Keeping your chickens healthy

May 1


Kerry Mundt

Kerry Mundt

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Healthy backyard chickens result in a greater number of delicious, organic eggs. This article discusses four key areas which are important to maintain health inside your chicken coop.


As an owner of backyard chickens,Keeping your chickens healthy Articles like any pet owner, you need to make sure that you do everything necessary to keep your pets healthy. Since the health of your chickens will impact the quantity and quality of eggs they produce, it makes sense to be knowledgeable in the area of chicken health.

There are four key areas to keep in mind: adequate chicken housing, regular feed and water, stress minimization and parasite prevention. All these areas are interrelated and are important for maintaining the health of your backyard flock.

Adequate Chicken Housing

When purchasing or designing a chicken coop it is important to make sure your chickens have a well-ventilated but not too draughty chicken coop or chicken house in which to shelter. In the hot summer months chickens in a poorly ventilated chicken coop can succumb to the heat. There are chicken coops available on the market with removable panels to allow for good ventilation in summer and then cosy housing sections for winter.

For the colder and wetter months, you also need to make sure your chickens have appropriate shelter from the rain and wind. It is also worth checking that your chickens' bedding materials, such as straw or sawdust are not wet for an extended period of time. A wet environment inside the housing section of your chicken run can lead to ammonia and other noxious gases forming, which can lead to lung infections in your chickens.

Regular supply of feed and water

Chickens need a regular supply of food and water and will almost predictably stop laying eggs if they go a day or so without these essentials. Chickens tend to stress quite easily and can even 'go off the lay' for several weeks if they've been stressed by inadequate food and water. If you're able to, also provide your chickens with kitchen scraps or fresh weeds from the garden. This will improve the health of your chickens and the quality of the eggs they lay.

Chicken Stresses

Chickens may also stop laying eggs for a period of time if they've been frightened by a fox or dog who may have tried to enter the chicken house. It's obviously important to make sure your chicken coop is predator proof for the safety of your flock, but there's sometimes not much you can do to prevent the fright your chickens may experience when a would-be-predator tries to enter.

Over crowding can also be stressful for chickens if they constantly have to fight to get to the chicken feeder each time. Make sure you have an appropriate number of chickens for the size of your chicken coop and an adequate number of feeders and drinkers for the chickens to share.

Parasite Prevention

Unfortunately a common issue for owners of backyard chickens is the occurrence of parasites such a lice or mites in their chicken coop. Mites will be found to live in the cracks and crevices of the walls of a timber chicken coop for quite some time, coming out at night to feed on the chickens perching inside the coop. Mites are either red in colour (after a blood feeding) or black and you can most easily find these on your chickens at night using a torch, although they are very small, almost invisible without magnification. Lice are white and larger than mites and are more 'host' specific, meaning they will more likely stay on the one bird compared with mites who may parasite many chickens over time.

For the chickens themselves there is a range of anti-mite or anti-lice powders that you can dust your chickens with, to discourage the parasites. If mites are the problem, your chicken house will need to be cleaned with a high-pressure spray, to get into the small cracks for an extended period of time to really combat this problem. Mites essentially love living in wood so ideally get rid of as much wood as possible from your pens. If you haven't already purchased or made a chicken coop, you'll have fewer parasite problems if you chose one made from steel or aluminium. While mites can still appear in these coops, it's not as common and they're much easier to clean to remove these pests.

As far as pets go, chickens are a very low maintenance pet. While this article doesn't cover all the health issues that may arise in chickens, the key areas summarised in this article are the most common problems faced by owners of backyard chickens. In order to have a regular supply of eggs from your chicken coop, be sure to provide them with adequate housing (not made from timber); make sure they have a regular supply of feed and water; don't have too many chickens in one coop (reduce their stress levels) and occasionally check for parasites.