One important aspect of raising chickens naturally is knowing how to care for their injuries and diseases using natural remedies. By treating chicken diseases naturally, you will hopefully not have to resort to using chemicals on your chickens.
Chemicals may not only be bad for your chickens in the long run, they may also effect you through the eggs that your hens lay. I prefer to use natural remedies to treat my chickens for a number of reasons, here are just a few:
- better for the environment
- healthier for both me and my birds
- do not have side effects
- more economical
- can be more effective
Through my personal experience and the knowledge that I have gained about natural treatments I have been able to learn a lot about treating my flock’s issues naturally. Following are some health issues I have encountered personally and how I have treated them naturally. There are also some common health concerns you may encounter and advice on how to treat those as well.
What is it? Bumblefoot is a staph infection of the foot pad. It is caused by a cut or scrap becoming infected by manure. You can tell if your chicken has bumblefoot by looking at the pads of it’s feet, if you see a black scab, then bumblefoot is present. In severe cases, the chicken will limp and eventually the staph infection will spread up the leg to rest of the body.
Treatment- I treated my chicken’s bumblefoot using Epsom salts, anti-biotic ointment, and Vetercyn Plus. Daily soak the chicken’s feet in a bucket of warm water with Epsom salts in the water. Then, spray on the Vetercyn and put some anti-biotic ointment on a gauze pad. Using vet wrap, secure the gauze pad on the foot. Make sure that the Vet wrap does not hinder the chicken from walking properly. I cut the Vet wrap into two strips and wrapped one strip around the foot, going in-between the toes and around the leg.
Prevention- Prevent bumblefoot by making sure there is no sharp objects in the chicken’s coop or enclosure that could cut the chickens’ foot pad. If your chicken’s free range it will be harder to prevent bumblefoot. Also sand down the perches and keep their coop and enclosure clean from manure.
What is it? Fowl Pox is a virus that is spread by mosquitoes and other infected animals. It is similar to chicken pox in humans. Fowl Pox comes in two forms, dry pox (less deadly) and wet pox (more deadly). Dry fowl pox starts as wart like bumps on the chicken’s face, comb, or wattles. It can eventually spread to the feet and toes and then even advance to wet pox. Wet pox is when lesions form in the mouth and windpipe of the chicken. These lesions could inhibit the bird from eating and drinking properly and could end up being fatal.
Treatment- Although there is no ‘treatment’ for fowl pox, there are ways that you can help your chicken’s fight it and keep it from spreading. As soon as you suspect fowl pox, quarantine the chicken who is showing symptoms immediately, as fowl pox spreads quickly. Clean and sanitize the area (coop, pen, cage) that the chicken was kept in and keep an eye on the other chickens for any more signs. Sunshine is the best way to kill the fowl pox virus. I sprayed Vetercyn on the bumps/warts. If the bumps begin to ooze, clean them and apply anti-biotic ointment to prevent a secondary infection.
Added nutrients and vitamins can help the bird fight the virus. I added kelp to my chicken’s feed and apple cider vinegar to it’s water for added vitamins and nutrients. You can also add extra nutrients to your flock’s feed to help prevent them from getting the virus. Make sure you take care of your healthy chickens before caring for your sick chicken to avoid spreading the virus.
Prevention- There are a few actions that you can take to prevent fowl pox. If at all possible, try to keep the mosquitoes at bay around your coop. I would advice planting mosquitoes repelling plants around your coop or hanging trimmings around your coop. A few plants that mosquitoes don’t like include, marigolds, lavender, rosemary, bee balm, catnip, thyme, and citronella plants. Also try to limit your flock’s contact with wild bird’s, who may be carriers. Proper cleaning can also help prevent the pox by getting rid of any mosquito breeding grounds and bacteria.
What is it? Nearly every chicken keeper has dealt with a minor cut or scrap on their chickens. Free-ranged chickens are more vulnerable to getting cuts and scraps than confined chickens.
Treatment- My go-to cut and scrap remedy is Vetercyn Plus. This handy spray is safe for use on almost all farm animals and is non-toxic. It does a great job at preventing infection and helping the wound heal quickly. If a wound is bleeding a lot, you may want to apply some cornstarch to help clot the blood. There are several herbs that can help with healing as well and can be applied directly to the wound:
- Blood Clotting- calendula, cilantro
- Wound Healing- calendula, slippery elm bark, yarrow
- Pain Relievers- calendula, chickweed, rosemary
Prevention- Make sure your coop and enclosure are free of any sharp or pointy objects. Provide plenty of space for each bird as well to prevent them from picking on each other. Look over your flock daily so that you can notice any minor injuries before they get serious.
