When we first had poultry I remember being nervous about all the different ailments that were potentially lurking out there. Each time one of them was slightly off colour I began to panic a little, reaching for my backyard chicken bible and frightening myself half to death with names like Marek’s Disease and Avian Pox.
Of course you have to be aware of these things but they are pretty rare, particularly in a backyard situation where you generally have a non-transient community of just a few hens …and in our case, one cockerel to keep them all in check!
Anyway, to make your life simpler and less stressful I thought I would write about my encounters with chicken disorders – all parasitic, as it happens – over the years and hopefully put your mind at rest when caring for your own flock.
When we first had chickens we had to deal with roundworm. Our first flock were rescue hens towards the end of their egg laying life and saved from the slaughterhouse, arriving at the Villas already infested. The worms themselves can be clearly seen in the birds’ droppings, so unpleasant as it might be, keep your eyes open and check every so often!
We used a product called Flubenvet, which was very effective. You can either buy it in powder form and mix it into the feed for seven consecutive days (as we did) or apparently buy the layers pellets with it already added, which I imagine is much less fuss.
Diatomaceous earth is another treatment that you can use against roundworm, mixed with the chickens’ feed at a rate of 5%. It’s made out of fossilised algae with a microscopically sharp crystalline structure which is highly abrasive causing the parasite to dehydrate. However, to be effective against roundworm, it has to be used all the time and not just as a reaction to an infestation.
Incidentally, I recently read that allowing your chickens to feed on rhubarb leaves is a good natural preventative measure. It just so happens that we grow rhubarb and I can confirm that our chooks enjoy nothing more than snacking on the leaves!