Chicken Diseases and Treatment

Treat common poultry diseases with simple, cheap home remedies and preventative care.
By Patricia Earnest
March/April 1974
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Feed your chickens onions and garlic as a preventative for worms.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ NINO PAVISIC


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Even with modern antibiotics and premixed medicated poultry rations, chickens still get sick . . . sometimes with fairly lethal diseases that can sweep quickly through a flock. We rely on our few hens for their eggs and want them to be healthy, for their sake and ours, so we started digging around in the older farm books and asking questions about the birds' ailments. The remedies we came up with use simple, cheap, easily available ingredients and methods that are surprisingly like those frequently employed in home nursing.

Caring For Chickens

Since the best cure of all is prevention; knowing something in advance of your flock's needs can ward off a lot of trouble. Basically, chickens should be kept warm and dry, get plenty of exercise and eat a well-balanced diet . . . sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Hens left to roam will satisfy their dietary needs and busily keep the local bug population under control (just take care to protect the vegetable garden, because the birds also love young green stuff ).

Onions and garlic fed regularly are a natural preventative of any worms that might be thinking of a home in your fowls' warm innards, and sour milk or buttermilk mixed in their feed or drinking water will deter diarrhea. Feet and droppings in food or drink are a potential source of infection when birds are confined, so equip your chicken house with feeders and watering equipment that force the biddies to observe sanitary table manners.

New birds should be quarantined a few days before joining an existing flock and, to control the spread of parasites and disease, henhouses and brooders should be thoroughly aired and whitewashed between flocks.

During the winter, keep chicken house litter dry and exposed to air by scattering scratch feed around on it every day. This serves the added purpose of providing the hens with exercise so that they stay warm and healthy. On especially cold mornings try adding one tablespoon of kerosene to their drinking water as a pick-me-up.

Chicken Illnesses

Among the actual diseases that infect domestic fowl, diarrhea is the most common. This condition-revealed by white or greenish, loose droppings-can be caused by cold, dampness, dirty surroundings and unclean food. Isolate the patient in warm, dry quarters and give her potassium permanganate solution to drink. To make this remedy, dissolve one tablespoon of the chemical in one quart of warm water. Then, for each bird, take one tablespoon of this concentrated solution and further dissolve it in one cup of warm water. In severe cases use a stronger solution, potent enough to turn a dipped finger slightly brown. (Don't keep potassium permanganate mixture in a metal container.)

Another remedy for diarrhea is Epsom salts in the feed, half a pound per 100 birds or 1/2 teaspoon each. Then feed the sick chickens wheat bran moistened with sour milk or buttermilk.

Roup is caused by cold, damp or drafty quarters or by overcrowded housing, and is spread through the drinking water or feed. The symptoms are like those of the common cold: sneezing and a watery discharge, which later turns foamy white and then yellowish, from the eyes or nostrils. Sometimes diarrhea, weakness and swelling of the head will also occur. You'll find on examination that the bird's throat is inflamed, with patches of gray and yellow forming a membrane that almost closes the passage.

To treat this illness, isolate the hen in a warm coop or box lined with hay or straw. The container should be placed in a sunny spot and covered at night. Feed the patient stale bread moistened with milk (preferably milk in which onions have been boiled), or try cooked rice mixed with chopped parsley and onion tops with a tablespoon of powdered charcoal added, twice a day. For drink use a weak potassium permanganate solution.

Gapes is a disease caused by a parasitic roundworm which is about 5/16ths of an inch long and looks like a fine thread. These pests lodge in the hen's throat and multiply there, so that the bird frequently opens its mouth wide as if yawning. To treat this condition make a salt brine, or steep tobacco in water for ten minutes. Pour one teaspoonful of either mixture down the chicken's throat. Then, keeping its head up, close the bird's nose holes and count slowly to five. Next, hold the patient by the feet, head down, and it will usually cough, sputter and evict the worms.

Scaly legs-which makes even young hens look like old crones with bumpy underpinnings-is actually caused by a parasite and is contagious. Combat the disease by bathing and softening the bird's limbs for a few minutes in a medium strong solution of that old cure-all, potassium permanganate. Wash the skin thoroughly, dry it and rub on some vaseline. Repeat the treatment every three days.

Liver trouble is a non-contagious ailment that affects mostly older, heavier birds in the late winter and early spring. Sometimes the fowls die without warning, or they become sluggish and their faces and combs turn either yellowish or purple. The chickens may also have diarrhea and lose their appetites. The disease is caused by too little exercise and too much heavy, rich feed. It can be prevented by giving the flock a good supply of greens year round. If this disorder does occur, the remedy is a dose of Epsom salts as for diarrhea. Feather pulling is not a disease, but indicates a dietary deficiency which can be remedied by regularly feeding meat and animal scraps to your chickens.

All these remedies were thoroughly accepted in the early part of this century, before the age of antibiotics. If they worked then, they should now . . . and I, for one, intend to give these no strums a try if it ever becomes necessary.  


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Post a comment below.

