In summer we think of the heat as the main issue with chickens. The heat exhaustion and heat stroke are serious problems that have to be dealt with by keeping the chickens cool, providing shade, circulating air and plenty of fresh, clean water usually resolve those issues.
But, Spring, Summer and Autumn also brings about some even more serious issues that can decimate your entire flock. Summer heat incubates parasites and incubates illnesses and diseases. Chickens are extremely prone to a lot of illnesses and need to be treated at first sign. If you wait to treat, you could lose your entire flock, since many of these illnesses will run rampant and infect all of them seemingly overnight.
First and foremost. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, quarantine any new birds you bring in, and this means ALL fowl. We suggest no less than two weeks, but we recommend as much as a month of quarantine. So when you're planning your coops, runs and habitat, also plan for a quarantine area. Do NOT put a new bird into an existing flock. It takes 7-14 days for many illnesses to manifest. It takes that long to incubate, then hit your flock with a vengeance. We have heard the heart-breaking stories from several followers, that did not understand the importance of quarantine and have brought in diseases like Merek's and New Castle disease into an otherwise healthy flock. It's a matter of days when you will notice contortion of the bodies, inability to eat or drink or disorientation. There are a number of signs, but these I've just mentioned are what you can expect from those specific diseases. New Castle is a virus. It is treatable if caught early, Merek's is NOT treatable and will wipe out your flock and make it impossible for many months to years before you can safely introduce a new flock to that habitat. These are not fun illnesses to deal with and it is up to you to use precautions and preventatives to keep any illness from spreading through your existing flock.
Warm days in Spring, Summer and Fall can create an environment for Fowl Cholera. This affects all species of fowl. One way they can contract Fowl Cholera is through dripping water from hoses, spilled water around the watering areas, rain water that collects in puddles and from your ponds where water fowl play if it is not re-circulating water. As the water stagnates, and fowl walk through it, excretions are also deposited in it, thus infecting your flocks. An outbreak of Fowl Cholera is highly contagious and will sweep through your flock. Learn to recognize symptoms and learn to treat at first sign of any symptoms. Do not wait until you have several dead birds to be looking for a cause. If you cannot determine the cause or observe symptoms, you need to have those birds examined by a state vet, extension office or state university to determine the causes. They have certain requirements for shipped birds and forms to fill out, but they will do the examination and report back to you the cause of death once it's been determined. They may also give you recommendations as to how to treat the remaining birds and what antibiotics to use, along with preventative measures to avoid future outbreaks.
We hear from people that do not believe in using any antibiotics or those living in areas where others condemn using any medicinal products. People, get real. You are spreading disease, not just through the population of your own flocks, but the population of the entire country with that belief. Those diseases and illnesses do NOT know boundaries. All imports of chickens were stopped from Europe, due to the spread of New Castle disease through those countries. If they had been allowed into this country that could have decimated our very own population of birds. Those birds in Europe had to be burned to stop that virus from spreading. If you do experience Merek's or New Castle disease, you must burn those carcasses of the dead birds, if you do not, they will continue to infect your flock, your neighbor's flock and cross borders. If you happen to be in one of those areas where you are unable to locate antibiotics for fowl, they are available online from very reliable sources. Do not take risks that could decimate the poultry populations in this entire country because you choose not to administer an antidote to disease or illness in your fowl.
One proven antibiotic that is available at your farm supply store is Duramycin-10. It comes in a variety of forms. Powder, liquid and injectable. Powder or Liquid is easiest to administer in the drinking water of your flocks. Administer for 7-14 days and ALWAYS use the manufacture instructions for the amounts and duration. Another, preferred antibiotic, agrimycin-343 which is oxytetracycline hydrochloride-Antibiotic (We use this product when and IF necessary because we feel it acts faster and works better). All information above applies to either product. In the meanwhile, keep close tabs on your flock for any signs of distress, listlessness, lack of appetite or inability to drink water. Regardless of a healthy flock, these illnesses and diseases incubate unseen until they hit the flock.
Somehow we think of winter for the spread of illness, but spring, summer and autumn can also be a time of vigilance to make sure your healthy flock remains healthy. And remember, Monitor your flocks daily, do NOT introduce new birds to your flock until they have been adequately quarantined, and at first sign of illness, treat the birds. If you do not know what the illness is, your state Veterinarian, your Agricultural College, or your own Veterinarian will need to be called in to find the cause and advise on treatment. You do NOT want these diseases to spread. DO NOT sell or give any of your own birds to others if they have been infected, until you have administered treatment and those birds have been quarantined at least a month after infection. Many of these diseases and illnesses will continue to be carried even by those birds that have recovered. These do not generally affect hatching eggs or hinder consumable eggs. However, that said, do not eat or sell your consumable eggs during treatment of any antibiotics. You can incubate those eggs so you do not lose out entirely but we do not advise eating them or selling them to be eaten. This same advice would include using as a meat source. I am quite sure those instructions will also be on any antibiotic product you choose to use.
Most fowl, not just chickens, can be hosts to diseases and parasites so you will also want to limit your chickens from interacting with wild fowl. This is a precaution since wild fowl carry diseases that will infect your own flocks. We simply cannot caution you enough about keeping your flocks healthy, with clean environments, plenty of fresh, clean water and a good quality feed, fresh vegetation, daily observation and quarantine. Any bird that falls ill, should be immediately removed and held in isolation and treated as needed to prevent any others in the flock from succumbing to the illness. Any time a bird falls ill, you must treat the entire flock, not just the one individual. Again, these diseases, and illnesses incubate for 7-14 days, so expect others to show signs as well even if not all at once.
Keeping chickens and other fowl can be entertaining, enjoyable and a food source, however it is very important that you keep your flocks healthy by using good animal husbandry. Prevention is the key, and though a holistic approach may be preferred, we need to address the realities; things do happen and you must be armed with the information to deal with the situation as it arises. Holistic or homemade concoctions will only help prevent disease and illness, they will not cure if either gets a foothold in your flock or the flock is infected by an untreatable disease such as Mereks. It must be noted here; the overuse of herbs can be detrimental to your flock just as overuse can be detrimental to humans.
To prepare your poultry first aid kit refer to the link: justfowlingaround.weebly.com/chicken-coop-chatter-blog/category/poultry-first-aid-kit
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