Chronic Respiratory Disease
In December of 2010 I purchased 12 chickens from a lady on Craigslist. She was a teacher and hatched the eggs for her classroom. When the chicks were no longer cute, she brought them home and kept them in a drafty little coop behind her rented farmhouse. I think the novelty of chickens had worn off and she wanted to find a new home for them. It was late December and I felt sorry for the poor things as I stood in their little coop, watching them shiver in the wind and snow blowing in through the large cracks in the walls.
I brought the seemingly healthy young birds home and tried to keep them quarantined from the rest of my flock…but they had other ideas and escaped from their enclosure to mingle with the rest of the crew. Then I noticed them sneezing. Pretty soon all of my chickens were sneezing and shaking their heads. I did some research and realized that I had brought home chickens with Chronic Respiratory Disease or CRD. Everything that I read said that this bacteria borne disease could be treated with antibiotics, but would come back whenever the chickens were under stress. The only way to eradicate CRD is to cull the entire flock, sanitize the coop and all equipment and wait a few days before bringing in new chickens. I decided to try the antibiotics anyway and ordered them from a company online.
Since the antibiotics are not for human consumption, you can’t eat the eggs during treatment and for 21 days afterward (check any labels for medications you use for your livestock for specific information). I called my disappointed egg customers to let them know that I wouldn’t have eggs for at least a month and started the treatment. The symptoms went away after 7 days of antibiotics and I breathed a sigh of relief…no more runny noses! However, within a day or two one of the young hens started to sneeze again. She was small and never seemed thrifty anyway, so I culled her and hoped for the best. It wasn’t long before the symptoms were affecting at least half of the flock. I decided to forgo any further antibiotics and just live with an infected flock for a while. Since then I have never taken a break from raising chickens, I just couldn’t bring myself to cull all of my hens.
Although my birds are still infected, it doesn’t seem to affect the entire flock. Some of them are constantly showing symptoms and others never act sick at all. I raised several hatches from the original hens and most of the youngsters succumbed to Marek’s disease and some showed signs of CRD (which is passed from an infected hen to her chicks through the egg). But overall my chickens seem pretty healthy and happy, so I have learned to deal with these problems.
At some point I will need to cull the entire flock and do a thorough cleaning of the coop. After a few days I will be able to bring home new chickens or order some chicks. It seems unlikely that I will have a disease free flock unless I build a new coop and start over with new equipment. Every little speck of dander could harbor the virus for Marek’s disease, but at least I would have a CRD free flock.
If you are concerned that your flock may have Chronic Respiratory Disease, the symptoms to look for are: sneezing, running noses and eyes, shaking their heads, and a weezy, gurgling sound when they breathe. There is more than one bacteria that causes this disease and some are more deadly than others.