It is yet another day on the farm.
Mkulima just finished taking his breakfast.
He takes a quick glass across his thick shoulders to wave at his wife as she rushes past their farms, newly built dark blue metallic gate.
She is rushing to make sure the kids don’t miss their daily bus to school.
On the ground is a piece of paper he had been given by the wife earlier that morning after he got out of bed.
She had picked it from the seminar organized by the MkulimaTODAY franchise in their community, earlier in the week.
After feeding the chicken and cleaning their house, he sits on his leather rocking chair, next to the cow shed to go through the training and jog his memory.
As he settles on his seat he first brushes over the text before he gets deep into what the MkulimaTODAY experts share on how to keep chicken.
Signs of a sick hen
Recognizing signs of diseases early enough in your flock, is one of the ways to fight losses.
1. Skin, Feathers, Beak, Legs
One of the visible signs that you will notice is, the feathers of the sick hen will be ruffled, misplaced or damaged.
If you are keen you will notice the hen scratching constantly.
Incase on an injury recent wounds will be red, open and oozing.
You will notice that any older wounds may become enlarged, crusty, and scab-like due to constant exposure to the elements.
2. Bones, joints or muscles
There will be a clear selling or enlargement of the hocks and joints.
You can easily identify thickened bones. The catch with this is that you will require to be more keen or have a trained eye to enable you pick this up with ease.
Most of the time the sick hen will be reluctant to walk as a result of pain.
The bird spends most of its time sitting on hocks or with one leg lifted up constantly.
Birds suffering from this signs most of the time remain alert and watchful but will be lying down most of the time.
The other common sign is the bird will have stretched wings as if to use them for support.
3. Respiratory infections
Birds suffering from respiratory infections may or may not have an open gaping beaks (“mouth breathing”).
Sometimes you will notice a cough from the sick bird but it is not all the time.
The other common sign of respiratory infection is snicking during breathing.
I have noticed birds are normally dull and depressed.
Most of the sick birds will be found sleeping or with their eyes closed.
In some cases the sick chicken may have a swollen head, discharge from nose, eyes or mouth.
This is one of the hardest signs to spot in a sick chicken.
Reproductive issues will often affect the mother hen, eggs or chicks.
You will notice that the chicks may be smaller than usual or weak after hatching.
In laying hens there is a significant drop in egg production.
The eggs from the sick mother hens may be soft-shelled or deformed.
5. Diarrhea and intestines
This is one of the most common signs of ill-health in poultry farming.
The main diseases that cause diarrhea include new castle among others.
Most of the time the sick hen may be off feed and have an empty or swollen crop.
Wet litter is often an early and common sign of diarrhea.
In most cases diarrhea can be red (bloody), green or white, or see pasted vent with feces smeared on feathers.
In the case of New castle the diarrhea will be greenish in colour an indication of loss of appetite by the sick bird.
6. Nervous system
Just like in humans this is the control unit of the chicken.
Common signs of a nervous system attack in birds is some birds use their wings to “walk” around.
Birds may be paralyzed and unable to move and might seem to be alert.
Birds that are able to move may have poor balance, fall over to one side, or walk in a circle to one side or have a head tilt
This is the ultimate result of sick birds. Some diseases can kill rapidly while others with early treatment can be easily controlled.
Other viral diseases like new castle can easily kill an entire poultry farm within a matter of days.
Birds are found dead, some near-dead birds may be convulsing.
Birds may be seen to “flip over” and die.
The position of a dead bird (back or side) may indicate cause of death
Like the saying goes prevention is better than cure.
Most poultry diseases can be easily avoided by good hygiene practices.
You will also need to practice an all-in, all out farming method.
Keep all new birds away from your flock, quarantine all sick birds.
If practicing free range find a way to keep off wild birds and all types of animals at a distance from your farm. This will include the cockerel that comes running at a jets speed to your hens.
Don’t allow your flock to interact with others to avoid the spread and introduction of diseases.
Clean the poultry house on a daily basis, clean the drinkers and feeders on your farm.
Lastly provide clean water to the flock daily and ensure the birds are vaccinated following the write vaccination schedule.