Having A Sick Chicken Can Be Scary…Here’s What You Can Do

Having A Sick Chicken Can Be Scary…Here’s What You Can Do

While there are many chicken illnesses out there, there’s a few whose symptoms you should know.

Although there are many diseases your chicken can develop or contract, in this article I’m going to cover the most common illnesses you need to know about, their symptoms and how to treat them. Some are obviously more common than others, but in this article we are going to look at common chicken illnesses you might come across. I will also touch on an illness or two that are less common, but still important to know about.

Now before we get started, I need to make a legal disclaimer, which is that the information in this article is for educational purposes only.

I am not a licensed vet, and the information in this podcast is reflective of my experience only. As always, use your best judgement and seek a qualified vet’s advice if you are concerned your chicken might be sick.

Now, let’s get on with common chicken illnesses and symptoms you should know about.

Egg binding

So, first on our list is egg binding. So what is this chicken illness? Egg binding is when your chicken, for a variety of reasons, can’t pass the egg she’s trying to lay, and it gets stuck in her oviduct.

One thing to keep in mind is that egg binding can be a serious problem, and it should be treated like an emergency. It does have the capability to be fatal to your chicken.

Reasons egg binding happen can be related to infections, some sort of trauma to the reproductive tract, excessive egg laying, for example, with birds bred for a high rate of egg production, as well as nutritional problems, such as if a chicken isn’t getting enough calcium.

Other reasons for egg binding are obesity and an egg that is too soft, which is another calcium issue, as well as just an internal structure that is prone to egg binding, such as a cloaca that is too small to pass the egg.

So, what are some symptoms of egg binding?

One of the first symptoms you might notice is your chicken squatting a lot, with her wings dropped towards the ground. Other signs are a fluffed appearance, straining, labored breathing, a chicken that’s not pooping or doesn’t want to eat.

If you palpate your chicken, and feel an egg shaped lump near her vent, that’s a good sign and probably a clear symptom that your hen is egg bound.

If you want to know for sure, or if you suspect egg binding but don’t have definitive proof, then you can take your hen to a qualified vet for an xray.

If the egg has formed correctly and is fully calcified, then you will likely be able to see the egg.

So how do we treat this chicken illness?

You will want to soak your chicken in a tub of warm water with Epsom salts in it.

Soak the lower part of her body, including her vent, in the Epsom salt bath for about 20 minutes, massaging her abdomen to stimulate the egg to move.

After soaking her, place her in a warm, quiet area to give her time to try to lay the egg.

Repeat this every hour until the chicken lays the egg. Be sure to offer her electrolytes in water to keep her hydrated.

If you prefer, you can take your chicken to a vet to see if the egg can be crushed and removed. This can result in infection, so my recommendation is to let a qualified vet do it.

If you can see the egg, you can attempt it yourself, but consult with a vet first and see what antibiotics you should put your chicken on after in order to prevent infection. If you cannot see the egg, do not attempt this.

Bumblefoot

Next on our list of chicken illnesses is bumblefoot. So what is this? Well, it’s actually a bacterial infection of your chicken’s foot.

You’ll know if your chicken has bumblefoot if you look at the bottom of the feet and you see a large lump.

Bumblefoot, also called ulcerative pododermatitis, is a bacterial infection that is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. So, it’s a staph infection.

It happens when your chicken gets a cut, even a microscopic cut, on its foot from walking on hard or sharp surfaces.

Some symptoms include swelling in the feet and limping.

Chickens with bumblefoot might have swellings on the pad of the foot, or the entire foot can look swollen and enlarged. It might look as simple as a slight redness to a bulbous-looking growth on the bottom of the chicken’s foot. The swellings, called “bumbles” give the infection it’s colloquial name.

If you take your chicken to the vet, he or she might also prescribe oral antibiotics, but that’s really up to your vet to decide if the situation merits it.

Treatment

There are some natural options for bumblefoot, if you want to avoid pharmaceuticals, such as essential oils, honey, or green clay. I like using Young Living’s Animal Scents ointment, which promotes healthy skin.

If you use oils, you should always dilute it with a carrier oil such as almond or coconut oil. For more detail about using essential oils on your chickens, it’s best to email me.

If you want more info on natural bumblefoot treatments you can read my article all about Bumblefoot here: Bumblefoot in Chickens. I go into more detail about Bumblefoot specifically and some treatment options you can use.

