Common Chicken Diseases, First Aid & Chicken Garden Giveaway

We tend to have two very different approaches to bonding with our chickens. The first is that certain chickens are like family pets. These lovely ladies have names and personalities and are easily identifiable when in the flock based on coloration and personality. Sunshine is a great example, because she is the last remaining hen from our very first flock of ASA Brown hens. A grand old lady, she tends to follow us around like a puppy while we work.
The second attitude we tend to have is for those chickens we consider livestock, either as layers or part of our seasonal meat flock. These are birds that have a job, and in order for them to accomplish that job, they need to be a healthy investment. We still love them, but just not enough to name them.

Though we take good, preventative care of our ladies regardless of how we view them, we don't have the same emotional connection with the 'livestock' as with our special ladies. It's just the way it is around here, partly pragmatic, partly 'We have too many pets.'

Regardless of their affection level, injury and disease in a flock requires attentive care beyond preventative measures. An injured chicken is easy to spot, but illnesses might be a bit more subtle and require mindful attention and vigilance during wellness checks. 

To help figure out what might be the cause, below are some of the more common afflictions you can care for on your own. However, if in doubt, call a livestock vet to assist.

Common Chicken Diseases & First Aid

    vent gleet
  • Poopy Chicken Butt (Vent Gleet): Poopy Chicken Butt, also known by its more medically correct name, Vent Gleet, is a non-contagious condition caused by infection where the urea and feces are caught up in the vent feathers and creates a mess. This can lead to other diseases and infections, but if treated when discovered it shouldn't present further complications. To treat, soak and wash the area with warm water/Ivory dish soap daily and introduce apple cider vinegar to the drinking supply. (This is a good thing to do as a preventative measure, as well. A couple of tablespoons is all it takes.) You can also introduce probiotics in the form of yogurt or supplements to help the heating process.
    infectious coryza
  • Infectious Coryza: Coryza causes facial swelling and a smelly, thick, mucus-like discharge from the eyes and nostrils causing labored breathing. Chickens may also have diarrhea and stunted growth if contracted at a young age. It is spread through direct contact with other infected birds at shows, auctions and swap-meets. You will not see Coryza magically appear in your flock from the surrounding environment. Chickens with Coryza are always initially contaminated by a carrier bird outside the flock. Then, it spreads. Prevention with available inoculations is the best solution with Coryza, but if infection is detected, quarantine the birds and treat with a water-soluble antibiotic, and, of course, apple cider vinegar.
  • Coccidiosis: Coccidiosis is a protozoa that can be ingested by chickens through scratching in damp, infected soil. The organisms thrive in wet, shaded areas such as poorly-maintained chicken coops. When Coccidiosis eggs are eaten by inspects, and then the insects are eaten by chickens, the protozoa begin to multiply in the chicken's digestive tract. Infected birds will have a constant earthy-red color to their feces, which is colored by their own blood. Prevention includes keeping a clean, dry coop and treating your surrounding soil with lime every year. Ensure feeders and waterers are placed so the chickens don't poop in them. Infected chickens can be treated with, you guessed it, apple cider vinegar and an anti-coccidial medication if diagnosed quickly.
  • Mushy Chick Disease (Omphalitis): Mushy Chick Disease, also known as Omphalitis, is an infection of newly-hatched incubator chicks. There is no cure for this, and most hatchlings die within 24-48 hours of emerging from their shells. Incubators are not only an ideal means for hatching young birds, but also for supporting bacterial growth. Omphalitis is a bacterial infection of the egg yolk. When chicks hatch, they draw in the remaining yolk through their developing navel to use for food, thereby also drawing in the bacteria. As the bacteria propagates  the navel doesn't heal and the chicks succumb shortly afterwards. The only treatment is prevention by keeping a sterile and properly cleaned incubator. Also, chicks that are removed before healing from the incubator can be infected through handling if the bacteria is present on your hands.

An Ounce of Prevention

Without a doubt, the single most effective first aid you can provide a flock is being mindful of their behavior and providing a safe and healthy environment. 

Dry, clean bedding and a regular addition of apple cider vinegar for gut health will do more for your flock than studying up on the multitudes of disease your ladies can contract without care, after the fact. Regardless of the level of care we give our flock, we still lose one now and then to the unexpected. 

Though a terrible loss, it is part of the cycle of livestock-rearing on a homestead. Those ladies that we consider pets are buried with respect in our pet graveyard, and those that aren't are disposed of.

We love sharing our off-the-grid, homesteading adventure with you all and truly enjoy it when you join the conversation below with your own stories and advice. But first, check out our Chicken Garden Giveaway, ending November 3rd!

Chicken Garden Giveaway! 

Giveaway starts at 8 am on Saturday, October 26th and ends Sunday, November 3rd at 11:59 pm (Central Time)

Giveaway Sponsored By:

Enter for a chance to win the Chicken Garden Giveaway! One lucky winner will receive:
  • Gardening with Chickens by Lisa Steele
  • Chicken Garden Seed Collection from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds
  • Sprouting Kit and 1/2 oz Hard Red Winter Wheat from Mary’s Heirloom Seeds

  • Black Oil Sunflower
  • Golden Millet 
  • Reid’s Yellow Dent Corn 
  • Connecticut Field Pumpkins 
  • Fordhook Swiss Chard 
  • Black Beauty Zucchini 
  • Cayenne Pepper 
  • Black Cherry Tomato 
  • National Pickling Cucumber
  • Paris Island Cos Lettuce
  • Georgia Green Collards 
The total value of this prize package is approximately $60!


Sue D said…
Thanks for all of this info on taking care of our chickens.
LeAnn Harbert said…
Thanks for the information. I am always learning about new illnesses with my chickens.
So much great info. Thank you for this and for the chances at winning.
Lisa L Lombardo said…
Great info! Thanks for sharing :)