This site and the book Chickens in my yard, contain information and recommendations on how to feed chickens and care for them in case of illness. I am neither an agronomist nor a veterinarian, and I do not claim to be a substitute for these professions or their recommendations. In this sense, all the information contained in this site, and more specifically the information on chicken diseases, is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment. The information presented in this guide should in no way replace a genuine consultation with a veterinarian. Neither the publisher nor the author, and by extension the Poules en Ville website, can be held responsible for possible allergies or reactions resulting from the use of the recommended products or the recipes suggested in this site or the book. The recipes and the various suggestions for natural treatments are offered for information purposes only and are not intended to be prescribed.
Have a first aid kit
It is convenient to have on hand a first aid kit for our chickens, such as are wormers, dust powders, sulfur ointment, essential oils, apple cider vinegar, triple action Polysporin, bag Balm, Vaseline: on the crest in winter to avoid frostbite. Green Clay powder is useful for diarrhea. Mix 4 tablespoons in 1 liter of water. Fresh thyme is also useful for respiratory diseases in forms of herbal tea for prevention during the winter etc.
Consult the essential pharmacy article for more details.
I strongly recommend VetRx which is a natural product made from oregano, rosemary, camphor, useful to help treat respiratory ailments and external parasites. It helps to treat colds, scabies, eye worms, etc… This product is essential in your pharmacy. Available in Urban Chicken Coops online store.
If the humidity is too high in the coop, the scaly leg mites (knemidocoptes mutans) which are only 1/100 inch (0,25 mm) in diameter could appear. This condition requires care that takes time and if your hens have been compromised, you will need to allow plenty of time to treat scabies. Because each pool requires a 30 minutes soaking. If you have 4 hens, it will take at least 2 hours per day for 7 days to treat your chickens. It’s the kind of little headache you want to avoid.
Look for signs of this mite in the condition of the legs as these mites are too small to be seen with the naked eye. If the scales look crusty, brittle, flaky, or otherwise misshapen, you might have a problem. If the problem persists, lesions or scabs will form on the legs and eventually deformation and crippling will occur. Pay special attention to chickens with feathers on their legs and feet, as they’re not only more susceptible to this variety of mites, but it’s also harder to see them when they’re present as the scales are largely covered up.
Leg mites are caused by a mite which raises the scales of the legs and digs galleries to lay its eggs.
The larvae feed off keratin and integument, leaving a whitish deposit, sometimes giving the appearance of an oyster shell.
Soaking 30 minutes every day (sometimes during 5-7 days depending on the severity and scope) in warm bath water to the height of the legs with emollient like natural black soap or Marseille soap or any other emollient that helps soften the crusts.
Then brush with an old soft toothbrush to remove the crusts. If you have VetRX, spread a generous coat on their legs as it will be a good way to treat with the natural oils.
Another solution is to create a homemade paste to kill the mites or parasites that are located under the scales… If you can find some sulfur (yellow powder) it is effective, that can be bought in all pharmacies and at low prices, but we have to ask the pharmacist for a small amount about 250 grams. Mix 3-4 tablespoon in petroleum gelee, Bag Balm, or even fat grease like crisco… and coat the legs with a brush. (if there are sores that bleed, coat before with iodine).
Repeat daily for 5-7 days and monitor.
Prevention: Make sure that your chicken coop, dorm, nest and perches are clean. Clean thoroughly, sprinkle DE everywhere on the floor when you change the litter. Straw and hay can be vectors of mites as they can find refuge in the tubular furrows of straw and stay there very long. Nesting pads are better in nesting boxes and wood shavings are more secure. Hens that are broody are more at risk so sprinkle them with DE and take the time to assess their general health.
Credit: Photograph courtesy of Dr. Tahseen Abdul-Aziz
Mites and lice
Northern Fowl Mites
This kind of poultry mites actually lives on your chickens instead of the coop as the red mites do. They generally reek havoc on your poor hens! Like the red mites, the northern fowl mites suck the blood of your chickens, both during the day and at night.
These nasty little mites cause similar symptoms as the red mite variety, possibly even causing anemia in your flock. Additionally, look for paler combs and a drop off in egg laying as possible red flags for these mites being present.
Also, if looking on your birds for these mites, look under the wings for both mites and mite eggs, and in the feathers both above and below the vent. Again, these mites might also bite humans, resulting in itchy, irritating spots, but won’t harm you beyond that.
To help discourage northern fowl mites, make sure your chickens have an adequate place to perform their dust bathing routines on a regular basis. Sprinkle the dust bathing area with a little diatomaceous earth from time to time. Use poultry dust on your hens occasionally.
