Chickens have been domesticated for thousands of years across Asia, Europe, and now the Americas. As a result of selective breeding for desirable characteristics, such as for egg or meat production, they are not as robust as their wild ancestors. Modern chickens are generally more susceptible to environmental stress and diseases. So, keeping chickens healthy, especially in Florida, can be a challenge.
The most important way to keep chickens healthy is with regular access to clean drinking water and high quality feed. While this might sound obvious, chickens have a habit of contaminating their drinking water and ruining or wasting their feed. Set a routine and check on your chickens daily. Ensure they have the aforementioned clean water and feed, check gaps predators could access, and assess the health of each bird. Chickens that are listless, limping, losing feathers, have nasal discharges, “sneezing”, behaving unusually, or have abnormal droppings should be quarantined and carefully assessed. Chickens can acquire a lot of diseases and the best way to keep them healthy is to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Vaccination for common viruses is a cheap and effective way to prevent viral diseases which are often spread via mosquitoes or wild birds. If bedding material is present, remove it before it becomes excessively dirty or covered in droppings. Make sure that rain does not pool around the coop and create mud that can lead to unhealthy birds. Protect chickens, especially chicks, from the environment: excess sun, wind, rain, cold and heat. A good quality coop can protect chickens at night from both predators and environmental stress. A coop with “windows” can be covered in screen mesh to prevent mosquitoes from feeding on the chickens throughout the night.
Healthy chickens will be more productive and less costly if these simple steps are taken to prevent problems before they occur. If the goal is to raise chickens for meat or eggs, a chicken’s productivity entirely depends on keeping it healthy.