How to keep your chickens healthy
As we have discussed on other blog posts here at Pet-Chicken.com, your backyard chickens tend to have fairly basic needs and really don’t require a lot of effort to keep them healthy and free of chicken parasites. As long as you tend to their basic health needs, such as safety from predators, ample water, sufficient access to food, and some simple health checks, then you should not have any big issues, and your chickens will be healthy and happy.
Chickens are usually very excited at breakfast time!
It is good practise to check on your pet chickens at least once per day. If not more often, and this doesn’t need to take very long. Each morning when you let the chickens out for the day, simply observe their daily routine, and take note of the usual excitement that usually happens when the human appears! Naturally this is also a good time to deliver breakfast, so that is more than enough to generate a huge amount of activity and excitement amongst even the most reserved pet chicken.
Just take a quick appraisal of each of your chickens to make sure they are all up and about, and show the usual enthusiasm for the day. If any chickens are reluctant to come out of the coop, or looking straggly, or hunched over, or any other strange mannerisms, then this will need a closer examination. But this is not a common problem, and more usual is that you will be surrounded by impatient and hungry and squabbling chickens eager to see what you have brought for them!
Things to Look Out For:
There are some seasonal factors you need to be aware of. As long as you keep the predators out, and keep your chickens protected, then the only factors beyond your direct control are the weather conditions! You will need to be aware of your own weather conditions and be prepared to take a little extra care of your pet chickens as the conditions necessitate.
For example, if you live in a warm climate, your chickens will no doubt be acclimatised to elevated temperatures, and be able to cope with hot spells. Nonetheless, you need to be aware of the need for additional fresh water supplies, and don’t get caught out by assuming that everything will be like normal.
Even if you live in a cooler climate, hot weather can still take a toll on animals, just like for humans, if they are not used to hot weather – you need to take precautions.
Water and Shade
Make sure the chickens have shade at all times during the day, and take into account that as the Sun moves across the chicken pen that there is enough shade available for all of the chickens at all times.
Hot weather comes in spells of several days, and your chickens will certainly require additional fresh water over an extended period of time, and probably longer than just for the hot spell, so be sure to provide them with more than they need, just to make sure they can get through the hottest and nastiest time of the day.
Check on and top up the water supply every day during hot dry spells, in case they get a bit enthusiastic during the day and try to bathe in their water tray, or some other unexpected behavior – it does happen!
You also need to be careful of cold nights during winter, as it can be very difficult to look after your chickens adequately, especially when you are all tucked up in your nice warm bed! Now you don’t have to worry about your pet chickens during cold nights, as chickens are very good at regulating their own body temperature, and they will certainly huddle together to keep warm if necessary.
A helpful tip is to empty the water bowls each night, to prevent them freezing up. Then all you have to do each morning is keep a supply of room temperature water ready to re-fill the water bowls, and the chickens will have a guaranteed water supply all day. Don’t leave it to chance, and don’t get caught out by a cold snap!
Some types of chicken breeds don’t like cold weather
Some breeds like the little bantam chickens may not be the best suited to freezing winter conditions, and there are some breeds that are better if you live in a cold climate – check with your local supplier for the best advice. Otherwise most backyard chickens are very resilient and will be happy and healthy so long as you supply their basic needs.
The only other thing to be aware of is that chickens with large combs and wattles can be susceptible to frostbite on these appendages, so take care to eliminate cold draughts through the chicken coop at night. Ensure that they have a warm and dry place to keep warm both day and night, so that they can avoid the freezing weather. Frostbite must be treated by a professional veterinarian, to avoid ongoing pain and discomfort for the poor chicken.
Damp or muddy conditions
The next thing to take care of is excessive water around the chicken coop, or wetness under foot. Chickens cannot tolerate wet or muddy ground for long periods of time, and must have a dry area to protect their feet. Excess water will inevitably turn into mud, and chickens have no way of clearing mud from their feet, which will only accumulate until it becomes a problem for them, and also for you!
Wet stinking mud turns into dry stinking mud, but either way, it will be you who will have to try to clear the problem, as the poor chickens are not able to do so for themselves!
This is the real challenge for keepers of pet chickens, because no matter how careful you are with cleaning and looking after your chickens, the onset of the annoying chicken mite and parasites can still take you by surprise. In case you don’t know what they look like, we have included some pictures of chicken parasites for easy identification. There are several treatment options, including chemicals, medicines and chicken coop treatment options, so you need to decide no which option is best for your, and how scrupulous you want to be in delivering the treatment.
Be Pro-active –Treat the chicken coop for chicken parasites
The Chicken Mite has an incredibly fast breeding cycle, from hatching to breeding in 10 days, so once they begin to colonize, you have to be very vigilant to catch them before you have an epidemic on your hands. The best way is to be proactive and prepare your defenses at the beginning of spring.
A liberal dusting of flea and chicken mite powder around the cracks and crevices of the chicken coop is a god way to reduce the onset of the pesky chicken mite parasites. However, this will probably not prevent the issue, and probably nothing will completely eradicate them! There are lots of chemical treatments on the market, and you may choose to apply a liquid spray all around the walls and floor of the chicken coop.
Treat each chicken individually for parasites
The next thing to do is to observe your pet chickens for any visible signs of chicken mite on the feathers, or the onset of fidgeting or excessive scratching, which is a sure sign that something is bothering them. Time for a dust bath in some mite powder!
You will need to pick up each bird individually and cradle them gently while giving them a good dusting with the mite powder. Gently turn the pet chicken over in your hands, stretch each wing one at a time, and dust beneath, and be sure to liberally dust under the breast and stomach area, and rub the chemical dust through the feathers so that the treatment reaches all the way to the skin, which will prevent the bird from being bitten by chicken mite during the night.
Never mind if you see your lovely pet chicken covering itself with dust from the garden – this is normal and natural, and one of the best ways for chickens to prevent being bitten by the chicken mite!
Chicken Worming Treatment
By the nature of the way your pet chickens forage around the garden every day, it is almost inevitable that they will be exposed to some level of parasitic worms. So you need to look out for your pet chickens becoming lethargic as that can be one of the obvious symptoms of worms in chickens. That said, you can expect to apply some level of chicken worming treatment at least once per year, and in accordance with the instructions the come with the product. Some of these treatments can tend to contain some strong chemicals and you might have to avoid eating the eggs produced during the treatment period.
There are many suitable chicken worming treatment options available, including natural ways to worm chickens and we encourage you to check the options for something that is suitable for both your local environment and also that is pet friendly for your chickens well being.
As always here at pet-chicken.com, the welfare of your backyard chickens and how to keep them safe from chicken parasites is our primary concern!