When you receive a new flock of poultry, your first job will be to isolate them from any established flocks. Keep your birds isolated for at least the first 10 days, if there are no deaths or signs of illness you can mix your poultry together.
It is far safer to purchase chicks because they are less likely to carry diseases. If possible, purchase your chicks from a hatchery participating in the National Poultry Improvement Plan. This program consistently tests its flocks for the common and dangerous communicable poultry diseases and ensures their birds are disease free.
Dry, Dry, Dry!
Damp and wet conditions are the nemesis of your poultry. You birds require a covered, dry area of litter or ground. Damp litter and feces makes an ideal breeding ground for all sorts of disease and unhealthy organisms. In particular, the intestinal infection Coccidiosis requires damp or wet litter to become an issue.
Your chickens in particular need to stay dry for their own health, or at least have a covered dry area where they can preen and dust bathe. This is especially important in colder seasons when chickens require a dry environment in order to stay warm.
Improper or inadequate diet in your poultry increases susceptibility to diseases. Make sure your poultry always have fresh water and feed. Food and water that is contaminated with mold or feces drastically increases chances of illness.
Poultry also require a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Neglecting any of these important nutritional components can lead to a weakened immune system. For further reading on poultry feed please read our Feeding Fowl article.
Clean the Coop!
This may seem obvious, but keeping a clean coop will prevent the build up of chicken poop which can harbor diseases, attract pests and cause ammonia build up. All of which negatively effect the health of chickens.
This may be the hardest step to follow. You have chickens and naturally you want to show them off as a proud owner. However allowing the traffic of shoes, clothing and human touch to your birds also allows whatever diseases those people are carrying with them. This is especially dangerous when someone has a flock of their own, increasing the chances of the presence of poultry diseases.
Unless your friends and their clothing or equipment have been thoroughly disinfected, don’t allow them into your flock!
Keep a Close Eye
Know your flock and observe them as much as possible. If one of your chickens suddenly becomes less active, has a change in appearance, or starts smelling off then you should probably quarantine the bird. If a bird stops eating and drinking, quarantine the bird.
If you do have a bird die, it is imperative that you remove it from your flock and dispose of it safely. If you start to see multiple birds perishing of similar symptoms call your local veterinarian, State Veterinarian or the U.S. Department of Agriculture at their toll free hotline -18665367593.
Try this fun little game and learn about biosecurity at the same time!