Can you raise healthy chickens naturally?
With the increasing body of research linking overproduction of food to ill-health, there is a growing movement of consumers wanting to know where their food comes from and it's production process. As we continue to learn more, more people are starting to make and grow their own food to gain control of its origination
For our clients who keep backyard chickens, the initial motivation is often to produce their own eggs; eggs that they know come from healthy, happy hens. And for many, that means raising their chickens naturally. But what does raising chickens “naturally” actually mean?
For many people, raising animals naturally means in an environment like that they would experience in the wild, and without chemicals or drugs such as antibiotics.
In ideal circumstances, it is possible to raise chickens without chemicals or drugs. But ideal conditions are hard to come by, and for most backyard chicken keepers, it is impractical to control every element of the environment: chickens forage for worms and insects, have contact with wild birds and are exposed to sources of stress like extremes of temperature or transportation. All of these seemingly natural occurrences expose our chickens to parasites and diseases.
Natural medicine for chickens
There are many natural ways to protect your chickens from pests and illness, for example:
- Good gut health. Just as good gut health is important for human health, it is also important for chicken health. Probiotics can improve immunity and aid in the prevention of the spread of disease in the chicken coop. Dineachook has a great range of Quality Probiotics for your chickens. Shop here for Poultry Healthcare products
- Supplements such as Hemp Seed Oil and Apple Cider Vinegar may improve nutrition and immune response. Apple cider vinegar is also a naturally effective cleaner for the coop.
- VetRx Poultry Remedy may help birds to fight disease
- Herbs, garlic, lime, diatomaceous earth and other natural substances are also suggested as effective natural treatments to kill parasites and/or build immunity
Even taking all of these precautions, it is a challenge to fully protect chickens from parasites and diseases. So the question is, then, is it better to use natural remedies or synthetic medicine, when chickens fall ill.
There are some natural treatments available that may help birds to recover from mild illnesses, for example, VetRx Poultry Remedy may treat eye worm. It may also assist in mild cases of Chicken Respiratory Disease (CRD). Another great product is 2 Pak Probiotics. These may be effective for the treatment of mild cases of E. coli, salmonella, yeast, intestinal worms and coccidiosis.
The case for using antibiotics and dewormers with backyard chickens
However, many backyard chickens are not just a source of fresh eggs; they are pets. For their keepers, it is difficult to watch a pet suffer from a potentially curable illness. The fact of the matter is that for many parasites and diseases, the only truly effective treatment may be a synthetic drug.
There is a lot of literature suggesting that using antibiotics, dewormers and other drugs with farm animals can lead to problems. The majority of this research is for commercial production, where chickens may be given a low-dose antibiotic daily. It is little wonder this practice shows links to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and exposure to the drugs throughout the food chain. However, there is little to suggest that the occasional use of a synthetic drug on a backyard scale causes any similar problems.
Ultimately, giving an antibiotic to a sick chicken is often the difference between life and death; it can lead to recovery, whereas unproven natural treatments may only cause prolonged suffering.
Take care to only use antibiotics only when it is needed. Respecting the product instructions, including the withholding period for eggs and meat. This also applies for the use of dewormers and other medication