With backyard chicken flocks gaining in popularity during recent years, many city veterinarians have expanded their practices slightly to accommodate feathered friends. However, in many parts of the country, finding someone who can reliably treat your own chickens may be a challenge, especially if you're an early adopter and few of your neighbors have chickens of their own yet. Should you seek out someone who specializes in farm animal care or hope that your area veterinarian is up to the task? Read on to learn more about some of the more common chicken health problems you may face, as well as factors to consider when seeking treatment for your chickens.
What are some common health problems chickens can face?
In general, chickens are hardy animals who don't require much care other than some basic food, water, shelter, and sanitation. However, there are a few health problems to which all birds, and sometimes chickens, in particular, are susceptible. These include:
- Impaction due to soft eggs
When hens have nutritional deficiencies like a lack of calcium in the diet or other problems with their oviduct, they can suffer from potentially harmful impaction when an egg is too soft to vacate the oviduct without outside help. In some cases, this can be cured by simple dietary changes, but in others, your chicken may require antibiotics or other medications to get things back in working order.
This bacterial infection, caused by the same chicken-borne bacteria that can lead to harmful Salmonella infections in humans, can cause weight loss, diarrhea, and lethargic behavior. This condition can be quickly cleared up with medication and has a low mortality rate when caught quickly, but seeking care as soon as symptoms are noticeable is key to getting good care.
- Skin parasites
If your chickens are developing a mangy appearance or seem to constantly be plucking their own feathers, they may have skin lice or another condition causing skin irritation. This can often be cured by diatomaceous earth or another powdery substance that can be used to coat the feathers and skin.
Should you seek a farm animal specialist or a regular veterinarian for chicken-related health problems?
While farm-based veterinarians have extensive experience in poultry problems, they also work on everything from steers to alpacas--so there's no reason your local vet who generally works on dogs and cats can't also handle most of your common chicken issues. In other cases, you may even be able to verbally describe your chicken's symptoms over the phone and have a prescription called into your vet or compounding pharmacy.
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