These lice live in the plumage of hens and feed on their dead skin, so inspect your hens regularly. The eggs form white clusters. As a preventive measure, sprinkle your hens with ADD. You can also spray a solution with lavender essential oil. The sandbox, which contains a mixture of ash, sand and peat moss to which you can add a cup of ADD, is an excellent way to prevent these lice. Be sure to provide a clean sandbox in the aviary, away from rain and snow. Changing and replacing it as needed, when it is too dirty. Brooding chickens are more susceptible to all types of head lice, so keep a close eye on them.
In order to eliminate these lice, you must get Carbaryl-based dust powder which is sold under different names such as: Sevin, Permethrin, Rabon Spray, Ravac Spray to name a few. They are all under prescription from a veterinarian.
Scabies in chickens feathers
Scabies is often confused with intense moulting or more intense aggression and pecking. In fact, scabies is caused by a mite: Cnemidocoptes Laevis. It cannot be seen with the naked eye because it is microscopic.
Unlike another mite that locates itself on the legs (Cnemidocoptes mutans) and causes scabies on the leg, this mite deplumes hens all over their body. It is very contagious, so it must be treated as soon as possible because it causes severe itching. Scabies can be treated relatively easily if you act at the beginning and avoid the contamination of all your livestock. Ambient humidity is often the cause, so clean the henhouse well. Antiparasitic powders and veterinary prescription are often the best way to get rid of mites.
Red Mites also called gray mites and roost mites
These tiny poultry mites are red blood sucking bugs. They feed on your flock at night and live in the cracks and corners of the coop, or in nest boxes during the day. They don’t actually live on your birds.
Again, red mites proliferate in hot and wet humid barns. They like dark corners and are bloodsuckers. They appear overnight to bother your chickens and sick their blood which will make your chickens quickly anemic and die. These parasites can survive in your chicken coop for more than 9 months without food. They are difficult to eradicate. You can only detect them at nighttime. They are also vectors of salmonella. If you are caught with an infestation, you have to totally disinfect the building while protecting yourself with a combination, mask and gloves. Sometimes you must burn the wooden nest boxes to eliminate them completely.
If you notice your hens scratching and grooming themselves constantly and possibly even pulling her feathers out, red mites might be a problem. You also might notice tiny blood spots on the outside shells of the eggs you gather in the nest box. This could be from squashed red mites in the next box.
The best way to find these tiny mites is to inspect your hens at night, when they’re most likely to be present on their bodies. If you’re looking for these mites at night, take care to know you could be bitten by them. Bites to humans, though possibly painful and itchy, won’t cause problems any more than any other general bug bite.
To help discourage red mites from taking up residence in your chicken coop, keep the coop bedding clean. Also, when cleaning the coop, pay special attention to the corners and cracks, disinfecting the whole coop while you clean. Also, adding a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth to the floor before you add the bedding will help. Make sure you get in the cracks and corners with it as well.
When frost bites happen…
What causes it?
Frostbite can be caused by a number of things. The most common causes include:
- Wetness/moisture combined with cold temperature
- Wet bedding
- Inadequate ventilation
- Wrong litter products
- Freezing temperatures with poor wind shelter
- High altitude
- High humidity
- Poor or lack of appropriate shelter
With the onset of winter, your flock is prone to frostbite. Not only is frostbite painful, it can cause disfigurement, loss of mobility, a fall in egg production and infertile roosters (fertility will return with warmer temperatures). Knowing the causes of frostbite will minimise the risks and how to treat frostbite should any chicken succumb is essential for any backyard keeper.
Frostbite occurs when the fluid in tissues freezes, causing a loss of blood supply which deprives the cells of oxygen. The damaged cells die and will eventually appear as blackened areas on the tips of combs, wattles or toes. The dead tissue will ultimately dry up, harden and fall off.
As temperatures fall, chickens naturally conserve their body heat by restricting blood flow to their combs, wattles and feet — it’s this decrease in warmth and oxygen that puts these extremities at risk of frostbite.
Chickens with large combs and wattles are more susceptible to frostbite than those with smaller combs such as pea combs. Roosters tend to be more at risk than hens, but any large-combed hen, for example, a Leghorn, is vulnerable. Wattles are particularly prone to frostbite due to immersion or drips from drinking water.
Frostbite isn’t just caused by freezing temperatures. In fact, frostbite is more likely to occur overnight in a poorly ventilated coop with damp bedding where moisture from droppings and respiration cannot escape rather than from the cold itself.
