Respiratory Health in the Silkie Chicken Flock

20180119_124720-1     During this cold snap you may hear some strange sounds coming from your flock.  All of a sudden you may hear a high pitched squeak which begins to sound like a sneeze. That is a red flag that one of your birds may becoming down with some kind of respiratory issue.  Upon closer examination you may see that your bird has a runny nose or watery eyes.  This is the time to take action and isolate that bird from the rest of the flock.

Respiratory issues in poultry can be either a minor problem or a major problem depending on the severity of it.  Most of the time it can be easily dealt with. However, there are some deadly respiratory diseases that can effect your entire flock and medicine will need to be given.

One cause of sneezing and cold- like symptoms in poultry can be all of the dust that can collect in a coop.  Chickens can cough, splutter and get watery eyes if they breath too much dust in. Dust can come from the pine shaving you use as bedding or just from the dander on the birds themselves. You may want to switch to a dust free bedding or use sand or straw.  Use an air hose to blow out the dust in the coop periodically. Install fans to blow air out or the coop so that dust can’t collect.  Let your birds free range when they can or be out in their runs all year.

When cleaning the coop and changing bedding it would be a good idea for you, too, to wear some kind of face or mask protection.  Dust, dirt and chicken feces particles and not good for your lungs. People that work in the poultry industry routinely wear masks when cleaning.

Any kind of stress can also cause your chicken to start to display respiratory distress.  Extreme temperatures , being transported and crowded conditions all add to a lowering of the immune system and coughing and sneezing can result.  Make sure that your coop is not too crowded and that the coop is well ventilated.  You need fresh air freely flowing through the coop.

The introduction of a new bird to the flock can cause stress as a new pecking order needs to be established.  Chickens love routine and anything that is new or different can stress them out.  That new bird could also be a carrier and be bringing in new viruses.  Quarantine is very important when adding new birds. A minimum of three weeks is needed to protect the rest of your flock from incoming diseases.  Buy chickens from trustworthy sources who you know have healthy birds.

Check your birds daily for signs of respiratory illness. Symptoms include sneezing or sniffling, runny nose or mucus coming out of the nose, watery eyes or swollen sinuses.  Isolate the bird if you see these symptoms in a crate and if possible keep it where you can observe it.  Your bird is contagious.  Change the bedding in the coop to try and keep germs from spreading to the rest of your flock.  Treat with some Vetrx around the nostrils or even in the water.  Use some Terramycin or Vetericyn in the eyes if they are watery or are closing shut.

You can bolster your bird’s immune system by giving them probiotics and plain yogurt. Chopped garlic added to the water is good for the immune system.  So is adding dill, oregano and thyme to the feed. I always add apple cider vinegar to my chicken’s water water to help with digestion and to improve health.  Vitamins and electrolytes also work well for overall health.

There are some serious respiratory diseases:

 

Causes of Respiratory Illness in Adult Chickens
Disease Occurrence in Backyard Flocks Distinctive Signs of Illness Average Mortality Rate
Mycoplasmosis Common Foamy eye discharge, more common in winter, roosters usually
show more severe signs
Usually none
Infectious coryza Common Swollen face or wattles, gunky eyes, foul odor, more common
summer and fall
5–20 percent
Infectious bronchitis Common Decreased egg production Usually none
Newcastle disease Mild strains are common. Highly deadly strains are absent from
chickens in the United States.
May also cause diarrhea, staggering, paralysis, sudden
death
5–99 percent
Fowl cholera (chronic form) Not so common Swollen face, gunky eyes, rattling or difficulty breathing,
more common in late summer
0–20 percent
Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) Not so common Gasping, coughing up bloody mucous, dried blood around nostrils
and lower beak
10–20 percent
Avian influenza Rare (Deadly strains are absent from chickens in the United
States)
Droopy birds, rattling breathing sounds, diarrhea, sudden
death
5–99 percent

*taken from Chicken Health For Dummies

If you feel that your chickens have one of these diseases, you should probably call a vet.  They will give you antibiotic for their water or antibiotics given with injections.

The problem with these more serious diseases is that the symptoms are the same as lesser illnesses.  Unless you do a blood test you will never know for sure what you have.  Treatment is the same for any respiratory disease.  Complete recovery may take 2-4 weeks.  Your bird may recover but become a long term carrier of the infection.  A healthy looking hen could be contagious to others because she carries the disease.

Vibatra is an all natural antibiotic alternative.  Homeopathic sprays are another natural alternative to antibiotics.

Amoxfin is an antibiotic used for tropical fish that you can get over the internet and put in their water.  Tylan is an antibiotic injection that you can give yourself.

It is important to know whether your bird is contagious if you are planning on selling birds or if you take them to shows.

Silkies have a hard time seeing with their large crests and muffs.  Many times I will see eye issues because feathers had lodged themselves into their eyes and are acting as a irritant.  Keep their crests and muffs trimmed if this is an issue.

Some people think that silkies need more vitamins than other breeds of chickens. You may want to feed them a better quality feed or give them vitamins in their water to help their immune system. Check out “When Something Is Wrong With My Silkie”

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our weekly blog at VJPPoultry.com 

Victoria Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 1/17/18

Silkies For Sale – 1/9/2018

How to Prevent and Treat Frostbite in Your Flock

20180104_120604-1     It has been said that a good offence is a good defense where frostbite is concerned. There are, in fact,  things that can be done before frostbite happens that can prevent this serious damage from occurring.

