5 Natural Home Remedies for Sick Chickens | natural antibiotics for chickens

This post was most recently updated on June 1st, 2021

Inevitably when an animal get sick on the farm, it is the weekend, or a public holiday. There are some effective home remedies that you can use on your chickens to tie you over until you can get medical assistance for them.

Please read: This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

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Home remedies for sick chickens are a great way to help care for your sick chicken, and they are effective against several common chicken diseases.

Using some of these natural home remedies may give your chickens some relief and give you some time to source some more effective medication and advice from your local chicken vet.

There are also some proven natural antibiotics for chickens, that, for minor infections, can work a treat.

Note: I am not a vet! Please discuss any treatment with your vet first

You must be cautious when you are choosing to use home remedies for sick chickens (or any animal). Do not substitute for similar items and please talk to a vet as soon as possible about treating your bird.

Lavender Orpington Chicken
Lavender Orpington Chicken

Natural Antibiotics for Chickens

There are a few natural antibiotics available to use with chickens. If you are running a hormone free, organic poultry farm, keep common poultry diseases at bay with these natural remedies without building antibiotic resistance in your flock. The following herbal remedies have been used by chicken keepers for hundreds of years and they are perfect if you are trying to raise an organic chicken flock.

Oregano oil

Oregano is one of the most powerful natural antibiotics ever studied and has been found to be superior to many of the currently used antibiotics. Oregano oil is more potent than the fresh or dried herb, but in any form, it’s hard to deny the antibiotic power of oregano.

Oregano essential oil can be a powerful natural antibiotic and anti-microbial, and it works on bacteria, viruses and fungi in many cases.

Oregano oil has been classically used as a disinfectant, an aid for ear, nose, & throat/respiratory infections, candida, and any sort of bacterial or viral conditions in both humans and animals alike. Additionally, it works to suppress inflammatory mediators and cancer cell production ( 2 ).

It has also been shown to be affective against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

You can add a few drops of the oil several times per day to a sick chicken feed or alternatively add 2-3 drops to their water every day while they are unwell.

Prevention is much better than cure, so you can offer fresh oregano (or even dried oregano) to them as a preventative measure on an ongoing basis.

Oregano works well with other natural antibiotics, and is particularly good in combination with cinnamon, garlic and tumeric. In higher doses to treat disease and in lower doses to keep parasite numbers down.

If you really want to know how to use natural remedies in your everyday life – my friends at the Herbal Academy have a wonderful, affordable beginners course that you really should check out here.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is another spice that has been shown to have great antibiotic properties. You can add some of this to their feed a few times per week to help prevent infections.

Alternatively, to treat sick chickens, you can make a tea with 1 cinnamon stick and 1 cup of boiling water and allow it to steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove the stick and then feed the tea to your sick chicken.

Garlic

Garlic is a well known natural antibiotic, and it can be added as dried granules to their feed, 1/4 tsp per chicken per day as a preventative measure. You can also add whole cloves of garlic to their drinking water, replenishing them every few days.

If your chicken is unwell, you can increase this dose significantly without causing harm (other than making their eggs taste weird).

It seems that it is the sulphur compounds in garlic that are the most beneficial, but used as a food-medicine it is more effective than just the sulphur alone.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar is a great natural antibiotic for chickens and it can be added daily as a preventative to either their feed or their water. 1 teaspoon per chicken per day is a good amount to aim for.

Apple cider vinegar is particularly useful if you are raising broiler chickens as it helps keep their gut bacteria balanced, their immune system strong, and will ensure they are getting the most out of the feed that they are eating.

ACV acts as probiotics as well, keeping their digestive tract balanced and healthy while discouraging internal parasites.

RELATED POST: Raising chickens on the cheap


 

Chicken Natural Home Remedies for your Sick Chicken

If your chicken is unwell, try these natural remedies to help support their recovery.

1) Apple Cider Vinegar or White Vinegar

The acetic acid in vinegar is the active ingredient. It lowers the pH, which kills many pathogens including most bacteria and viruses, and it can be effective against yeast growth as well. Vinegar can be used as a home remedy with chickens to help reduce and clear the mucous in the throat of a bird that has respiratory disease.