 

Lauran
3/17/2014 1:58:54 AM
My Chicken it stands all day long and does nothing but sleep when we make a noise it will turns its head. It leaks snot out of its mouth and nose and now its started bubbling in the eyes and we just can't find anything on and chicken care sites.

michelle.coad.31
6/28/2013 12:52:06 AM

I have a hen that has a watery type sack on her breast she also feel hot in this area when I lift her and turn her upside down alot of water spills from her, she is not laying and is slow to get around my father also had several birds with the same problem that came good for a short amount of time but relapsed and eventually died from the problem, I have 11 other hens that are off the lay and have been for some time now some have diroreah. Their house is clean and dry and they always have fresh food and water any sugestions as to what this could be she is the only one in my flock to suffer this condition so far


sara
5/17/2013 3:02:22 PM

I have 6 sexletts right around 1 year old.  One of the girls has Lethargy and lack of appetite paired with watery, green diarrhea and no other physical symptons.  I found where it said it was serious illness but couldnt find treament.  Any suggestions?  The rest of the girls seem fine.  They go in their coop at night but have free roam of 1/2acre during the day. 


Dianne Benedict
3/27/2013 2:45:15 PM
I have a 4-year old Barred Rock hen that has become very lethargic the last 4-days or so. She stays away from the rest of the flock and lays in the sun all day long. Sometimes she'll move to another spot, but she mostly stays in the same place all day. At night she usually will come in with the rest of the flock, but a couple of times I had to go out and get her. Every morning I go out thinking I'm going to find her dead, but I open the door and out she comes with the flock. She'll eat a little bit, but not much. She's eating snow which I've never notice her doing before. They have plenty of clean fresh water everyday. I've wormed the entire flock and added oyster shells. I've checked her vent and don't see anything unusual. This morning she was eating and had a greenish discharge from her mouth almost like she threw up? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Andrew Hyde
11/24/2012 12:56:35 AM
I have one Isa Brown out of six with the same problem, research leads me to believe it could be EDS, egg drop syndrome, a product of breeding. Supposedly untreatable. She was laying her eggs on the ground not on the laying hutch with the others and was eating them immediately. Suddenly she has stopped laying on the ground, lays in the hutch and I think the problem has ceased... time will tell. I found this on one site: The symptoms of egg drop syndrome are, beside soft eggs, not obvious, other than a gradual drop in egg production which lasts from 4 to 10 weeks. It's caused by a self-limiting virus. Not feeding her for 5 days will force her to molt, and renew her production of eggs, but if you're not in a hurry, doing nothing will work, too.

Leslie Hembruch
11/21/2012 11:52:55 PM
I have a 7month old Rhode Island Red, who has never been able to lay an egg with a shell. (I have 6 layers total, who have no issues laying. Their shells are very hard and thick.) What is her problem? She has a mess on her behind feathers. She eats healthy, has a variety of veggies, grains, proteins, bugs, etc , gets plenty of exercise. I need help for her.

Stacey Findley
6/25/2012 2:46:39 AM
I have a 2 yr old Rhode Island Red who has become lethargic, cannot balance properly and has a very dull red comb. She stays on the ground in one place, not moving. At night she can't get back into the coop. She seems to eat and drink the water I've placed next to her. This has been going on for about 3 days, but prior to this she was having real bad diarrhea. I don't know what's wrong with her. I have limited chicken experience.

Tracy
5/17/2012 7:09:48 PM
I have a remedy to stop chickens from picking on sore spots. Use WD 40. It soothes the sore and when another bird picks it tastes bad. They stop after just a few pecks. It does work!!

Gaynor White
5/5/2012 3:01:31 PM
I thought the same thing when I read it. Surely it must be a typo because it would kill the bird or is their something I dont know about.

Therese Rudolph
4/17/2012 2:33:34 PM
What is the dilution ratio for the salt brine? I have a young chicken about 4 1/2 months old who has taken ill and stands around and breaths with her mouth open. Was not able to see any gape worms but thought the treatment couldn't hurt. Thanks for the information.

Shelley Dahme
12/30/2011 9:02:40 PM
Am I crazy or did this article recommend adding KEROSENE to chickens water?? Is that a typo? Maybe they meant vinegar?

Denise_21
4/24/2009 8:38:18 AM
Is there any home remedy anyone knows of to stop chickens from pecking each other I know they sell Stop Peck it is a 4oz. spray bottle for $16.00 and the ingredients is soap,hot pepper,herbs. it is suppose to taste bad so they won't peck at each other and the wounds can heal. I also heard of using pine tar I can't picture painting 25 chicken with tar. I was told I had to change their feed to more protein which I will try but that won't help right away. I already lost 3 chickens because they bullied them to death. I have 2 more separated because the were wounded. I got rid of 6 young hens that just started laying because I thought they might be causing this behavior by being more aggressive they were Red Stars. I am now trying adding 2 tlbs. of cider vinagar per gallon of water which I read on the internet in their feed water. Does anyone have any more suggestion I don't want to get rid of my chickens but I am getting scared to go in the chicken coop to see what happened next. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks

Marty_4
1/5/2009 9:47:50 PM
I have been looking for several days for different old time remedies for chickens. Yours is one of the most imformative I have found so far. Thank You!








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