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
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
Droopy birds, rattling breathing sounds, diarrhea, sudden
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 find at places that sell chicken supplies.

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 tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson



Silkies For Sale – 1/17/18

What You Need to Have in Your Poultry Showbox

20171025_131540   It’s the day before you leave for the poultry show and your birds have all had their baths, toenails clipped and general primping taken care of. Now it is time to organize your Showbox and pack everything that you will need in order to keep your bird in tip top condition at the poultry show.

You will need some kind of carriers to transport your birds to the show. A cat carrierworks very well. Remember to line it with some kind  of bedding. Try to have only one bird per carrier if possible.  You do not want extra poo rubbing on to your birds nice clean feathers.

At most shows you will be bringing your own feeders and waterers.  Since I have silkies, I use a pop bottle waterer.  You will need to pack enough waterers and empty pop bottles for each bird as well as mini bungee cords to secure them.  I also like to place an empty cat food can under the waterer to prop it up.

Bring a jug of your own water.  Add electrolytes to it as birds can often become stressed at a show.  The electrolytes will help to boost their immune system.  Get them used to this water a week ahead of time.  Birds can be finicky about change in water and food so you want to make sure that they are used to both.

If you have been cage training your chicken they should be used to using the feeders and waterers in the small cages.  Bring a bag of feed for your birds.  Bird seed with sunflower seeds and nuts is nice because it keeps the poo more solid than regular feed.  It makes it easier to remove it from the cage and from the bird.

Remember to withhold food on the morning of the judging. A bird with a full crop will create a lump in their chest and will not have a nice shape for the judges.  You may also want to withhold water so as not to have a silkie with a wet beard.

You will need to bring your own bedding shavings.  Constantly be on the look out for poo on the shavings and remove it before the bird can step or sit in it.  Some people will have booties on their birds until the judging starts.

On the day of the show you will see a lot of people frantically working on their birds before the judging starts.  You can put Vet Rx or another type of oil on their combs, earlobes, beaks, wattles and legs.  This makes the surface more shiny and brings out their colors.  Apply a thin coat.  Vet Rx is especially good because it helps the bird fight off diseases that they might come in contact with at the show.


You can also shine up a bird using a piece of silk cloth and running it over the feathers. A micro fiber cloth works well for this too.  Feathers are oily and dust will stick to them.  This helps to remove the dust and make your bird shine.

To finish a bird off, I will use Show Sheen.   Spray it lightly on or spray a cloth and run it onto the feathers.  Then blow dry and puff out those silkie feathers.   You can use a slicker brush or a fine tooth comb to really fluff it up and back tease it.

If you see that dirt or manure has gotten on any feathers, you can use Gempler’s Citra Clean hand cleaner or Cowboy Magic Greenspot Remover for those last minute touch ups.  Baby wipes and Mr. Clean Magic Eraser as also good tools for spot removing dirt.

I also bring paper towels, baby wipes, small spray bottle with water to loosen up dirt, tooth brush, hand sanitizer, portable chair, extra carriers in case you buy a bird or two, health forms for pullorum testing, cage ID numbers if the show sent you that information.

Remember to not leave all of this stuff out.  The judge should not see anything of yours.  Pack it up and take it out of the judging area.  It is considered bad form to enhance the cages your birds are in or to distinguish your birds from other people’s birds.  Don’t write your name anywhere such as on your cage cups.  Do not put up barriers between your birds and the birds next to you.  The judges need to be able to look down the aisle at all of the birds to compare them.

Dress for the show.  Be sure to wear clothing that is washable and comfortable.  Dress in layers as temperatures can change.  Do not wear shoes that you wear when tending your flock.  You do not want to bring home disease to the rest of your birds.

A few other things for your showbox would be, scotch tape, nail file, scissors, pen and don’t forget the Flea and Tick spray.  You will want to spray your birds as they leave the show and go back into their carriers in case they picked up a bug

Some people will bring zip ties or small locks to lock up their birds when they aren’t around.  No one should be touching or handling any one else’s birds.  Just remember to have the zip ties off before judging starts.  If the judge can’t get into your cage, they can’t judge your bird.

One last thing I like to bring is a book on poultry breeds.  I enjoy finding actual examples of breeds I am reading about. It is fun to learn about breeds different than your own.  It is also a lot of fun to meet other breeders and get tips from them about your favorite breed.  It is a great place to just talk chicken!

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson


Silkies For Sale – 10/22/17

The Grooming Process – Primping your Silkie for the Show

20171018_103551-1    It’s a week until the poultry show and it’s time to think about primping, prepping and grooming your birds so that they all look their best.   All of them will need to be bathed, toenails trimmed and beaks clipped and filed.