Vinegar can also be used to re-balance the acidity of the crop if the chicken has sour-crop. In some cases of enteritis it can also help when added diluted to their drinking water.

Dose

50ml vinegar to 2 liters of water (1/4 cup vinegar to 1/2 a gallon of water). Give for 2-3 days as the only drinking water available to them in the chicken coop.

Warning: Do not give straight vinegar, it is too strong and it will burn their mouth and throat tissues.

2) Molasses Solution

Molasses works as a gentle laxative, as well as a mineral supplement. Molasses has simple sugars in it that can help revive a chicken that has not been eating well.

A laxative is useful if a chicken has eaten a toxic plant or it has been scouring due to a bacterial illness.

Dose

In 2 quarts/liters of warm water, dissolve 1/4 cup of molasses. Offer this to the birds for 4-6 hours then replace it with clean drinking water.

3) Sugar Solution

If you have a sickly, lethargic chicken, they need some glucose to keep their energy up. This is helpful for newly hatched chicks if they have had a prolonged hatching or if they have travelled a long way.

Dose

1oz (28g) of table sugar, glucose powder or honey in 2 cups (400ml) of warm water, stir until dissolved. Give a small amount regularly until the chick is perky and up and cheeping and moving around the brooder.

egg laying chicken breeds

4) Honey

When applied to the skin, honey helps to reduce swollen tissues by drawing out excess fluid. You can use it on swollen prolapsed tissue, to shrink it enough to be gently pushed back inside the vent.

Smear honey over the swollen area and leave for about 1 hour to reduce in size, try and keep the prolapsed chicken still and quiet while you wait.

5) Electrolytes

Electrolytes help chickens to recover from illness and stress faster and better. If a bird is not eating, has diarrhoea, has been over heated, or dehydrated then electrolytes in the water are helpful.

You can buy ready made bird electrolyte mixes or you can mix the recipe below. Use in place of drinking water for one week.

RELATED POST: Natural dust bath

Chicken electrolyte recipe

1 teaspoon of potassium chloride (litesalt or nosalt)

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

3 teaspoons of table salt

Dissolve in 3 quarts/liters of warm water. Use in place of water for one week.

How do you treat a sick chicken naturally?

If you have an unwell chicken, it is best to find out what is wrong with it first. If there is no obvious cause for why it is off colour, you can give her a few days of alone time to see if she perks up.

Bring your sick chicken inside to somewhere warm, dark (not totally dark during the day!) and quiet. Give her highly nutritious feed ( you should try fermenting it ) and plenty of fresh water.

Add the right treatment regime as above depending on what is wrong with your sick chicken and give her 3 or 4 days rest to see how she goes. She is ready to rejoin the flock when she is acting like her normal self, and is eating and drinking well.

Natural Treatment for Fowl Pox

Fowl pox (or fowlpox) is a highly contagious disease that is carried by mosquitos. Once a chicken has it in your flock it is likely that others will catch it.

What is Fowl Pox?

It is caused by viruses of the family Poxviridae and the genus Avipoxvirus. There are several similar but different viruses causing fowlpox, they can affect chickens, turkeys, quail, canaries, pigeons, and many other species of birds.

There are two forms of the disease. One (the dry form) is spread by biting insects (especially mosquitoes) and wound contamination from others that already have the virus. This type causes lesions on the comb, wattles, and beak. Birds affected by this form usually recover within a few weeks with supportive care.

The second form of fowlpox is spread by inhalation of the virus and is known as the wet form. It causes a diphtheritic (false) membranes to form in the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and sometimes the trachea obstructing their ability to breathe. A chicken affected in this way is unlikely to survive.

How to treat a chicken with Fowl Pox

The kindest thing you can do for a chicken with fowl pox is to cull it and bury or burn the body before it passes it on to other chickens. If you cannot bring yourself to do that, there are some things you can do to support her healing.