Should you do surgery to get rid of bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot is easily treated, and it includes opening the infected area to allow the pus to drain, then soaking it in a water and epsom salt bath. After, you can then apply your favorite topical antibacterial ointment and dress it with clean bandages.

Now, I’ve seen some online recommendations to perform surgery to treat bumblefoot yourself, and I would encourage you, if possible to have the vet perform the surgery instead.

Even if your vet is not a poultry vet, they are in a better position than either you or I to properly provide a local anesthetic to the effected area, and then remove the infection.

Personally, unless the situation is absolutely dire, I prefer to not perform surgeries myself at home largely because I don’t have the proper tools to anesthetize the area, and I’m not comfortable causing more pain in my chickens.

Marek’s Disease

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Marek’s disease is a type of avian cancer. Marek’s largely effects chickens between 12 to 25 weeks of age, although chickens outside that age range might also be effected.

The easiest symptoms of Marek’s to recognize include paralysis, such as flopping around, being unable to stand, odd shaped pupils in their eyes, and blindness.

Tumors in nerves are what actually cause the paralysis, while tumors in your chicken’s eyes are what cause the cause irregularly shaped pupils and blindness.

The tumors can also be in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, stomach, lungs, and pretty much anywhere else you can imagine. They can cause the lack of coordination that you see with Marek’s.

Other symptoms of Marek’s disease are weak labored breathing, and enlarged feather follicles. Later as the disease progresses, some symptoms include pale, scaly combs as well as greenish diarrhea.

So how do chickens get Marek’s disease?

It’s transmitted by air between chickens, and it shows up in dander, dust, feces, and saliva. Infected birds that live will also have the virus in their blood for life, and can infect other chickens.

There is no treatment for Marek’s, although chicks can be vaccinated at the hatchery. However, it’s important to note that the vaccination will prevent tumors from forming, but it does not prevent infections nor does it prevent other birds from getting the disease.

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract of animals caused by coccidian protozoa.

There are a few difference parasites that can cause a problem in your birds, but the bottom line is the disease spreads from chicken to chicken through infected feces or ingestion of infected tissue.

Your chicken might have coccidiosis and you may never know it, but the most easily recognized sign of coccidiosis is bloody droppings.

Treatment

So, to treat coccidiosis, you can provide an anticoccidial medication, rid the coop of any droppings and sanitize it, and offering your flock vitamins and a probiotic to re-establish good gut flora as they recover.

Just remember that you might have a withdrawal period with any medication you give them.

One way to prevent coccidiosis is to offer chicks a medicated chick starter which will help them build up a resistance to these parasites.

So next, we’ll look at a few diseases of the crop.

First, if you don’t know what that is, it is an organ, part of the esophagus, in your hen’s body that collects food that your hen eats during the day.

It’s like a pocket that stretches as your hen eats. So, if you pick up a hen and feel a lump on the right side of her body, that’s the crop, assuming she has been eating all day.

A healthy crop will be full at night and empty in the morning, and that’s a good indicator your hen’s digestive system is working well. If it’s empty all the time, then she’s not eating. If it’s full all the time, then you might have a problem.

Sour Crop

So first, let’s talk about sour crop. What is it? This happens when a fungus infects your hen’s crop and causes the natural environment of the organ to go askew. Usually, your hen has a good immune system that will help her fight off infections.

But that doesn’t mean she’s immune, obviously. So, as your hen’s crop becomes infected, the lining thickens, which prevents the muscles from doing their job and moving food into your chickens’ stomach.

The most telling symptom of sour crop is a horrible smell, which is the fungus taking over everything, coming from your hens mouth. Other symptoms include  lethargy or weight loss.

Treatment

To treat sour crop, you have a few options. If you want to go with conventional medicine, then you can take her to a vet, and see if they can prescribe nystatin or fluconazole, which are two antifungal medications the Merck Veterinary Manual recommends using for sour crop.

If you want to treat it naturally, then you can try massaging the crop to help it pass any accumulated food into your chickens’ stomach.

Try providing apple cider vinegar in a ratio of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. The apple cider vinegar will give your chicken beneficial bacteria, which will hopefully combat the fungus.

If the case is bad enough, however, you might want to speak with a vet regarding conventional medicine.

To prevent this disease, only give your hens fresh, healthy food and ensure that your flock’s living area is clean, since one way chickens can become infected with the fungus that causes sour crop is by being exposed to chicken manure.

