Well, I’ve recently had the unfortunate experience of having to cull my flock of laying hens due to Infectious Coryza. This is a disease that essentially has no cure. You can medicate and do all kinds of things to improve the situation, but in best case scenarios, the Coryza becomes dormant and eventually returns. And the entire flock becomes carriers.
The only way to eliminate the problem is to cull the flock, eliminate the bedding/sand/dirt and sanitize the entire coop, feeders, waterers, etc. But if you are planning on breeding and expanding your flock, having this in the flock does nothing but create many future problems and slow deaths for those effected. Egg production decreases or halts, the chickens have trouble breathing, they carry a rotting-meat type of scent and are in bad shape and the quality of your flock diminishes. And there is also the possibility of spreading the disease to other flocks if you’re not careful.
So I made a very difficult decision to cull the flock and start fresh. Believe me, this was not an easy thing to decide. If you’ve ever raised chickens, you know the hard work, money and time that goes into it. Some of my hens I’ve had for a year and a half, many others had just started laying within the last few weeks. Very frustrating, indeed!
But back to the lessons learned. As with every experience, you can learn from it or you can just let it be another terrible event. And in regards to preparedness, this is what I learned:
Lesson #1: Never mix your flock with new hens unless you are 100% sure that they are healthy and are not carriers of any diseases or sickness. This seems obvious, but this is the number 1 cause of flock contamination. If you have an established flock, it is not a good idea to add a fully grown chicken to the mix. You never know what condition they are in. It is better to get a whole new group of baby chicks from a reputable supplier and raise them up yourself.
Lesson #2: Make sure you have a quarantine coop in a different location from the main coop. At the first sign of a sick hen, remove her immediately and put her in quarantine. Treat her condition accordingly. (Although this probably wouldn’t have helped my specific problem)
Lesson #3: If you are raising chickens long term, have multiple coops in separate locations. Do not mix flocks! When you are creating a new flock, raise them up from chicks and keep them all together. This way, if there are any problems, you have isolated the sickness and can cull the specific group without any adverse effects on the other flocks. Just make sure you don’t cross-use waterers, feeders, etc unless they’ve bee properly sanitized. Of course this is extreme, but in a true survival situation, you’ll want to make sure you always have a healthy flock. In normal every-day life, you may not need to do this but can eliminate sickness, disinfect, then start over. But starting over may not always be an option if you lose your entire flock.
Lesson #4: Pay attention to the chicken behavior and watch for signs of sickness, disease, discomfort, etc. Know your flock and when something doesn’t seem normal.
Of course there is no way to be 100% safe from everything out there, but there are ways to be “safer”. Keep these things in mind if you are planning on raising chickens for the long term and if you feel you may someday need them for survival.
Enjoy the journey!