Chickens are a wonderful small animal to keep, with the added bonus of fresh eggs in the morning. If you haven’t kept chickens before there are a few things to consider first.
Chickens can be grouped into commercial hybrids and heritage breeds. The commercial breeds of brown shaver and hyline are egg layer machines however they can be less friendly unless you have handled them a lot since they were young. The heritage breeds are generally more docile and live longer however they produce less eggs.
There are various coop options for chickens. All chickens should be enclosed at night as both themselves and their eggs are vulnerable to predators. If free range chickens are not suitable for you, there are various easy to move “chicken tractor’ style coops, where you can easily shift your girls to new patches for them to explore. All coops and any second hand coops should have a thorough clean twice a year, wear a dust mask when you do this. A good antibacterial and antiviral wash like Virkon S should be used followed by a treatment of the coop for mites and lice such as ripcord. Both products can be purchased from Tauranga Vets.
Chickens provide protein and calcium in their eggs so their requirement for these is high. Even free range chickens should be provided with free access to a complete and balanced chicken fed and a separate dish of oyster shell grit or limestone chips. Fresh clean water should be available at all times.
Even with the best husbandry and care, your chickens can become unwell. Unfortunately with chickens by the time they are showing significant signs of disease, they are frequently very unwell. So the sooner they are identified as unwell, the better chance that we have of successful treatment.
- Lethargy and reluctance to move
- Feathers appear fluffed up
- Loss of appetite
- A change in the colour or swelling of the comb/wattle
- Discharge from the eyes/nose/beak/vent
- Diarrhoea or soiling of the vent
- Wheezing or open mouthed breathing
- Lameness or drooping of a wing
- A drop or cessation of egg production
Internal and external parasites can affect your chickens. Flubenol is an easy internal worm treatment to use as you can mix it in with their feed or Aviverm that is added to their water. Coccidia, is an internal parasite that will not be killed by the above treatments and will require a veterinary consultation. Very young birds, former battery hen chickens or chickens living in overcrowded conditions can be affected. Chick starter fed normally contains a coccidiostat to prevent against infestation however because of this it is very important other pets such as dogs do not eat it and eggs can not be consumed for at least 7 days after consumption of these feeds. External parasites include red mite, scaly leg mite and lice. To help prevent infestations treat your coop concentrating on the nooks and crannies. The above wormers can be purchased from Tauranga vets, along with a topical treatment if you have mites or lice
Some other diseases that may occur include, pneumonia, bumble foot (a bacterial infection), Mareks Disease/Lymphoid Leucosis fowl pox and chickens that become egg bound.
At Tauranga Vets, we can examine, investigate, diagnose and treat problems that your chickens may be having. We can develop a treatment program for the control of both internal and external parasites. If you have any questions about your chicken’s health please contact us.
Written by Katherine Hansen