicks)
Like fowl pox, IBV has no cure. You can only offer the infected birds antibiotics and hope for the best. Fortunately, pet owners can prevent this respiratory disease through vaccination.
Other Common Chicken Illnesses
- New Castle Disease
This is a highly contagious viral disease characterized by nasal discharge, high fever, watery diarrhea, muscular tremors, and sudden death. Most birds infected with this disease recover over time without being carriers, but chicks might not survive. The most effective way to protect your flock from New Castle disease is to get them vaccinated because it is transmitted by wild birds. It also helps to practice good sanitation when interacting with your chickens.
Chickens with coccidiosis display a range of clinical symptoms, such as depression, dehydration, diarrhea, and ruffled feathers. The disease is caused by a protozoan parasite that destroys the chicken’s intestinal mucosa or gut wall. Prevention is key, but you can treat infected birds with antibiotics or recommended medication.
- Mycoplasma Gallisepticum (MG)
MG or chronic respiratory disease (CRD) is a common bacterial infection in commercial and backyard chickens. It weakens the immune system, making birds susceptible to other illnesses. Infected chickens rarely show any clinical signs unless they have a secondary infection. But common symptoms of MG include swollen sinuses, foamy eyes, and sticky discharge from the nose. Treatment involves isolating infected chickens and providing them with antibiotics like Gallmycin.
- Mycoplasma Synoviae (MS)
MS is a respiratory disease like MG. However, infected birds display symptoms like swollen joints, respiratory distress, lameness, and weight loss. Antibiotics like Tylan and herbs like Oregano can help treat this disease, but first quarantine the infected bird.
As we wrap up, an ailing chicken is a matter of concern to most poultry owners. Without a proper treatment process, the bird might spread the infection or disease to the rest of the flock or worse, die.
But if you follow the steps highlighted in this guide, you can provide your sick hen the best chance of survival, while preventing future illness in your flock.
That’s all for today. If you have any queries, leave us a message in the comment section below.