If you want to learn more about sour crop specifically you can read my article all about sour crop here: Sour Crop

Impacted crop

Similar to sour crop, an impacted crop is where for whatever reason, the organ has failed to move food into the stomach.

Impacted crop happens when either there’s something blocking the food from moving from the crop into the stomach, such as plastic or long, fibrous grasses, or it can happen if the normal muscular contractions of the organ don’t work properly and food ends up sitting in it.

Treatment

It can be treated by burping your chicken to try to remove the material. Another option is to have a vet perform surgery on the organ to remove the material clogging it.

I would recommend only a vet perform the surgery, and refrain from doing it at home unless you really know what you’re doing.

Unlike sour crop, because a crop impaction is literally just a blockage, no antifungal medication should be needed, although you should confirm that with your vet.

 Pendulous crop

Pendulous crops are next on our list of common chicken illnesses. So what is it? A pendulous crop is when the organ gets blocked for whatever reason and food can’t pass. It then begins to stretch so much that it bulges and starts to hang.

You can remember what this disease is by remembering that pendulous means hanging – the crop is hanging.

Pendulous crop is similar to an impacted crop, and is actually pretty serious, since a major organ has been damaged and can’t work in the same way that a healthy one would, and it has a harder time sending food down into the stomach.

Treatment

Now, whether you can treat pendulous crop depends on the severity of the case. You can first empty the crop by “burping” the chickens.

To burp a chicken, you hold it so it’s head is at a 60 degree angle to the ground, and massage the crop until the contents spill to the floor.

Once relieved of its contents, you can then keep the bird in a warm, quiet location and offer water for 24 to 48 hours to see if the organ returns to the proper size. Then you can gradually reintroduce food if it seems all is well.

Now in serious cases, and at the end of the day, only a qualified vet can tell you how serious your case of pendulous crop is, but in serious cases, if there’s too much damage, you might have to put the bird down, lest it keeps having problems with its digestive system.

Now, the three crop issues we’ve discussed all have burping the chicken in common, and at this point I want to say something about burping a bird.

This is not really something to be done lightly; quite frequently, chickens will aspirate on their own vomit, so to speak, which can lead to issues such as pneumonia.

So, if you’re going to burp your chicken, make sure you allow her to breathe between burps.

If you’re not sure how to burp your chicken or are concerned you might not do it right, then you can try bringing her to a qualified avian vet for their help.

Vent Gleet

Vent Gleet is the lay term for Cloacitis, which basically means non-specific inflammation of the cloaca. ← Veterinary Definition.

In reality, what I’ve experienced is that vent gleet is usually a bacterial or fungal infection that causes irritation to the vent, and usually is accompanied by white/yellowish discharge.

Symptoms

  • Feathers getting stuck or pasted to the vent
  • Mild to thick discharge from the vent (there ideally should be NO discharge at all in a healthy chicken)
  • A bad odor
  • A decrease in egg production
  • And/or a dull appearance

Now you can treat vent gleet, but I’m not going to go over it in this article because I have an entire article specifically about vent gleet and how you can treat it. So if you would like to learn how to treat vent gleet you can head over to that article. You can find the article here: Vent Gleet Identifying & Treating

Vent Prolapse

Essentially, a vent prolapse is a chickens insides coming out. While it is totally normal for the vent to temporarily prolapse when laying – it’s definitely NOT normal for it to stay that way!

Basically what happens is, the internal reproductive tract becomes loose and begins to protrude from the vent which makes passing poop and eggs painful for your hen, and potentially deadly.

There are a variety of different causes of vent prolapse and some different treatments you can try as well. If you want to learn more about it head on over to my article specifically about vent prolapse here: Vent Prolapse: How to Recognize & Treat Your Hen

Avian Influenza

Now the last of the chicken illnesses is Avian influenza because it’s been getting a lot of press and I know some of you are concerned about it. Yes, chickens can catch avian influenza.

I have no experience with avian influenza, so the information below is from the CDC.

Symptoms

You can recognize it by certain symptoms. Your chicken might become listless, not want to eat, have respiratory distress, diarrhea, and loss of egg production.

In severe cases, you might see symptoms like facial swelling, blue comb and wattles, and dehydration along with respiratory distress. You might also see dark red and or white spots on their legs and combs. Other symptoms include nasal discharge tinged with blood as well as an increase in production of soft-shelled eggs.