If a chicken has frostbite, you’ll see the tissues whiten and become greyish blue in colour, eventually blackening. The tissues will be swollen and will feel cold and / or hard to the touch. You may see blisters filled with clear or milky fluid one to two days after exposure. Chickens with frostbitten feet are likely to limp. You’ll notice a loss of appetite.
A bird with frostbite may need to be moved to a warmer area if the case is severe to prevent further injury. Warm the affected area slowly once the bird is no longer exposed to the cold — thawing and refreezing of exposed tissues will cause further damage. Never use direct heat such as a hair dryer or heat lamp. Soak frostbitten feet in lukewarm water to slowly bring their temperature back to normal. Soak a clean cloth in lukewarm water and carefully hold against combs or wattles. Never rub or massage the affected area — you could cause further damage. Avoid the temptation to burst any blisters — they are a natural plaster, protecting the underlying tissues. Do not remove any blackened tissue as this is protecting the remaining comb. Keep the bird hydrated and segregated from other birds to prevent pecking. Seek veterinary help if there are signs of infection.
Prevention is better than cure; a few simple steps can help to reduce the incidence of frostbite within your flock.
1) Ensure that the coop is waterproof and that rain and snow cannot leak inside;
2)The coop should be properly ventilated. Ideally, you want to get as much air exchange throughout the coop as possible without any draughts. If there is condensation on the coop windows in the morning, there isn’t enough ventilation;
3) Limit moisture inside the coop. Droppings are around 85% water, chickens generate plenty of moisture from their breathing and with water spillages, there’s a lot of moisture inside the coop. Installing droppings boards and removing the overnight poo daily will eliminate a major source of humidity. Keep drinkers outside the coop — if this is not possible, select drinkers carefully to minimise spillages on bedding;
4) Keep bedding clean and dry and replace as necessary. Damp bedding causes extra moisture;
5) Provide plenty of flat wide perches so that the birds can cover their feet with their feathers and bodies;
6) Provide a covered and protected outdoor run or lean-to structure to avoid confinement to the coop during inclement weather. If temperatures do drop down very quick and very low, never force your chickens to go outside.
Bumblefoot is a staph infection. When working with a bumblefoot infection it is a good idea to wear disposable exam gloves.
Infection under the flap, which degenerates into abscesses to extract the pus and treat with a bandage and antiseptic cream such as Polysporin triple action. Videos are available on the website of Chicken Chick for do-it-yourself intervention at home with the list of necessary materials.
- Veterycin wound and infection spray
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- gauze pads 2 inch by 2 inch
- Vet wrap
- Sterile disposable scalpel ( in case you need it)
Videos are available on various websites to show how the intervention is carried out with a list of the necessary equipment.
Small antimicrobial pads for placement over the wound and under the dressing
Cloacal prolapse is a major disorder of the hen’s genital tract and one of the main causes of mortality at the beginning of laying.
The onset of cloacal prolapse is closely related to exposure to light and reproductive hormones (estrogens, progesterones and androgens).
In severe cases, the exit of the intestinal coves or part of the oviduct is observed in the cloacal area. The hen should be isolated immediately, and an attempt should be made to replace the organs. If an egg is taken, it is necessary to proceed with great delicacy, sometimes a seat bath and heat allow the egg to come out in the break.
Raw garlic is used as an antiseptic and intestinal and pulmonary disinfectant. Crush one large clove per subject in water or food. Use every 2 months. Avoid its use during an outbreak of coccidiosis because garlic liquefies the blood. However, garlic will not treat severe cases of worm infestation.
It is recommended to deworm your livestock twice a year. Once in the spring and again in the fall. There are several forms of dewormers with variable spectra. Consult your veterinarian to buy these products because with some of these products, you should not eat the eggs for a certain period of time.
Problems related egg binding
Chickens can get an egg stuck when the egg gets stuck between the uterus and the cloaca (the tube through which faeces and reproductive fluids – including eggs – are expelled from the body). The hen will try to pass the egg but will not succeed. A stuck egg in hens can be fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms and signs:
Hens enter and leave the nest without laying an egg.
Stay still away from the other chickens
Walking and standing like a penguin – his buttocks will be close to the ground.
Do not eat or drink
If you notice any of these symptoms, then you will need to check to see if it is related to the eggs. You can first palpate the area of his abdomen to detect an egg-like mass. If you can feel an egg, it is likely that it is stuck.
Care and support for your hen:
The recommended care for a hen with a trapped egg is a warm bath from the seat. This relaxes the muscles and hopefully helps the hen to pass the egg. Place her in an observation cage for a while and she should pass her egg, which is often soft. If you have given her a hot bath and she still hasn’t passed the egg after a few hours, it is best to take her to the vet.