Many people have misconceptions as to what frostbite actually is.   Frostbite is damage that occurs to tissues when they are exposed to extreme cold.  Basically, the fluid inside the cells freeze.  Because of this freezing, blood clots can form which prevents cells from getting oxygen.  This, then, causes the tissue damage.

You want to prevent frostbite from happening in the first place.  Too much moisture in your coop is the top cause for developing frostbite.  Chickens create a lot of moisture just from breathing.   The more birds you have in your coop, the more you need to ventilate that moisture out.  I keep the windows open all year round. They are high enough so that they do not cause a draft. Adding roof vents to your coop can keep air circulating.  Put a digital thermometer/hygrometer to measure the temperature and the humidity in your coop so that you can always be on top of any changes.  If the windows have moisture or condensation on them then you need to increase your ventilation.

Another way to limit moisture in the coop is to make sure that you do not have damp bedding or moisture from droppings.  If possible, keep waterers out of the coop.  If you have a watering system that creates a lot of spillage, you may want to switch to a nipple water systemPine shavings stay dryer than straw or hay.  Make sure you are changing the bedding and removing the droppings to reduce moisture.  The dry litter method works well but remember to keep the bedding stirred up and fluffy.  Use dropping boards under your roosts for easy clean up daily.

Attention should be made to the chicken’s roost. During colder weather, most chickens will fluff up and poof out their feather.  They are trying to cover their combs, wattles and feet with their feathers and bodies.  Flat, wide roosting boards are best.  Rounded perches can be slippery.  A  2X4  board will work well and allow them to cover their feet with their bodies. Install as much ventilation as you can as high up as you can. The openings should not cause drafts on their roosts.  Silkies that do not roost high up but instead sleep on the floor will need extra protection from drafts that can occur from pop doors. I use squares of reflective insulation to block drafts.

Apply a coat of a wax based product to combs and wattles at night.  I like Waxlene or Musher’s Secret.   Other good choices are Bag Balm or Coconut oil.  Make sure that whatever you use, that it is wax based. Do not use a cream based product as the water in them will freeze and increase your chance of frostbite.  If your bird is hard to catch, wait until it is on the roost at night and then gently remove to apply the product.

Chickens need protection outdoors as well. Provide windbreaks through the use of clear tarps.   For more information on setting up tarps on your run look here.   Add wooden planks to perch on outdoor so that their feet can keep off the cold ground. If it is too cold out, just simply keep them indoors.  It won’t hurt them to stay inside for the day.

There are many things to can lead to frostbite.  Drafts on the floor, cold temperatures, wind chill factor, how long your bird is exposed to cold temperature, humidity or moisture in the air, high altitude, no access to shelter, rain or snow leaking into the coop, high humidity due to too many droppings or simply not enough bedding.

The early sages of frostbite are called frost nip. In cold weather, chickens are able to  conserve or hang onto their body heat by restricting blood flow to their combs, wattles and feet.  These are also the places that allow a bird to release heat in the summertime.  The results ends up being that the decrease in warmth and oxygen puts these regions at a risk for frostbite.

Wattles are very susceptible due to water dripping on them as they drink. A change to a nipple watering system with a pail and pail deicer can work in the cold weather.  They also sell a cold weather nipple system already put together.  Bearded silkies have their wattles protected with feathers but nonbearded silkies would need some frostbite protection.

Symptoms of frostbite include: a whitening or pale gray color to tissues, swelling of the tissues, combs and wattles feel cold or hard to the touch, blisters form that are filled with fluid, tissues become blackened, bird is limping (frostbite to feet) loss of appetite and listlessness.

Remove a frostbitten bird to a warmer area and gradually warm the injured area. Avoid rubbing it as that will cause additional damage  Do not use something like a hair dryer to try to warm it but let it gradually become warmer.  Do not break any blisters that have formed.  Do not remove the blackened tissue as this is protecting the healthy tissue under it.  The blackened part will dry up and eventually fall off.  Those areas will not grow back.

Keep the area clean with neosporin or Vetericyn VF Hydrogel spray.  Use it on the infected area 2-3 times a day until it is healed.  Watch out for infection.  If you see swelling, redness, oozing, or bad smelling discharge you may want to call a vet.  Soak frostbitten feet in lukewarm water and keep it indoors on soft bedding.

Watch to make sure that they are eating and drinking .  Add vitamins and electrolytes to their water to keep them hydrated.  Watch out for other chickens pecking at their frostbitten areas. Blue -Kote could help with that.   Frostbite takes around 6 weeks to heal.

The consequences of frostbite include pain for the bird, disfigurement (their combs will always look rounded), loss of movement in their feet, decreased fertility in roosters and loss of egg production in hens.

Luckily, silkies have walnut combs which give them protection from frostbite. If you live in areas of cold weather try to choose breeds of birds that have small combs.  Single comb birds have the worst time with frostbite, but even small combed breeds can suffer if it gets cold enough.

Other blogs of interest include How to Deal with Below Zero Temps in the Chicken Coop, and Tips For Winterizing You Chicken Run.

For more tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies go to our weekly blog at VJPPoultry.

Victoria Peterson

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Silkies For Sale – 12/31/17