Avian influenza is spread to a backyard chicken typically by wild birds, or if you’ve been exposed to an infected flock, you might bring it home to your chicken. Good biosecurity measures will help prevent it.

There is no effective treatment for avian influenza. If your chicken does come down with it, things like proper nutrition and possibly broad spectrum antibiotics are your flock’s best shot at beating it.

More about avian flu from the Center for Disease Control

Hopefully this article helped you understand the signs and symptoms of common illnesses in your hens. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

READ NEXT: 10 WEIRD EGGS AND WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

READ NEXT: HOW TO RAISE BABY CHICKS SO THEY’RE HEALTHY FROM DAY ONE

 

What Vaccines Do My Chickens Need?

What Vaccines Do My Chickens Need?

Quite frequently, I get messages from readers asking “What vaccines do my chickens need?”

In this article, we’re going to cover what vaccines are available for your flock. (This article was reviewed for veterinary accuracy by a licensed veterinarian on June 3, 2017.)

Before we get started, let’s get one thing out of the way: I’m not telling you IF you should get your chickens vaccinated – that’s a personal decision only you can decide.

I recommend you talk to your local qualified poultry vet and ask them what vaccines your chickens need. This article is meant only as a reference for what’s available (and remember that I’m not a vet – which is why I had this article reviewed by one!).

You should also know that I don’t personally vaccinate my chickens. That’s a decision I made based on the overall potential benefits compared to the overall potential negatives and costs (risk assessment, y’all).

For the most part, vaccines for chickens have been developed to improve the death rates, create herd immunity, and to reduce the potential transmission of diseases among chickens crammed together in a small space in the commercial sector, and not necessarily for the common backyard flock you and I have.

Wonder "what vaccines do my chickens need?" Here's a list! (Article reviewed by a veterinarian on June 3, 2017)

My flock doesn’t leave my property very often, and we practice common sense hygienic measures (cleaning and disinfecting coops, feeding only fresh food without mold, segregating new flock members for 30 days to check for disease, limited exposure to wild birds, etc).

These practices have been sufficient, and according to some vets I’ve consulted, quarantine and proper hygiene practices are MORE effective than vaccines.

Particularly if you’re raising Cornish Crosses for meat, remember you’ll likely be harvesting them between 6 and 10 weeks of age. You won’t want to do anything to harm or taint the meat, which might happen with injectable vaccines.

Remember also, that most vaccines come with warning labels advising to not butcher poultry that have just received shots (they tell you to wait anywhere from 15 to 60 days) – not ideal for meat birds.

If you DO want to vaccinate your chickens (for example, you attend poultry shows or are constantly bringing new chickens home from swap meets) – more power to you. I hope this article gives you a good overview of the options you can discuss with your vet.

Bottom line: It’s a personal decision only you can make after educating yourself and consulting with a qualified vet.

If you want to read about common chicken illnesses, you can do that in this article. If you want to learn how to care for a sick chicken, here’s a great reference

What vaccines for chickens are available?

This list isn’t comprehensive, and the veterinary world comes out with new medications and vaccines all the time. These are common ones I get asked about. The information referenced is from the Merck Veterinary Manual. (If you’re committed, you can find it online, or buy your own copy on Amazon here.)

Some of the most common vaccines for chickens are for:

  • Marek’s Disease
  • Mycoplasma gallisepticum infections
  • Infectious Bursal Disease
  • Encephalomyelitis
  • Fowlpox
  • Laryngotracheitis
  • Newcastle disease/Infectious Bronchitis

Marek’s Disease

When given, this vaccine is usually given to day old chicks, both broilers (usually Cornish Crosses) and layers. If you want your chickens vaccinated against Marek’s, most hatcheries will do it for you for a small fee (don’t bet on those chicks you buy at the local feed store having it – your best bet is to order from a hatchery and pay for the vaccine).

It’s given subcutaneously, which means below the skin. In most cases it’s given in the breast of your day old chick. An expert handler will do it likely without complication, but since chicks are very fragile, it’s also possible they will be injured by a less-than-adept technician.

You can buy a Marek’s Disease vaccine here on Valley Vet. (I don’t make any commission from this company. I personally buy equine vaccines from them, so I trust this source enough to recommend them). 

Newcastle/Infectious Bronchitis

You can read more about Newcastle/infectious bronchitis here. 