If your chicken has been infected with fowlpox keep her in isolation from the rest of the flock. Give her plenty of fresh food, a balanced grain feed and fresh water. Adding apple cider vinegar and crushed garlic to her water will help support her immune system while it fights off the virus. Keep her warm and dry, and in a low stress, darkened environment. It usually takes about three weeks for the virus to run its course.

If fowl pox is an issue in your area, it is recommended that you vaccinate against it.

Can Fowl pox infect Humans?

No, it is species specific and cannot be passed on to humans. It is quite different to chicken pox that humans get.

Respiratory Illness in chickens

There are many common chicken illnesses that can occur in your backyard flock. Some respiratory diseases are so subtle that you will barely notice them, others can cause catastrophic losses in your backyard chicken flock.

Keeping chickens that are affected by a respiratory illness in an isolated chicken coop so she cannot contaminate the rest of your birds is a really good idea. Many poultry share these diseases, so be sure to watch out for spreading in all your birds.

Respiratory illnesses can affect their laying, causing a drop in egg production. Clinical signs of respiratory disease in your chicken include:

  • Listlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Less egg production
  • Mucous around the nostrils or eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Death

Chicken respiratory diseases are highly contagious. They cause a lot of trouble year after year in infected flocks, which are constant threats to uninfected flocks. It is impossible to tell which recovered birds are carriers of infection without testing each of them. Antibiotics make affected chickens feel better and may save a few that would have died without treatment, but antibiotics don’t cure the infection in carrier birds or eliminate the disease from the whole flock or the environment.

You have three options

  1. Cull just the sick birds
  2. Cull the whole flock (most effective with highly contagious, catastrophic diseases)
  3. Give antibiotics to both the sick and well birds to prevent spreading the disease.

Disease

Occurrence 

Signs of Illness

Average Mortality Rate %

Avian influenza / Bird Flu

Rare (Deadly strains are absent from chickens in the United
States and the disease is not in NZ)

Droopy birds, rattling breathing sounds, diarrhea, sudden
death

5–99 
depending on strain

Fowl cholera

Not common, not in NZ

Swollen face, gunky eyes, rattling or difficulty breathing,
more common in late summer

0–20

Infectious bronchitis

Common

Decreased egg production, later will have poor shell quality

Usually none

Infectious coryza

Common, not in NZ

Swollen face or wattles, gunky eyes, foul odor, more common
summer and fall

5–20

Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT)

Not common

Gasping, coughing up bloody mucous, dried blood around nostrils
and lower beak

10–20 

Mycoplasmosis

Common

Foamy eye discharge, more common in winter, roosters usually
show more severe signs

Usually none

Newcastle disease

Mild strains are common. Highly deadly strains are absent from
chickens in the United States and the disease is not in NZ

May also cause diarrhea, staggering, paralysis, sudden
death

5–99  depending on strain

Natural Remedy for Sour Crop

Sour crop is a common poultry disease that happens when the bacterium in the birds crop get out of balance. This causes a lowering of the acidity of the crop which in turn allows more bacterial imbalance. A crop with poor acidity cannot digest food well and the chickens will fail to thrive.

One of the best and easiest methods of helping a hen with sour crop is to add apple cider vinegar to their water. This helps to increase the acidity, reintroduces good bacteria and helps dissolve the undigested food. Be sure to dilute the vinegar by adding it to their water, as straight vinegar will damage their delicate tissues in their mouth and throat.

Coccidiosis in chickens

Coccidiosis is a common protozoa in poultry. Not all chickens that carry coccidiosis will be affected by it, but those that are affected will struggle to absorb nutrients and many will die.

There is no natural remedy for coccidiosis, however some lines of chickens can build resistance to it. The usual treatment for coccidiosis in chickens is Amprolium which is a synthetic form of vitamin B1 which starves out the coccidiosis and saves the chicken if caught early enough. It is best to routinely treat for coccidiosis either with medicated water 3-4 times a year or by usuing a coccistat (medicated feed).

I trust this information on common chicken disease that might affect your flock has been helpful. Use these natural antibiotics for your chickens, and other natural ways of treating sick chickens to keep your flock healthy and well.

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So there you are, 5 easy home remedies to help keep your chickens healthy.

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