What is it? Internal worms include roundworms (which are the most common) and flat worms (which are less common). Different types of worms affect different areas of the body. If a worm infestation gets too out of hand, it can be deadly.
Treatment- Although I have not found a reliable ‘treatment’ for worms there are many natural remedies you can administer to help get rid of worms. Diatomaceous Earth is a common internal and external parasite treatment. It is not quite as affective on internal parasites though as a chicken’s salvia softens the crystals. Garlic and cayenne pepper also help with deworming. Pumpkin and squash seeds help paralyze worms. Nasturtium, nettles, wormwood, chamomile, and catnip are also natural dewormers.
Prevention- It is very hard to prevent your chicken’s from getting worms. By keeping your flock’s immune system healthy you can help keep worms at bay. Also limit contact with wild birds and keep your coop and enclosure clean.
What is it? There are two common crop issues, sour crop and impacted crop. Sour crop is when a bacterial yeast infection occurs. Symptoms include a large, squishy crop, sour breath, and possibly fluid coming from the hens mouth. Impacted crop is when the crop becomes blocked by larges pieces of food. An impacted crop will feel hard.
Treatment-Treatment for both issues is similar. Feed olive oil to help break up any food in the crop. Massaging the crop will help either break up the blockage (impacted crop) or induce vomiting (sour crop). Apple cider vinegar can help with sour crop and additional grit can help with both issues.
Prevention- To prevent sour crop avoid feeding your bird’s an excess of long, fibrous weeds/grasses, breads and pastas. Wood chips, string, twine and moldy feed can also cause sour crop. The best way to prevent impacted crop is to provide plenty of grit to help prevent a blockage from occurring.
What is it? Chicken’s have very sensitive respiratory systems and are thus prone to many respiratory diseases. Sneezing, coughing, wheezing, and watery eyes and nostrils are signs of a respiratory issues.
Treatment- Garlic and apple cider vinegar can help with respiratory issues. Sprinkling cinnamon in their feed can also help with chopped or crushed basil, dill, and echinacea. Mints can also help clear the sinuses. Some respiratory issues can be as simple as dust or debris in the sinuses cavities or in the throat. Plenty of water and maybe even a squirt of olive oil may be all that’s needed in those cases.
Prevention- The best way to prevent respiratory issues is to limit dust in your coop and enclosure. Never use sawdust as a litter in your coop. If you use wood shavings, use the large flake which contain less dust then the fine flakes.
What is it? Diarrhea can have many causes, some serious and others not so serious. Some serious causes include coccidia, worms, and gut infections. Some not so serious issues include, decreased water intake during the summer or too many dairy products.
Treatment- You can add Brewer’s yeast, dill, and probiotic powder to the feed to help treat diarrhea. Honey is also beneficial. If the diarrhea is not caused by excess dairy products, than you can also feed small amounts of plain yogurt to help treat diarrhea. Most importantly, make sure the chicken gets plenty of fresh water, as diarrhea can easily cause dehydration. Adding electrolytes to the water can also help replace any lost nutrients and vitamins.
Prevention- Avoid feeding dairy treats in excess, as the dairy sugars are hard for chicken’s to digest and can cause diarrhea. Proper cleaning and keeping your chicken’s immune systems healthy will also help prevent diarrhea.
Coccidia- Coccidia is an intestinal diseases cause by microscopic parasites. There are 9 different types of coccidia, each is caused by a different protozoa and each affects a different part of the digestive system. Cinnamon, oregano oil, garlic, and apple cider vinegar can help improve the immune system and prevent coccidia. Green tea and probiotic powder are also helpful in fighting off intestinal diseases.
Salmonella- Salmonella is another intestinal disease. Sage and oregano are helpful in combating salmonella. Rodent droppings are carriers of salmonella, so by proper cleaning and keeping your coop rodent free you can prevent salmonella.
E. coli- E. coli is actually the name of a group of diseases that cause diarrhea. If you clean properly and keep good biosecurity you can help prevent E. coli. Oregano and probiotics can help reduce the effects of an E. coli break out.
Hopefully these helpful remedies will leave you more prepared for when you suspect that one of your chicken’s is ill. Treating them with natural remedies is not only healthier, it can also save money and help your chickens build a healthy immune system. For more information on using herbs and natural supplements on your chickens, check out these two posts:
Here’s hoping your flock stays happy and healthy!
by Alexa Lehr