The vaccine is usually given between 14-21 days of age, via water, and at commercial poultry farms, is given consistently (every 2 weeks to 90 days, depending on age, location, managerial decisions, etc) thereafter. (See this chart about what vaccines chickens can get from the Merck Veterinary Manual). 

You can buy this vaccine on Valley Vet here.  You might need a prescription, so talk to a knowledgeable vet. They can also advise you on dosage strength and where (and how) to administer it.

Wonder "what vaccines do my chickens need?" Here's a list! (Article reviewed by a veterinarian on June 3, 2017)

Infectious Bursal Disease

This is a viral disease of the bursa, and it can interfere with immune system development as chicks age. You can read more about infectious bursal disease here. The vaccine is usually given 14-21 days old via water.

Encephalomyelitis

You can read more about Encephalomyelitis hereGiven in the wing web at 10-12 weeks old

Fowlpox

Read more about Fowlpox hereThe vaccine is usually given in the wing web at 10-12 weeks old. We’ve had fowlpox in our flock, and successfully treated it.

You can buy this vaccine on Valley Vet along with the vaccine for Encephalomyelitis. You might need a prescription for it, so speak to your vet first. Your vet can also advise on the dosage and where to administer it.

Laryngotracheitis

This is a viral infection. You can read more about it here. The vaccine is usually given at 10-12 weeks, intraocularly (in the eyeball) with eye drops, according to veterinarians I consulted.

Mycoplasma gallisepticum

This is a bacterial infection that can cause a chronic respiratory infection. You can read more about it hereThe vaccine is usually given between 10-14 weeks of age, either intraocularly (in the eyeball with eye drops) or by a spray (according to The Merck Veterinary Manual), although I have seen injectible vaccines (see below).

You can find this vaccine on Valley Vet here. Their product looks like an injectable vaccine, so discuss with your vet before using it. 

That’s the skinny on vaccines! It’s completely up to you if you want to vaccinate your backyard flock – just remember to consult a qualified poultry vet.

In all honesty, (based on my experience) if your local vet doesn’t have much experience with chickens, they probably won’t have these vaccines on hand, and they might not be comfortable administering or prescribing them.

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you vaccinated your chickens? What was your experience? Leave a comment below!

Chicken Illnesses & Symptoms You Need To Know [Podcast]

Chicken Illnesses & Symptoms You Need To Know [Podcast]

While there are many chicken illnesses out there, there’s a few whose symptoms you should know.

 

Some are obviously more common than others.

 

In this episode of What The Cluck?! we look at common chicken illnesses you might come across.

 

[Want more information about how raise healthy chickens? Click here to check out Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock!]

 

We also touch on an illness or two that are less common, but still important to know about.

 

 

In this episode…

 

You’ll learn:

  • How to recognize symptoms of common chicken illnesses
  • Treatment options
  • The difference between sour crop and impacted crop (and which might require medication and/or surgery)
  • How to prevent illness

 

Links we discuss:

More about avian flu from the Center for Disease Control

 

All About Sour Crop

 

Where to grab a free coupon book ($32 value) for Manna Pro Poultry feed

 

LIKE THIS PODCAST? HERE’S THE REST OF THEM!

chicken mites and lice

Transcript

Hi there, and welcome to session 25 of What the Cluck?!, a podcast devoted to keeping chickens for fun and self-sufficiency. I’m Maat from FrugalChicken, and in this episode we’ll talk common chicken illnesses that you might come across and their symptoms.

 

Although there are many diseases your chicken can develop or contract, we are going to cover the most common illnesses you need to know about, their symptoms and how to treat them.

 

By the end of this episode, you’ll know how to recognize and deal with the most common illnesses and symptoms you might come across in your coop.

 

Just as a reminder, you can get this episodes show notes at TheFrugalChicken.com/Podcast25, that’s podcast with the numbers 2 and 5.

 

So stay with me!

 

Now before we get started, I need to make a legal disclaimer, which is that the information in this podcast is for educational purposes only.

 

I am not a licensed vet, and the information in this podcast is reflective of my experience only. As always, use your best judgement and seek a qualified vet’s advice if you are concerned your chicken might be sick.

 

Now, this podcast is sponsored by Manna Pro Poultry, and I’m happy to partner with them to bring you this podcast because I love their feed.

 

They have a full array of organic, non-GMO feed for every stage of your chicken’s life, which is huge, and new this year is their Organic Grower Crumbles. This is a brand I trust, and that’s why I’m happy to tell you about them.

