15 Thoughts on Caring for Chickens with Health Issues

March 17, 2014

Long before I began blogging about the chickens, the gardens, and the bees, my career has been in medicine. Without a doubt, I draw on my experiences in medicine to care for my chickens. Yes, there is a difference between treating chickens and treating humans.  However, many things do not change such as infection causing organisms, basic biological processes, wound care, and classes of medication to name a few. I wanted to do a post with some basic information that you might find helpful, specifically when a flock member becomes ill and some important thoughts on chicken health issues.

An infection can be caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They can even cause an infection at the same time. Many many individual organisms and strains exist within these classifications.  Antibiotics act on the organisms’s weakness.  Like Sherlock Holmes, not only do you need to know what are the most popular infectious organisms and where they live in the body, you need to know whether they survive in oxygen or without (aerobic vs. anaerobic). Is their cell wall gram positive or gram negative? Are they a cocci or a bacilli?  Which antibiotics work best for skin, gut, respiratory systems and the like based upon the knowledge base of infectious organisms. Without a medical knowledge, things like this are complicated!

When it comes to chicken health issues, it is important not to treat your flock with antibiotics unless you are exactly sure what you are treating.  

~If you pick the wrong medication for the wrong organism, your chickens will not get better.
~When you don’t treat long enough, your chickens can develop a resistance to the antibiotic and it will not work in the future.
~If you give your chickens antibiotics without a clear cut reason, this too can make them resistant to the medication.
~Whenever there is doubt, seek out help from a veterinarian. They are the experts.

Use natural treatments with caution.

~I am an advocate of natural treatments. However, if your chickens are not responding to the natural treatment you have selected within 2-3 days, you should consider re-evaluating your treatment plan.
~Although certain items such as lavender, garlic, vinegar, lemon, honey, ginger, citrus and the like show antiseptic properties against microorganisms, they can lack potency. Often more potent antibiotics are necessary with more serious situations.
~Super oxidized water products such as Vetericyn (animals), Sterilox (to clean medical equipment) and Microcyn (humans), have been clinically proven for the topical treatment of common bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Prevention is key.  

~There are many natural products that can help keep your chicken healthy. Three such examples are as follows.
~Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (FGDE) will not cure your chickens of severe worm infestation, neither will raw pumpkin seeds. However, there is evidence that they may help to curtail their population. Thus adding pumpkin seeds and FGDE to their feed can help keep the worm population down.
~Adding apple cider vinegar can help to keep the digestive tract bacteria in balance and keep yeast levels in check.
~Using FGDE and Nesting Box blend in the nesting boxes and coop help to curtail poultry lice, mites, fleas and other pests from taking up residence in the coop and on your chickens.
~Proper poultry nutrition is important.

I Cannot Recommend these Popular Treatments in Backyard Chickens for Chicken Health Issues.

~Sevin Dust 5%
Chicken keepers regularly use this to treat animals and the their living spaces for mites, fleas, ticks and poultry lice. New labeling no longer states it is recommended for livestock. This is due to its active ingredient, Carbaryl, is neurotoxin, and has been shown to cause cancer and reproductive health issues in laboratory animals.

~Topical Monthly Pest Applications such as Frontline (Fipronil) and Advantix (pyriproxyfen)
After one applies these on chickens, one will find the chemicals in tissue, fat deposits, and eggs. These detected chemical levels are considered “safe” by the EPA. However, personally, I know that chemicals can have a cumulative effect in the body and I prefer to keep them out of my food source entirely. (Source: Pesticides in Food 1999- Review by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.)
Many use this for worming chickens. The warning label states “not to be used in chickens producing eggs for human consumption”.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest


Author/Blogger/Freelancer-Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.



5 thoughts on “15 Thoughts on Caring for Chickens with Health Issues”

  1. I bet it really does help to have a background in science! A lot of the terms confuse me I must admit. Sometimes it can be hard to figure out what is wrong with your chickens, especially if you are new to chicken keeping. It's a constant learning experience!

  2. Hi, I stumbled upon your website. I have been a backyard "hen keeper" with a beautiful backyard coop and garden. I too have a background in medicine, I work in a laboratory at Promedica Hospitals. Anyways, a question on Diatomaceous Earth…if it safe for consumption and is a worm prevention…why is it so toxic to the respiratory system? Is it just because of the fine powder consistency? I have never used it but I think I want to start. Have you had any issues sprinkling it in the nesting box or allowing hens to "dust bath" with it sprinkled on the ground? I am in need of some advice and hoping for some help : )


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.