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Do natural remedies work for chickens?

Can you raise healthy chickens naturally?

With the increasing body of research tying the health benefits of food to the methods of production used, there is more emphasis on knowing where our food comes from and how it was produced. As a reaction to this, a growing number of people are also producing their own food.

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 definitely possible to raise chickens without chemicals or drugs. But ideal circumstances 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. And 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:

  • Probiotics have been linked to improved immunity and may prevent the spread of disease in the coop
  • Supplements such as Hemp Seed Oil and Apple Cider Vinegar may improve nutrition and immune response
  • 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

And more natural ways to prevent parasite and disease in the chicken coop are available in our Learning Centre.

But even taking all of these precautions, it is impossible to completely 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 and mild cases of Chicken Respiratory Disease (CRD) , while 2 Pak Probiotics may treat 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. And for their keepers, it is difficult to watch a pet suffer from an illness that is potentially curable. 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. But the majority of this research is based on commercial production, where chickens may be given a low-dose antibiotic on a daily basis. It is no wonder this practice has been linked 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.

If care is taken to ONLY use antibiotics when they are clearly needed, and to respect the product instructions such as a recommended withholding period for eggs and meat, they should be part of the Chicken First Aid Kit even for natural poultry keepers. And the same case can be made for the use of dewormers and many other medications.

Want to learn more about chicken health?

While there are times when it is necessary to use antibiotics and dewormers with backyard chickens, prevention is always better than a cure. If you want to learn more about chicken health, or for a list of natural ways to prevent parasite and disease in chickens, visit the Dine a Chook ® Learning Centre.