Follow these tips to boost your chicken's immune system, keep your flock healthy, and prevent illness. Chickens are often susceptible to sickness including respiratory illness, insect infestation, and other diseases such as Avian Influenza. (As of November 20223, 47 states have reported cases of Avian Influenza.) Incorporate these easy-to-follow tips into your backyard chicken care routine to boost your flock's immunity.
1. Provide a Clean and Healthy Living Environment
- Keep your coop and run clean, clean, clean! Providing a clean living environment for your flock is important in order to prevent a variety of health issues. You can help prevent respiratory illness and mites & lice infestations with proper husbandry.
- Always keep feeders and waterers clean! Dirty water and feeder dishes are a host for bacteria and allow easy access into a chicken’s body. Clean and disinfect your waterers often to avoid this. It's also important to keep your chicken feed secure in a weatherproof container so that mold does not grow. Mold can form (and often be hard to see) on chicken feed if it is exposed to moisture.
- Chickens have a delicate respiratory system and keeping a clean coop helps eliminate ammonia buildup from poop which can cause breathing issues. How often you'll have to clean your chicken area depends on how many chickens you're keeping in how much space. It's pretty straightforward; you more or less clean it like a cat litter box. Adding First Saturday Lime to your chicken area year-round can help reduce ammonia smells and repel insects.
- It's important to make sure your flock is not vulnerable to lice and mites and other harmful insects. Preventing these and other types of bugs is important to their overall health. Offer your flock a dust bath area to help repel external parasites including lice and mites. Spa time at the dust bathing area will make your chickens happier and healthier!
- Help reduce stress in your flock by offering enough space. Chickens that are kept in overcrowded spaces can become ill much quicker. Cramped living conditions let illness and disease easily spread. We recommend the minimum amount of space you should provide for each chicken is 10 square feet. (This includes the combined space in the coop and run.)
2. Offer Fresh Herbs to Boost your Chickens' Immune System
Fresh herbs such as oregano, basil, and sage are filled with vitamins and antioxidants. Offering these to your flock helps support a healthy immune system and fight off disease. Fresh herbs are easy to grow and maintain in your garden or a sunny window sill. Hang fresh herbs in your chicken run for the flock to nibble on throughout the day. Or sprinkle them in the nesting boxes so your hens can enjoy them while laying their eggs. You can also make tea by adding fresh or dried herbs to your flocks' waterer.
Growing and offering herbs with heavy fragrances is also beneficial to your flock. They can be used as a natural insect and rodent repellant. Hang peppermint, rosemary, and lavender to dry in the coop. Or grow it near the doors and other areas where rodents may enter. You can also add it fresh or dried to the nest boxes. If it’s added fresh, be sure to remove it promptly so it does not rot.
Growing and offering fresh herbs is not a cure-all for illness and pests. But can help support a strong immune system in your flock. Incorporate some fresh herbs into your flocks' diet to help naturally boost their immune system.
3. Promote Good Gut Health & Provide Supplements
There are fairly simple ways to promote good gut health in order to help boost your flocks' immune system. Fermenting your chicken's feed adds probiotics, promotes diversity to gut flora, and helps minimize bad bacteria in the gut. Fermenting the feed also helps to boost the nutritional value of the vitamins and minerals in it. To ferment your chicken feed, simply add the feed to a bowl and enough water to cover it. Mix and let it soak for 12-24 hours. Stir occasionally.
Supplements such as cider vinegar are filled with benefits to help boost your chickens' immune and digestive system. Adding some to your chicken's water can help with reducing harmful bacteria in the gut.
A staff favorite here at MPC is RopaPoultry Oregano Oil+ Supplement! The essential oil ingredients have antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial agents that really work. Adding this or some of our other health supplements to your chicken-keeping routine will benefit your flock.
4. Offer Fresh Fruits and Veggies to Boost your Chickens' Immune System
Just as fruits and veggies benefit humans, your backyard flock can benefit too! They are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that benefit your flocks' overall health and help boost their immune system. Share your garden produce with them or offer leftover produce scraps from the kitchen. Allowing your flock to safely free-range lets them forage for nutritious weeds such as dandelions, chickweed, purslane, and red clover.
Adding any or all of these tips to boost your flocks' immune system is beneficial. Do you implement other ways to boost the immune health of your flock? Share in the comments below.