 

You might notice that in every episode I discuss how important diet is, and that’s because it dictates not just how healthy your hens are, but how healthy their eggs are for you.

 

Now, if you buy chicks at the feed store this spring, and you’re not sure which feed to buy for them, go with Manna Pro’s non-GMO, organic crumbles, and you can be sure you’re headed in the right direction to raising a happy, healthy flock.

 

Now, if you go to the Manna Pro Poultry Facebook page, and I’ll put a link to that page in the show notes, you can register to get a Chick Days Coupon Book, which they will send to you. 

 

There’s $32 in coupons in the book, and you will also find coupons for their organic crumbles, as well as their other products, such as hen treats and their mealworms, which I especially love.

chicken mites and lice

The mealworms are very reasonably priced for the amount that you get, and you can mix them with the organic crumbles for an additional protein boost, which is so important for your chickens.

 

You can visit Manna Pro to find out more about their line of organic, non-GMO feeds at MannaPro.com.

 

Now, let’s get on with common chicken illnesses and symptoms you should know about.

 

READ NEXT: 10 WEIRD EGGS AND WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

Egg binding

So, first on our list is egg binding. So what is this chicken illness? Egg binding is when your chicken, for a variety of reasons, can’t pass the egg she’s trying to lay, and it gets stuck in her oviduct.

 

One thing to keep in mind is that egg binding can be a serious problem, and it should be treated like an emergency. It does have the capability to be fatal to your chicken.

 

Reasons egg binding happen can be related to infections, some sort of trauma to the reproductive tract, excessive egg laying, for example, with birds bred for a high rate of egg production, as well as nutritional problems, such as if a chicken that don’t get enough calcium.

 

Other reasons for egg binding are obesity and an egg that is too soft, which is another calcium issue, as well as just an internal structure that is prone to egg binding, such as a cloaca that is too small to pass the egg.

 

So, what are some symptoms of egg binding?

 

One of the first symptoms you might notice is your chicken squatting a lot, with her wings dropped towards the ground. Other signs are a fluffed appearance, straining, labored breathing, a chicken that’s not pooping nor wants to eat.

 

If you palpate your chicken, and feel an egg shaped lump near her vent, that’s a good sign and probably a clear symptom that your hen is egg bound.

 

If you want to know for sure, or if you suspect egg binding but don’t have definitive proof, then you can take your hen to a qualified vet for an xray.

 

If the egg has formed correctly and is fully calcified, then you will likely be able to see the egg.

 

So how do we treat this chicken illness? You will want to soak your chicken in a tub of warm water with Epsom salts in it.

 

Soak the lower part of her body, including her vent, in the Epsom salt bath for about 20 minutes, massaging her abdomen to stimulate the egg to move.

 

After soaking her, place her in a warm, quiet area to give her time to try to lay the egg.

 

Repeat this every hour until the chicken lays the egg. Be sure to offer her electrolytes in water to keep her hydrated.

 

If you prefer, you can take your chicken to a vet to see if the egg can be crushed and removed. This can result in infection, so my recommendation is to let a qualified vet do it.

 

If you can see the egg, you can attempt it yourself, but consult with a vet first and see what antibiotics you should put your chicken on after in order to prevent infection. If you cannot see the egg, do not attempt this.

 

Bumblefoot

Next on our list of chicken illnesses is bumblefoot. So what is this? Well, it’s actually a bacterial infection of your chicken’s foot.

 

You’ll know if your chicken has bumblefoot if you look at the bottom of the feet and you see a large lump.

 

Bumblefoot, also called ulcerative pododermatitis, is a bacterial infection that is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. So, it’s a staph infection.

 

It happens when your chicken gets a cut, even a microscopic cut, on its foot from walking on hard or sharp surfaces.

 

Some symptoms include swelling in the feet and limping. It’s called Bumblefoot because the infection creates “bumbles” and because of the swelling on the foot pad.

 

If you take your chicken to the vet, he or she might also prescribe oral antibiotics, but that’s really up to your vet to decide if the situation merits it.

 

Bumblefoot is easily treated, and it includes opening the infected area to allow the pus to drain, then soaking it in a water and epsom salt bath.

 

After, you can then apply your favorite topical antibacterial ointment and dress it with clean bandages.

 

Now, I see online some recommendations to perform surgery to treat bumblefoot yourself, and I would encourage you, if possible to have the vet perform the surgery instead.

