Chickens are really pretty easy to raise and care for, but there are a few illnesses that they are prone to. Take fowl pox, for example — our first round of chickens all got it, some worse than others, and our new rooster came with a good case of it:
You see those black spots on his comb that look like mold? That’s fowl pox. So what is this and how do you treat it?
- It’s a relatively slow-spreading viral disease in birds, and is one of three types of Avian pox.
- It’s characterized by wart-like nodules on the non-feathering parts of the chicken — comb, waddle, area around the eyes, the feet, area around the mouth and even in the respiratory system.
- It’s spread by mosquitoes, mites and lice and then transmitted by contact from bird to bird.
- The nodules start out white and then slough off, leaving a blackish scab — so we know our rooster is in the healing phase right now.
- It’s highly contagious to other chickens (but not humans or other animals), spreading slowly through an unvaccinated flock.
- The course of the disease in individual birds is usually 3-5 weeks.
- It can affect a bird of nearly any age.
- It’s not usually fatal unless severe respiratory involvement is present.
- There’s no treatment, but vaccines can provide permanent immunity.
- Once a bird is recovered, it does not remain a carrier and is usually immune to further outbreaks. If they do get a recurrence, it’s typically much less severe.
So, bottom line: it’s common, won’t typically do your chickens in, has no treatment and will run its course. Expect to see some lethargic activity, decreased egg production and some moodiness. When our entire flock had it, I gave them some immune system builders like a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in their water, warm oatmeal with mashed bananas or dried garlic powder on their feed. For more info about keeping your chickens’ immune system healthy, read this article from famed chicken keeper Lisa Steele.
Note: Because our new rooster was a surprise gift and we don’t really know much about where he came from, we are assuming the worst just to keep everyone healthy. He’ll be quarantined for 3 weeks so we can observe any other health issues. That will also give us enough time to get a few more hens to even out the too-to-hen ration of 1:10. For more info about safely introducing a new chicken like our rooster into your flock, read this post.