I have only lost one chicken due to sickness that I can recall and that was soon after I started raising chickens and didn't know much about what to do. We house our 60 chickens in spacious old quail pens because a few years ago we were in the commercial quail business raising 100,000 per year. That was a lot of work and we do not miss most of what was involved with that job. The pens went silent for about a year and then I decided that I would like to raise a few chickens just for eggs for our family and a few to sell. What better place to house them than our "out of use" quail pens. I wanted the chickens to always have access to good fresh green grass so we invested in netting to span the distance overhead between two of the pens and put chain link fencing on the ends including a gate as you can see in the picture. This gave our chickens very spacious outdoor area free of hawk problems.
But one of the problems that has risen with the chickens is that we believe that CRD (Chronic Respiratory Disease) is occasionally picked up by the chickens due to the fact that the disease was in the buildings prior to their arrival from the quail. Usually the chicken who catches it will eventually get over this on its own but if it gets down, I then isolate and administer one shot for three days of Baytril and that clears it up. Once they get over this they will not catch it again but they are carriers of the disease.
I have noticed that if the chickens eat well, have plenty of water and green grass and are not under stress of any kind, then they do not come down with the disease. But if under stress of any kind they are more susceptible.
A couple of cases come to mind to back this point up. One of my chickens had gotten inside a closed building because the door was open and we did not know she was in there and closed the door. She lived for two days in there without water until I realized I was missing her and went to look for her. You can read of her adventure here, called Bluebeard's Adventurous Week. Due to stress and lack of water within a few days after release she was down with the disease.
Another time, I had a hen who went broody as I have many that do but you can break this up. See how I do this here. When hens go broody, they neglect to eat and drink as they should and they become pale and lose a lot of weight. They will sit on the nest way beyond the normal time that it takes to hatch an egg. Since I remove all eggs daily, you can see why she will never hatch one. I had a hen to sit on the nest for a month once. After a certain particular hen had set on the nest too long because I had waited too long to break it up, she came down with CRD. Again, due to stress, the disease had opportunity to take hold.
So you can see the importance of taking care of your flock. It all depends on you.
Make sure they have adequate feed and water at all times and access to good green grass. If you do not have green grass then provide greens by either mowing and bagging your grass and dump in the pens or by asking your grocery store if they have greens that they will not be selling. Many times the grocerer can get the greens that have fallen loose in the bins and boxes to give you. I even got some once that were organic so you might even try your health food stores. And another way for the chickens to get some greens is if you let them out of their pen for at least 15 minutes a day while you stand guard for hawk watch. You can train them to come back to the pen if you have scratch grain. Believe me they will come running for this and should this fail they always return to roost at dusk.
Another important thing for chickens is that they have access to a dust bath because this is how they rid themselves of mites and lice. It breaks my heart knowing that in big commercial confined chicken egg houses the chickens never see the light of day nor get the chance to rid themselves of pests. Vote against this with your purchase of eggs from pastured chickens. Dust baths are essential and this site will tell you how to make a dust bath.
Chickens also need plenty of perch space for sleeping so they won't be crowded. Chickens can be down right mean to other chickens if they don't like their bed fellows. You can see in my picture that a roosting perch can be made by obtaining some saw horse legs (see bottom of this post for ordering) and you can make your own and in any length you prefer. We put a 10 foot 2 x 4 on end and then nailed a 10 foot 2 x 4 flat on top so that it would be better on their feet and give them more foot perch space.
If you have laying hens, you might want to make available some oyster shell. However, if you supply them with a good laying feed ration they may not need the extra calcium from the oyster shell but it doesn't hurt to offer it free choice and it's cheap and lasts a long time. If chickens get too much scratch feed which is a treat then they will not eat enough of the balanced ration feed and this may cause a lack of calcium so be careful not to overdo on the treats. Do not give a laying ration to a hen that is not at least 4 months old and maybe not until you see that first egg. Laying rations contain less protein and more calcium. Too much calcium in immature birds can cause organ damage and laying problems later on. If you have a mixed flock it's best to keep them all on unmedicated starter or grower/finisher feed.
You can also purchase grit if you pen does not supply this. Chickens do not have teeth so they need grit in their crop to help grind the food they eat.
One little addition to their water supply will provide great benefits for your chickens and it is Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. Do not use the pasteurized kind. The kind that I and most food bloggers use is "Braggs" brand. If you make Kombucha Tea then you can add this to the water as Kombucha Tea is kin to Vinegar. In fact if brewed long enough it is vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon to a gallon of water and do this for one week per month. The benefits are that it will correct the ph balance of the chicken's crop and help prevent against infection, it's an immune booster and full of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. They really like the taste and will drink more water. Don't use it in a metal waterer, however, as it will react with the metal. And by the way, ACV is good for humans too. I drink a teaspoon in a glass of water every morning. Other great uses for vinegar here. Cheers! Here's to healthy chickens.
| || || || |