I find that I can bath around three birds a day successfully.  On the Monday before the show I will trim toenails and beaks. I always do those two jobs before I start baths.  If there is any bleeding the blood will not get into your bath water.

I use a diagonal wire cutter on the toenails.  Do not trim too short or you will cut the quick and your bird will begin to bleed.  Use an emery board to file down the sharp edges.  There should be no sharp points which can scratch and hurt a judge.  Remove any dirt or poo from the foot prior to the up coming bath.  Hydrogen Peroxide and a cotton ball is good for loosening up all of that dirt especially in the scaly part of the leg. Hydrogen Peroxide is good for about one month after opening the lid. Exposure to air will lesson its abilities.

You will need to clip your bird’s beak if the top beak creates an overbite to the bottom beak.  A toenail clipper works best for this job.  The beak should come together with no overhang.  File it with an emery board to sand away any rough edges.

I will start bathing the silkies on Tuesday starting with with the darkest birds The lighter ones will be done later in the week.  I only do three a day because it takes a while to do a thorough job.  I also want to make sure that they are dry enough to be placed back outside.  Always bath your silkies in the morning so that  they will be thoroughly dry by the time they go to sleep at night.  It is very important that they do not go to bed damp.

Before starting the bath, I take the hydrogen peroxide and pour it into a small dish. I then take cotton balls and carefully clean around the eyes, beak and crest.  Its like a good face washing. The hydrogen peroxide will help to break down the organic dirt and poo that sticks to the feathers. I also use an old tooth brush to clean the scales and toes with the peroxide.  You could put some Spray ‘n Wash on the foot feathers if the are very stained.

I bathe my birds in the laundry room sink.  It has a spray attachment which I really find handy.  I start by gathering all of my supplies.  You don’t want to be hunting for things when the bird is already wet and starting to get chilled.  I will even have the hair dryer and combs all set and ready to go.

I first fill two large buckets with warm water. I fill them about waist high to the bird.  Into one bucket I put about 1/2 cup white vinegar.  The other is just plain water for the final rinse but you could add glycerin to it.

I put the bird in the sink and begin soaking the feathers in warm water. If you think that your bird might have mites, I would start with a flea and tick shampoo.  I use blue Dawn or Ivory for the first wash.  The Dawn dish foam pump is nice because it is easy to use while holding a bird in one hand.

20171018_101721-1   I start with the crest and then work my way down.  Dirty areas include the crest, beard, vent and foot feathers.  I use the sprayer to carefully rinse the Dawn soap out.  To remove the soap from the crest, I tip the bird upside down and then rinse with the sprayer.  This way the soap does not drip into its eyes.

White birds can become dingy in color turning a grey or yellow.  This can happen from being out in the sunlight too often or being fed corn which discolors white feathers.  Adding bluing to your dingy whites will make your whites appear whiter.  The effect is not permanent and bluing will wear off.

The second shampoo is either a bluing shampoo if it is a white bird or a color enhancing shampoo if it is a dark colored bird.  Horse shampoos offer a variety of colors.  I use the Gallop brand but you could also use a human bluing shampoo or just add laundry bluing to the water.  Be careful with the bluing shampoo that the bird is soaking wet before applying or you may end up with a dyed blue or purple chicken.

Rinse as much soap off as you can with the sprayer and then place the bird in the bucket with the vinegar rinse.  The vinegar will cut the soap so that it does not stick to the feathers.

Place the bird in the final rinse water.  Always hang on tightly to your bird.  Do not let its beak go under the water line.  You can add some glycerin to the final rinse for extra shine.  Remove the bird and squeeze as much water out as possible.  Then wrap it tightly in a towel to absorb water and help it stay warm.  It should look like a silkie mummy.

I leave the bird tucked up in the towel but begin to use the hair dryer on the crest.  Use the low setting on the hair dryer so as not to burn the skin of the silkie.  I gradually undo more of the towel as I do drying the bird and fluffing the feathers with my fingers.  You can also use a comb or slicker brush.  It will take a while to get it dry enough that she can finish the job herself.  If it is cold out have her stay somewhere warm like a  bathtub until she is dry enough.  She will finish preening and applying oil from her oil gland.  Baths should be at least one full day before leaving for the show to get the natural oils back on the feathers.  Add some Vet Rx to shine up the toes and comb.

Place your bird in a separate small holding coop that has fresh shavings or back in her old coop which would also have new shavings put down.  Keep her locked up and out of the muddy run.  Remove any poo you see so that she is not stepping in it.

Some people put booties on their feathered feet to keep their foot feathers from staining.

Hopefully your bird will stay clean until it is time to pack up and head for the poultry show.

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson