Whether you're brand new to chickens, have been at it a few years like me or are a seasoned veteran eventually you are going to need a plan for quarantine.
This past week reminded me that, although, I had thought through the scenario of needing to quarantine - I hadn't gotten everything into place. So there I was, scrambling with a sickly chicken.
There are several reasons that you may need to quarantine a bird.
- Injury - chickens are drawn to the color red, if you have an injured bird the blood will attract the others causing them to peck at the injury and making it worse.
- Illness - even if something isn't contagious, like my birds impacted crop, you still need a way to isolate the bird and watch it's progress, monitor medications if needed and keep them from being seen as "weak". I hadn't thought much about separating mine until I discovered them starting to bully her.
- Pecking Order - every now and then you have that one (or three) birds that are just overly aggressive and need a time out. It's our nature to want to isolate the bird that is being picked on, but I have had much better success with removing the offender. Once a bird is taken away from the flock for an extended amount of time, they must re-establish their spot in the pecking order. If you remove the lower member (who is being picked on) it can be much worse once they return to the flock.
- New birds - Any time that you introduce new birds to your flock you are going to want to isolate those birds for at least 2 to 3 weeks. Even chickens that appear healthy can be carrying disease that your flock does not have immunity against. This will give you time to watch the new bird for signs of illness, treat for parasites if needed and get to know their personalities. If I have the option, I like to keep new birds separate for 30 days to be on the safe side.
- Traveling - a small cage is ideal when traveling with birds. I've found that laying a tarp down underneath saves a lot of time :)
What Will You Need For Quarantine?
1. Cage - just about anything will work - dog crate, rabbit cages etc. The idea is to be able to keep an eye on the bird and that it is easy to administer first aid. There are several reasons not to use your brooder setup. You may need it at the same time that you have a group of chicks and, an even bigger reason, you wouldn't want chicks to come into contact with an area that housed a sick bird. Yes, you will be disinfecting after each use but it's best not to mix the two.
2. Food and Water Dishes
3. Clean bedding
4. Spot for the cage - look for a spot that is away from the others and sheltered from predators and the weather. It's much easier if it can sit up on something so that you have easier access.
Your quarantine setup doesn't have to be up at all times, I will be keeping mine in a tote out in the barn so that everything is easy to find and ready to go the next time it is needed!