Editor of " The Encyclopaedia of Poultry," etc.

Precautions Against Disease - Deadly Diarrhoea - Bowel Stoppage - Cramp and Leg Weakness-atrophy, or " Going Light " - "Gapes, " and Other Parasite Pests

Like adult fowls, chickens, if mismanaged, are liable to suffer from many of the ailments common among poultry, but no ailment of a fatal nature need be apprehended if certain precautions are taken during the rearing period. It should be remembered that, apart from natural warmth and food, chickens must be kept dry under foot and must be so sheltered that protection against cold winds and rains is afforded them. The overpowering rays of the midday summer sun must also be prevented by means of natural or artificial shade. Little chicks cannot stand the scorching rays of the sun. The heat debilitates them and puts them off their food, causing them to drink so excessively of water as to bring about bowel troubles.

Digestive Troubles

More chickens die annually from diarrhoea than from any other internal ailment. It may be brought about by allowing the little ones to drink sun-heated water or water in a stale condition. The excessive drinking of water, brought about by allowing the birds to be exposed to the heat of the sun, will also cause this complaint. Stale, sour food, too, or food served to the birds on tainted ground, will cause bowel troubles, as also will foul air in the sleeping quarters. Chickens should be reared on fresh ground, and not on ground that has previously been stocked with fowls, unless it has been dressed with lime and had a period of rest.sufficiently long to render it free from taint. When feeding chickens the food should not, if in the nature of soft food, be thrown upon the ground, but should always be placed upon boards or in shallow troughs. The importance of serving up the food in a fresh, wholesome state cannot be over-estimated. No more soft food than can be quickly used up should be prepared, and no more than the birds can eat up quickly should be allowed each time they are fed.

Diarrhoea shows itself in a looseness of the bowels, and when a bird shows symptoms of the ailment it should be given immediately a few drops of warmed castor-oil to work oft any irritant from the bowels. It should then be dieted with soft food, such as plain biscuit meal scalded with boiling milk, to which has been added a little powdered chalk. In slight cases, following the dose of castor-oil, a diet of steeped rice will generally effect a cure. The cause of the trouble should, if possible, be found, and the conditions changed.

Chicken suffering from gapes

Chicken suffering from gapes. This disease is caused by a fine threadlike worm in the throat, which, if not removed, causes the bird to stand with its neck outstretched

Many chickens, again, fall victims to stoppage of the bowels, which is brought about by unsuitable or sour food-stuffs. If taken in time, however, the ailment is extremely easy to cure. The substance adhering to the vent should be softened with warm water applied with a sponge until it can be easily removed without causing pain to the patient. The bird's bowels will then operate naturally To prevent stoppage of the vent, chickens should, when signs of looseness of the bowels appear, be placed on long, soft litter, and be treated immediately as advised for diarrhoea.


This common ailment is brought about by cold and damp, which cause a pooi circulation of the blood. It is also likely to attack birds reared in congested quarters, owing to the fact that the little ones are deprived of sufficient exercise to keep up the circulation of the blood. Chickens should not be reared on damp runs or runs composed of boards, stones, or bricks. Even the floors of the rearing coops should be thickly covered with dry sand or fine ashes, and care should be taken that they are quite dry before the chickens use them.

Wet is Fatal to Chicks

Chickens, whether reared naturally or artificially, need dryness under foot and over head; otherwise, they will fall victims to cramp. When a chicken has cramp, its legs should be held in water as hot as the hand can comfortably bear. The legs then should be dried, and receive a brisk rubbing with liniment such as hartshorn and oil, or a good liniment can be prepared by well mixing a teaspoonful of turpentine with half an ounce of camphorated oil. The patient should be isolated for treatment, and given warm foods to eat.

Leg Weakness

The cause of leg-weakness is lack of sufficient bone-forming food. If chickens are brought up on foods of a starchy nature, such as dari, split maize, or rice, or are fed too much on soft foods, their bodies become too heavy for the leg-bones to support. The ailment is naturally more prevalent among heavy breeds than among the lighter breeds of fowls. In feeding, the aim of the attendant first should be to get good framework in the chickens by avoiding starchy foods and excess of mash foods, then, by feeding with a good preparation of suitable fine grains scattered in litter, to induce healthy exercise.

