Maintaining Chicken Health in a Backyard Flock

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Many people have decided that raising a small flock of chickens in their backyard is a good idea. They are right for a variety of reasons. The availability of fresh eggs, meat for those less squeamish, and bug control are just a few good reasons to keep chickens. Maintaining chicken health in a backyard flock is not a very difficult task and some simple steps can help keep the entire flock healthy.

Coccidosis is a condition that can be developed in young chicks.

This is primarily caused by the presence of the germ in chicken poop. Chicks who are kept in a confined space have a much greater chance of developing this condition. The excessive exposure to their own waste contributes to the chance of developing coccidosis. It can be avoided by either of two simple expedients.

Keep the chicks on a wire floor. If they are not exposed to their own waste, they will not be able to consume the germs that cause coccidosis in quantities that would make them sick. The other way to control exposure is to simply give the chicks a large area to roam. This will also limit their exposure. Small quantities of the germ will help to develop an immunity.

If chicks become sick, the only effective treatment is the administration of antibiotics.

Roost mites can become a problem for the backyard chicken flock.

These small creatures do not actually live on the birds. They generally can be found on the underside of the material used to line the roosts set up for the chickens. Roost mites are actually active at night. They prefer to hide during the day.

It is, however, not uncommon for them to swarm up a person’s arms during the day while collecting eggs from the nests. This will give a person the feeling that his/her skin is literally crawling. They will absolutely cover a chicken at night and suck a great deal of blood. This will make the chickens sick.

A simple expedient that can be used to prevent infestation is the application of an oil to the underside of the roosts. This oil will suffocate the mites as it coats their skin and blocks their ability to breath through skin pores.

Certain insecticides, pyrethrins, will kill the mites and eliminate the threat to the chickens. Care should be taken when choosing an insecticide to use for this purpose, as some may be harmful to eggs. Carefully following the labeled directions should help eliminate any threat to chicken health or to humans.

Cannibalism can become a problem in some backyard chicken flocks. The amount of space available per chicken will be one largely determining factor in whether or not a flock becomes cannibalistic. Keeping the birds in a very confined space will be likely to lead to them eating one another or pecking.

The diet that the birds are fed can be another factor. Giving the birds adequate space to roam and feeding a diet formulated by someone with experience at mixing the proper amounts of grain and proteins, a good quality commercial feed, will help to limit the occurrence of cannibalism. Some chicken breeds are more prone to cannibalistic tendencies than others. This is a trait that can be worked around by requesting breeds that are not prone to it from the hatchery when ordering chicks.

Some people are concerned by the loss of feathers exhibited by chickens at certain times.

This is not really a threat to chicken health. Losing feathers is a naturally occurring event as the old ones are replaced by new. Molting, as this is called, can be triggered by stress. Different things can put stress on chickens. Most are not things that should be cause for concern. Even if birds are never stressed, they will generally molt two to three times a year. This is perfectly normal.

One absolutely critical key to maintaining good chicken health is monitoring the quality of feed that the birds receive.

Never, ever feed grain or poultry feed that has been exposed to moisture and molded. This will kill chickens very quickly. Another thing to watch for in summer is the presence of fly larvae maggots. Chickens will eat maggots just as readily as worms or insects. The problem with this is that the maggots get caught in the chickens’ gizzards and are not killed. An over abundance of maggots in the gizzard of a chicken will lead to the chicken either choking to death because food cannot get into the gizzard, or the maggots will eat their way out of the bird, killing the chicken in the process.

Keeping a close watch on the quality of the food provided to a flock of chickens is one critical key to keeping chickens healthy.

A backyard chicken flock is a good investment for a variety of reasons.

Chickens provide us with food in a couple of different manners. Chickens will help to cut down on the population of insects that can become a nuisance around a home. Chickens also help to fertilize the ground in the area where they live and roam.

Maintaining chicken health in a backyard flock is not a difficult task. Some important steps need to be taken to prevent a variety of problems that could make a flock unhealthy. These steps are not complicated, for the most part, but they are necessary.

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