Setting Up A Chicken Hospital / Chicken Infirmary

“My mom and I are just starting to raise chickens. I’m 15 years old and I’ve always been interested in animals so I’m happy to try my hand with chickens. I’ve heard the phrase “chicken hospital” before and I’m not sure what it means. The man I was talking to said that I would need one to separate my chickens. What is it and where do I get one?” ~ Carlton Michaels, California

Hi Carlton,

I’m happy to hear that you and your mom are starting this new adventure.

I’m assuming that the gentlemen you were talking to was referring to a place you can keep an injured or ill chicken separated from the rest of your flock. In back issues I’ve referred to this space as a chicken infirmary.

Here’s the point, if you have a chicken that seems to be ill but you don’t know what is wrong and you’re not sure if it has something contagious to the rest of the flock, you’ll want to separate that chicken from the others as soon as possible.

The time to prepare your chicken infirmary is before you need it.

When a chicken needs to be quarantined, you don’t want to waste time building an infirmary, you want to get that chicken away from the rest of the flock as soon as possible. If it’s a contagious illness, quick separation could mean the survival of the rest of your flock.

Another scenario in which it is important to have a chicken infirmary is when you have an injured chicken.

As a result of bullying, feather pecking or some other cause of serious but non-life threatening wounds, you may need to separate a chicken from the rest of the flock to give it time to heal.

There are a couple of ways you can approach your infirmary.

We very simply use a big dog kennel.

When a chicken needs to be apart from the rest of the flock, we line the bottom with litter material, provide food and water and we’re all set.

A space like this needs to be big enough to hold at least two chickens to live comfortable for a few days.

After you are sure the first one is well, or the wound has healed, you’ll take another chicken from the flock and keep it in the infirmary also for a few days.

You’ll then return the two chickens together to the flock so that no one is subject to the pecking reserved for newcomers. The animals that have been removed will have lost their place in the pecking order and will have to find a new spot in the hierarchy.

Some areas are more prevalent to poultry disease than others. If you’re in an area where illness is more than a very rare occurrence, I’d suggest you set up your infirmary a little differently.

A very important consideration here would be the size of the infirmary; you may very likely have a number of chickens requiring separation at a given time.

Provide accommodations for one tenth to one quarter of your flock.

This is a structure that would benefit if it was mobile.

When you separate sick animals, you must keep them far away from the rest of the flock, you cannot just put up a divider down the middle of the coop and call it a day. You don’t want the two groups of animals breathing the same air.

If your infirmary is mobile, you can move it far enough away to protect the healthy animals.

Once everyone is healthy again, you need to give the infirmary a good scrubbing with bleach water. Thoroughly rinse it with water and let it air dry for a minimum of one week. Be sure to remove any liter material and sanitize feed and water systems.

The benefit of having and additional structure that is mobile is that you can use it when you want to introduce new chickens to your flock.

When you bring home new chickens, you need to keep them separate from your existing flock for 2-4 weeks to ensure they are not carrying any disease.

You would quarantine the new birds far from your flock just as you would a sick bird.

After the quarantine period is up, you would move the structure close to the existing coop so the newbies can start to interact with the existing flock. In this way you keep them close but separate.

After a week or so of being able to see and smell each other, you can add the new birds to your existing flock.

This will not eliminate the bickering that comes along with establishing a new pecking order but it will make the transition a little easier.

Carlton, I hope this has answered your question and wish you the best of luck.

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