 

Even if your vet is not a poultry vet, they are in a better position than either you or I to properly provide a local anesthetic to the effected area, and then remove the infection.

 

Personally, unless the situation is absolutely dire, I prefer to not perform surgeries myself at home largely because I don’t have the proper tools to anesthetize the area, and I’m not comfortable causing more pain in my chickens.

 

READ NEXT: HOW TO MAKE FERMENTED FEED FOR HEALTHIER CHICKENS

 

Mereks

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, Marek’s disease is a type of avian cancer.

 

Marek’s largely effects chickens between 12 to 25 weeks of age, although chickens outside that age range might also be effected.

 

Tumors in nerves are what actually cause the paralysis, while tumors in your chicken’s eyes are what cause the cause irregularly shaped pupils and blindness.

 

The easiest symptoms of Marek’s to recognize include paralysis, such as flopping around an unable to stand, and odd shaped pupils in their eyes, and blindness.

 

The tumors can also be in the liver, kidneys, pancreas, stomach, lungs, and pretty much anywhere else you can imagine. They can cause the lack of coordination that you see with Marek’s.

 

Other symptoms of Marek’s disease are weak labored breathing, and enlarged feather follicles. Later as the disease progresses, some symptoms include pale, scaly combs as well as greenish diarrhea.

 

So how do chickens get Marek’s disease? It’s transmitted by air between chickens, and it shows up in dander, dust, feces, and saliva.

 

Infected birds that live will also have the virus in their blood for life, and can infect other chickens.  

 

There is no treatment for Marek’s, although chicks can be vaccinated at the hatchery.

 

It’s important to note that the vaccination will prevent tumors from forming, but it does not prevent infections nor does it prevent other birds from getting the disease.

 

 

Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract of animals caused by coccidian protozoa.

 

There are a few difference parasites that can cause a problem in your birds, but the bottom line is the disease spreads from chicken to chicken through infected feces or ingestion of infected tissue.

 

Your chicken might have coccidiosis and you may never know it, but the most easily recognized sign of coccidiosis bloody droppings.

 

So, to treat coccidiosis, you can provide an anticoccidial medication, ridding the coop of any droppings and sanitizing it, and offering your flock vitamins and a probiotic to re-establish good gut flora as they recover.

 

Just remember that you might have a withdrawal period with any medication you give them.

 

One way to prevent coccidiosis is to offer chicks a medicated chick starter which will help them build up a resistance to these parasites.

 

 

So next, we’ll look at a few diseases of the crop. First, if you don’t know what that is, it is an organ, part of the esophagus, in your hen’s body that collects food that your hen eats during the day. 

 

It’s like a pocket that stretches as your hen eats. So, if you pick up a hen and feel a lump on the right side of her body, that’s the crop, assuming she has been eating all day.

 

A healthy crop will be full at night and empty in the morning, and that’s a good indicator your hen’s digestive system is working well. If it’s empty all the time, then she’s not eating. If it’s full all the time, then you might have a problem.

 

 

Sour Crop

So first, let’s talk about sour crop. What is it?

 

This happens when a fungus infects your hen’s crop and causes the natural environment of the organ to go askew. Usually, your hen has a good immune system that will help her fight off infections.

 

But that doesn’t mean she’s immune, obviously. So, as your hen’s crop becomes infected, the lining thickens, which prevents the muscles from doing their job and moving food into your chickens’ stomach.

 

The most telling symptom of sour crop is a horrible smell, which is the fungus taking over everything, coming from your hens mouth. Other symptoms include  lethargy or weight loss.
To treat sour crop, you have a few options. If you want to go with conventional medicine, then you can take her to a vet, and see if they can prescribe nystatin or fluconazole, which are two antifungal medications the Merck Veterinary Manual recommends using for sour crop.

 

If you want to treat naturally, then you can try Massaging the crop to help it pass any accumulated food into your chickens’ stomach.

 

Try providing apple cider vinegar in a ratio of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. The apple cider vinegar will give your chicken beneficial bacteria, which would hopefully combat the fungus.

 

If the case is bad enough, however, you might want to speak with a vet regarding conventional medicine.

 

To prevent this disease, only give your hens fresh, healthy food and that your flock’s living area is clean, since one way chickens can become infected with the fungus that causes sour crop is by being exposed to chicken manure.

