Backyard chicken care

 Are backyard chickens worth the trouble?

A year ago, in an effort to eat healthier and to give our children some “life on the farm” experiences, my wife and I purchased seven Buff Orpington baby chicks. A few weeks later, we purchased 12 Americana chicks. We had recently moved into a home in the Simpsonville area that already had a chicken coop. We cleaned it up and added some nesting boxes. Our children loved feeding the baby chicks and watching them grow. And soon, the exciting day came when they found the first eggs. Since then we have gathered several dozen eggs every week.

Basic backyard chicken care

Clients who come in to our Travelers Rest office sometimes ask me questions about how to raise chickens and how to keep them healthy. Here are some preventative medicine tips that you may find helpful:

  1. Be sure to keep your chicken coop clean.Scrub and disinfect if necessary. It is important to be sanitary to discourage parasites, viruses, and bacteria from growing. This will also help keep rodents away from your
    coop.
  2.   Never use old litter. If litter was used by a previous flock, discard it. Old litter may harbor disease agents that might cause an outbreak in your flock.
  3. Never introduce birds from another flock into yours.New arrivals should be kept in a separate area and monitored for two weeks to be sure they are disease free.
  4. Never use moldy feed.To be healthy and productive your flock needs balanced nutritious food that is clean and fresh. We feed our chickens any fresh food kitchen scraps we collect: vegetable and fruit peelings, apple
    cores, left-over vegetables and fruits, and crushed egg shells. This is in addition to the chicken feed we buy.
  5. Provide a well-ventilated coop that is free from drafts.This keeps down ammonia buildup, helps eliminate stress, and helps keep the chickens from fighting.
  6. Properly and promptly dispose of old litter and any dead birds.This helps keep away flies, odor, and disease. Never use straw or hay for litter. This increases the risk of mold contamination. Wood chips make excellent
    litter.

Poor care may result in infectious disease, malnutrition, fighting, and exposure to predators. If you notice that a chicken seems ill, remove it from the flock as soon as possible and keep it isolated. Get a diagnosis and start treatment as soon as possible.

There are three diseases that sometimes affect chickens in Greenville, Simsponville, and Travelers Rest, South Carolina. Two are zoonotic, which means that they can be spread to humans. They are Salmonellosis and Campylobacteriosis. A non-zoonotic disease (cannot be spread to humans) is Coccidiosis.

While raising chickens is not a hobby for everyone, it has proven to be a very rewarding one for me and my family.

Dr. Bryant Phillips