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Many times I've heard over and over from customers that "my grandparents never had these issues with chickens at the old family farm" In times gone by, your grandparents that raised chickens likely had broody hens to hatch fertile eggs and a steady supply of replacement chickens too. Meaning when they lost chickens to illness or predators, their poultry was quickly replaced by upcoming batches of new chicks. Your grandparents did not spray for mites nor gave their chickens immunizations neither.
One reason today we are caring more for chickens is that in most cases people have just a few at a time and the hens aren't as easily replaced.
On older more established farms there is a build in "coop immunity" where the chickens gradually build up natural resistance to diseases over time. Meaning the older barns where your grandparents housed flocks of chickens were perhaps fifty or even hundreds of years old. Thus, the older established coop soil housed much variety of bacteria (good and bad) for chickens to build up resistance to.
Today, people buy a ready made coop, put in fresh straw and expect the chickens to become established immediately and to lay healthy eggs right away. Few people realize the importance of old coop bacteria and even the dirty waste that is coming from the coops. Chicken manure that is composted in a pile of wasted hay, leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps including egg shells over time becomes "black gold" for your organic garden. Chicken compost is great to add to your vegetable garden for the best in organic home grown foods.
Facts About Your Chicken Coop Immunity
Chickens health is basically easy to take care of especially if you have a few backyard chickens. The health of a chicken can be broken into several categories: diet, coop health, bacterial health, weather, stress levels. All of these factor into your "coop immunity" and how your chickens will fare overall. Remember, stable coop immunity overall can take years to build up, and learning to maintain the balance of bacteria in your coop is the most difficult part of mastering your chickens "coop immunity" I have found that weather changes are a constant source of upsetting the eco balance in your coop. Eventually, you may be able to breed your own chickens that will build up resistance to diseases as well. Its best to avoid outside poultry and not to attend shows to expose your flocks to diseases.
Diet- Keep their food dry and off of the ground. Moist wet food will build up mold and bacteria which can make your chickens sick or even worse.
Coop Health- Its important how you CLEAN your chickens coop, over cleaning or worse cleaning the wrong way can also make your chickens sick or even result in death.
Bacterial Health- Bacteria is your WORST predator. You can't see it and it multiplies very fast. By the time you think there is a problem, it may be too late for your flock.
Weather- When the weather changes, so does the amount and type of bacteria change in your coop. Texas is well known for having 40 degree or more temperature drops in only a few hours. So unless you raise your chickens INDOORS in a climate controlled environment, you will experience changes in your bacterial levels in your coop and run. Since no one can control the weather, the best you can do it to try to maintain correct bacterial levels in your coop.
Stress Levels- Its important for your chickens not to overstress. Constant stress will cause your chickens to become ill. Dogs chasing/barking at chickens or kids running after chickens or even handling and holding chickens too much may cause many problems even if they mean no harm, this stress will not help your flock.
Also, note that if you attend poultry shows or go to "swap meets" to exchange your chickens for someone else's chickens you are bringing in outside bacteria's into your coop and may be exposing your flocks to disease causing pathogens.
My favorite analogy is that your chicken coop is much like a "fish tank" Your chicken coop needs to build up levels of bacteria like your fish tank to become stable and healthy. T
The BEST way to build up "coop immunity" is to start with very old coop compost from an old hen house. Well, its a safe bet that you may not have a fifty year old coop in your backyard. So the next best thing when starting a coop, Place old compost as the "base" for your new coop (we give away old compost here at Blue Star Ranch) and add Any brand of Probiotics to the compost pile on a daily routine for several weeks. After bacteria is built up, its a MUST to continue with Probiotics (and or add raw garlic and chopped onions to the water or feed at least three times a week to keep the correct levels of bacteria thriving in your coop. Weather changes (rain/cold/dry) will effect the bacteria in your coop. Of course anyone can raise chickens without adjusting or maintaining the bacteria in your coop, but expect about a 50% loss of your flock over several seasons. This is just natures way.