If you are going to have chickens then at some point one or more of your chickens is going to come down with an ailment, illness, or disease. Even the best kept chickens come down with something sooner or later. The key is to catch it early, understand what the problem is, don’t panic, and treat it as rapidly as possible. The problem with chickens is they have a great ability to harbor illness and/or disease in their bodies and by the time you realize something is wrong it is many times too late to treat it and you lose the bird. This is why it is very important that, if you are going to keep chickens, you spend enough time with them to be able to notice if something is just a bit off. I don’t know how many times people have brought me their birds, lying half dead and limp in their hands, and ask me if I can fix it. I will ask them when this started and they will look at me with a blank stare and say “Well it was fine a couple of days ago”. This mentality does not work with chickens. Many times just a few hours can make all the difference between life and death.
People will ask, “How do I know if something is wrong with one of my birds?” The key is to have intimate knowledge of how each of your birds acts. “But I have 6 hens, how am I supposed to keep track of them?” Folks, I have about 200 birds at the moment, I also work 6 to 8 hours a day 6 days a week and at any time I can tell you who has a limp, a gimp, a sneeze, a cough, a sniffle, or whatever. And no I do not spend every waking moment out with my chickens. It is just a matter of learning each ones personality and condition. Spend a few moments with them each morning before you go to work. Spend an hour sitting amongst them in the evening when you get home. Go into their roosting area at night and listen quietly. If I have a hen that normally runs all over and all of a sudden I notice her kind of lagging behind then I know she is not feeling well. I might have a hen that develops a random sneeze but it is persistent. I have to think back as to what the weather has been like and what time of year it is. She probably just has a pollen allergy.
So folks, get out and spend some time with your chickens, enjoy them, learn their personalities, and start learning how to distinguish what symptoms go with what diseases and ailments. You will be doing both you and your birds a huge favor.