 

In the show notes, I will put a link to an article about this topic that I wrote, which explains this disease in much more depth.

 

READ NEXT: HOW TO TREAT SOUR CROP

Impacted crop

Similar to sour crop, an impacted crop is where for whatever reason, the organ has failed to move food into the stomach.

 

Impacted crop happens when either there’s something blocking the food from moving from the crop and to the stomach, such as plastic or long, fibrous grasses, or it can happen the normal muscular contractions of the organ don’t work properly and food ends up sitting in it.

 

It can be treated by burping your chicken to try to remove the material. Another option is to have a vet perform surgery on the organ to remove the material clogging it.

 

I would recommend only a vet perform the surgery, and refrain from doing it at home unless you really know what you’re doing.

 

Unlike sour crop, because a crop impaction is literally just a blockage, no antifungal medication should be needed, although you should confirm that with your vet.

 

Pendulous crop

Pendulous crops are next on our list of common chicken illnesses. So what is it?

 

A pendulous crop is when the organ gets blocked for whatever reason and food can’t pass. It then begins to stretch so much that it bulges and starts to hang.

 

You can remember what this disease is by remembering that pendulous means hanging – the crop is hanging.

 

Pendulous crop is similar to an impacted crop, and is actually pretty serious, since a major organ, the organ has been damaged and can’t work in the same way that a healthy one would, and has a harder time sending food down into the stomach.

 

Now, whether you can treat pendulous crop depends on the severity of the case. You can first empty the crop by “burping” the chickens.

 

To burp a chicken, you hold it so it’s head is at a 60 degree angle to the ground, and massage the crop until the contents spill to the floor.

 

Once relieved of its contents, you can then keep the bird in a warm, quiet location and offer water for 24 to 48 hours to see if the organ returns to the proper size. Then you can gradually reintroduce food if it seems all is well.

 

Now in serious cases, and at the end of the day, only a qualified vet can tell you how serious your case of pendulous crop is, but in serious cases, if there’s too much damage, you might have to put the bird down, lest it keep having problems with its digestive system.

 

Now, the three crop issues we’ve discussed all have burping the chicken in common, and at this point I want to say something about burping a bird.

 

This is not really something to be done lightly; quite frequently, chickens will aspirate on their own vomit, so to speak, which can lead to issues such as pneumonia.

 

So, if you’re going to burp your chicken, make sure you allow her to breathe between burps.

 

If you’re not sure how to burp your chicken or are concerned you might not do it right, then you can try bringing her to a qualified avian vet for their help.

 

 

Avian Influenza

Now the last of the chicken illnesses is Avian influenza because it’s been getting a lot of press and I know some of you are concerned about it. Yes, chickens can catch avian influenza.

 

I have no experience with avian influenza, so the information below is from the CDC.

 

You can recognize it by certain symptoms. Your chicken might become listless, not want to eat, have respiratory distress, diarrhea, and loss of egg production.

 

In severe cases, you might see symptoms like facial swelling, blue comb and wattles, and dehydration along with respiratory distress.

 

You might also see dark red and or white spots on their legs and combs.

 

Other symptoms include nasal discharge tinged with blood as well as an increase in production of soft-shelled eggs.

 

Avian influenza is spread to a backyard chicken usually by wild birds, or if you’ve been exposed to an effected flock, you might bring it home to your chicken. Good biosecurity measures will help prevent it. 

 

There is no effective treatment for avian influenza. If your chicken does come down with it, things like proper nutrition and possibly broad spectrum antibiotics are your flock’s best shot at beating it.

 

So, that’s this week’s podcast, and I hope you now have a better idea of some of the common chicken diseases you might come across.

 

Now, if you’re new to chickens or maybe you’re an old hand, and want to do something fun, I have a 15 day boot camp coming up called the Healthy Coop Boot Camp.

 

You can sign up at HealthyCoopBootCamp.com and each day you’ll get an email with a video chock full of information you need to know to raise happy, healthy chickens.

 

If you’re not sure what to do with chicks when you get them home, or when to switch feeds, or if you’re interested in raising chickens naturally with things like herbs, then my boot camp is for you.

 

My Healthy Coop Boot Camp is completely free.

 

READ NEXT: HOW TO RAISE BABY CHICKS SO THEY’RE HEALTHY FROM DAY ONE

 

Thanks for listening to this episode of What The Cluck?! about common chicken illnesses and symptoms, and I’ll see you next time!