When chickens suffei with leg-weakness they have an uncertain gait while moving, which is not frequent except at feeding times, the birds spending most of their time in squatting about. To cure, the mode of feeding should be changed. Animal food should be given daily, and, apart from a little soft food for breakfast, the patients should be fed largely on grains, avoiding those of a starchy nature, such as are mentioned above, and they should be given a good thickness of soft straw or other litter to sleep on; otherwise, if allowed to roost, they will be liable to contract crooked breast-bones.


Atrophy, or " going light," as it is commonly called, is caused through feeding chickens on fattening rather than flesh and bone forming foods. Foods of a fattening nature result in disorders of the digestive organs and lack of muscle energy. Good food, too, if unassisted by a supply of sharp grit, will sooner or later lead to indigestion. With the aid of grit, the gizzard grinds up the food ready for further assimilation by the other digestive organs. Without grit, all the work of grinding is thrown upon the gizzard, and that organ, becoming debilitated, fails to perform its natuial functions, and most of the food given to the chicken passes through its system in an undigested form, and, consequently, the bird goes light for want of nourishment. Lack of fresh vegetable food is also responsible for the ailment, for vegetable food is necessary to regulate the digestive system and to keep the bowels in order.


Chickens that are " going light " should be fed on soft, nourishing foods, such as biscuit meal mixed with milk, groats boiled in milk, oatmeal porridge made with milk, or any other food that is strengthening and easy of digestion. A little fine grit should be scattered on the feeding-boards, and plenty of finely chopped vegetables, such as lettuce or onion-tops, should be given, as well as a little cooked lean meat. When recovered, the birds should be gradually put upon their grain diet again, and induced to scratch for it in litter, to develop muscle energy, and keep the digestive organs healthy. Bone and flesh forming foods, boiled and raw vegetables, sharp flint, grit, and plenty of exercise are the things necessary to steer the chickens clear of atrophy.


This ailment derives its name from the fact that chickens suffering from it stand with their necks outstretched, and gape as though experiencing a very great difficulty in breathing.

Gapes is caused by fine, threadlike worms that find their way into the throats of the chickens, where they multiply so rapidly as to cause death by suffocation if not removed or destroyed. Running chickens on foul ground is responsible for the ailment, as the birds pick up the worms or their eggs. Gape-worms breed rapidly on tainted ground and among refuse matter, and, consequently, the chickens should not have access to them.

To bring up chickens free from gapes they must be run on clean ground, or ground that has been dressed with slaked lime to free it of taint. When a chicken is the victim of gape-worms, it should be isolated from its companions, as it is liable to cough up the worms, which will be picked up by the healthy birds. To dislodge the worms from the throat, a fine but rather stiff feather should be dipped in turpentine, inserted down the throat, and given a gentle but quick twist round, and drawn out. Another similar feather should then be dipped in glycerine and used in like manner to the first. The operation must be performed quickly but gently. Another method of treating the ailment is to place the chicken in a small box and to blow tobacco smoke into the latter, through a hole made for the purpose, until the bird coughs, which will dislodge the worms. The healthy chickens should be speedily removed from any ground where gapes has made its appearance, and a good dressing of slaked lime should be applied to rid the earth of the worms.

Insect Pests

Insects are responsible for many deaths among young chickens, as they draw the life-blood from the youngsters, upon which they thrive and multiply.

The pests are to be found mostly about the heads and tail roots of their victims. The cause of chicken lice is traceable to the use of unclean brooding hens and dirty rearing quarters. Preventive measures should be taken to guard the chickens from the ravages of lice by periodical application of insect powder to the hen and her brood, and by a strict observance of cleanliness in the rearing appliances. It is advisable occasionally to dust chickens with sulphur or insect powder, whether they appear to need it or not.

The next article will tell "How to Make Money Out of Ducklings."