If you have poultry, then you know the panic of finding a sick chicken!
As a disclaimer, I am not a veterinarian. The following information is based on my own care and experience with our chickens.
You know that look..Pale comb, droopy bottom, wings dragging. Maybe there’s a strange high pitched “squeak” she lets out as you pick her up. Or maybe she’s gaping for air. Uh oh. The alarms sound, and a big bright red neon sign flashes in your mind “Isolate, Isolate!”. Sigh….
We have seen all the above from our girls at some point or another. We are blessed that after some TLC, all but one of our birds have bounced back as sassy as ever!
As with raising any other critter, it is important to be ready in the event of sickness or emergency when it comes to your chickens.
What to have in your first aid kit:
-Correct X ointment
-Guaze and vet wrap
–Large dog crate for isolation
–fractionated coconut oil
-Pencillin G (if your chickens have an infection or gaping wounds, this will save your chickens life. I recommend tossing her eggs for two weeks after her last dose).
-5cc syringes, 18 guage needles, & 21 guage needles (PCN G is very thick)
Every chicken is different. If you know your birds, then you will most likely pick up on strange behavior quickly. Here are some conditions to look for:
Egg bound hen-when an egg gets stuck inside the oviduct and she is not able to pass it on her own.
This is very serious, and needs to be addressed immediately! If caught in time, early interventions can help her safely pass the egg and save her life.
Possible signs & symptoms:
-Walking like a penguin
-Not eating or drinking
-Lethargic and constantly laying down
-Pale comb and wattles
What to do:
Place her in a warm bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts for 15-20 minutes. Make sure her vent is submerged in the warm water. This will relax her muscles and help her to pass the egg.
Take her out of her bath and dry her off well. Put on a latex glove, and apply the coconut oil to your gloved finger and around her vent. Gently stick your finger inside her vent and go straight back about 2 inches. If you feel an egg, reapply more coconut with 1-2 drops of lavender oil to your finger and around & inside her vent. This will help reduce inflammation of the tissues to make passing of the egg easier.
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Grind a Tums tablet into a fine powder, and mix it with applesauce. If she won’t eat it, feed it to her via a syringe. The calcium will cause contractions to help her pass the egg.
Apply gentle outside manipulation. Be very careful not to break the egg. This can cause further injury, infection, and death.
If she passes the egg, reapply 1:3 of lavender oil and coconut oil, and place her in a warm, quiet place to rest before you introduce her back to the flock.
If she has not passed the egg in 30 minutes, repeat the entire process. If she has not passed it after another hour, seek veterinary care.
Respiratory illness- Chickens are prone to a number of respiratory diseases, most of which are highly contagious and can wipe out an entire flock. Though each respiratory disease can have it’s own interventions, isolating the sick bird and immediate care have helped to save our flock.
Possible signs and symptoms:
-Wheezing or chirping
-Discharge from the eyes and nostrils
-Not eating or drinking
-Lethargic and depressed
-Drop in egg production
If I find one of our birds that appears to have some respiratory junk, I spring into action! She gets isolated immediately to prevent spread of disease, and to keep the others from picking on her.
I pull out the arsenal of immune boosters! I place several drops of oregano essential oil in her drinking water. I place VetRx (for respiratory support) under both wings and on her nose. I make my ultra immunity booster mash (oatmeal, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and garlic) for her to free feed from. It smells atrocious, but our chickens love it!
While our little sickling is recovering, I repeat the above steps (except for applying the VetRx) on our whole flock as a preventative and immune boost! I also spray down the coop with my natural chicken coop spray to kill any bad bacteria lingering about.
If she isn’t eating or drinking, I place 1ml of Nutradrench in a syringe and slowly feed this to her every 12 hours. Be careful not to let her aspirate. Once she has re-gained energy, I let her free range in our yard (away from the other birds).
If I don’t see any improvement in 48 hours or if symptoms worsen, I start the pencillin injections (1ml IM every 12 hours). As a natural health advocate, this is not my first option that I choose. But, in the very few (extreme) cases that we have had to use it over the years, it has saved our birds lives.
Gapeworm– parasite infection that attacks the respiratory tract of poultry.
Possible signs and symptoms:
–The Gape- gasping or gaping for breath
-Not eating or drinking
-Frequent head shaking
In full transparency, I am not 110% sure that our bird had gapeworm (some of the symptoms can mimic other respiratory diseases). But, she had most if the symptoms, so bi-golly, that’s what I treated her for.
She first got quarantined from the other birds. Per the suggestion of a poultry veterinarian friend, I added 10 drops of iodine (10 drops per 32 ounces) as an Antihelminthic & 3 drops of oregano (immune support) to her water. She loved it. Chickens are so weird.
I also made her the ultra immunity booster mash, which she goobled up.
I repeated these steps every 24 hours x 3 days. After four days, she was not symptomatic, and was goobling up her layer food and drinking great! No more symptoms noted, so, Miss Hennie Bird re-joined her buddies!
To be on the safe side, I used the same preventative measures on the flock, as well. Crisis everted!
Attack from predators– Let’s be honest. Everything wants to eat a chicken. When a predator finds your flock, it can be devastating. But, chickens are incredibly resilient and can heal from those horrible injuries, so don’t give up on them so easy!
A few months after receiving our first flock, a stray dog killed 9 out of 11 birds. To say we were devastated was an understatement.
My husband rescued one of the birds as it was being attacked, and found her with her chest ripped open. The other hen staggered back to the farm the next morning, with one of her wings almost completely torn off. All four of us were in shock, but, we started care immediately.
I used saline spray and Bactrim spray to cleanse their wounds twice a day for 7 days, then applied Blue Kote every other day for a week. Nutra-drench was added to their water daily for extra nutrients. They both received pencillin shots twice daily x 7 days.
It took about 3 months for their physical wounds to completely heal. It took a bit longer for one of the birds to be comfortable free ranging without my hubby or I with her. Several years later, these two are thriving, and bossing all the other birds around. God is good!
These are just a handful of emergencies that your flock can face. The two biggest factors in dealing with these emergencies are to be prepared and to know your flock (what behaviors are normal and not so normal). Raising chickens has been one of the highlights of having a farm! For us, they have been well worth it!
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