I generally have very few problems with my flock and I think this is because I always try to prevent any problems arising.
So I thought I would share with you some of the things I do.
General good practice for backyard chook keeping
• Always purchase healthy, good quality stock from a reparable breeder that vaccinates their chickens.
• Try to provide your flock with a clean environment – always clean out water containers weekly, remove deep litter regularly and thoroughly clean your chookhouse before putting in new litter material. I give mine a wash down with a diluted eucalyptus wash.
• Always supply your flock with nutritious good quality food and plenty of clean fresh drinking water.
• Do not over crowd your birds.
• Isolate and birds that look sick or even unwell – administer remedies, but if they do not recover within a week, humanly depose of the bird.
• When first adding new birds to the flock try to introduce them slowly. This can be achieved by placing them in a separate pen; I have a small aviary cage in the chook run which also doubles as an isolation pen and a de-brooding pen. This enables the older birds to see and get use to the new birds, but they are unable to enforce the “pecking order” battering that can occur if they are added without an introduction. After a few days let them out of the separate pen, but before you do give the old birds some delicious treat to keep them busy for a while. I save up things like bacon rind (put it in the freezer until needed) they are simply crazy about bacon rind and it will keep them busy for some time. There may still be a bit of pecking but it will be reduced enough to prevent damage to your new birds.
Additional practices to maintain health.
As part of my ongoing illness prevention measures I do the following:
• I always ensure my birds have access to herbs that allows then to self-administer when necessary. This way they will only eat what they need.
The herbs I use :
Comfrey. This is a good all round health treatment due to its high levels of the chemical allantoin and it also has significant levels of protein and other valuable nutrients. This I grow around the parameters of the pen so the birds can pick at it through the wire. It is a great weed suppressor so I do not get weed infestations in inaccessible areas.
Wormwood. This is a must in any chook pen as it helps prevent worms and lice and mites. I grow it within a wire cage in the pen to allow the chooks to pick at it through the wire and also cut larger pieces to add to the deep litter of their house and the nesting boxes to discourage and lice or mite infestations.
Garlic. Once a month I cover the self-waterer for a few hours (less in really hot weather) and then give the flock a container of water (about 3 to 4 litres) which contains a whole bulb of crushed garlic that has been seeping overnight in the water. Garlic is good for general health and wellbeing and reducing the chance of any worm infestations. I also place dried garlic leaves into the nesting box to discourage and lice or mite infestations.
• I also like to give my girls a daily feed of highly nutritional fresh greens such as kale, silver beet dandelion, chickweed, Nasturtium or purslane.
• I also regularly give the birds a feed of yogurt. This is usually just household stuff that may have gone out of date or isn’t being used – they are not particular and love the stuff. It is great for their gut flora.
Although these practices are pretty straight forward, from my experience they work well. So why not try some or all of these practices and with a little bit of extra care you will have a happy and healthy flock.