How to quarantine new chickens

I'm sure by now you've heard to quarantine new chickens before adding them to your existing flock, but what does that mean? How do you quarantine a chicken? Well, it's not unlike the stuff we've been doing with ourselves lately! lol You need to keep them away from the other chickens for a few weeks to make sure they don't have anything contagious.

Chicken in quarantine

Why quarantine chickens?

There are many diseases and parasites that chickens can have that aren't always visible immediately. Plus if you bought your new chickens at a poultry swap or farmers auction you have no way of knowing what they were exposed to at their previous home, or while out in public!

Because of the uncertainty of them being infected with anything, they'll need quarantined to protect your flock...and to give you time to get them healthy before moving them into the chicken coop.

Luckily the quarantine area doesn't have to be anything elaborate. A simple dog crate or large pet carrier will often do, or even a small bathroom that's rarely used. If you use a cage make sure it is somewhere the other chickens can't get inside a garage or shed. 

You'll can use a small coop if it's far enough away from your current flock of chickens.

Chicken in quarantine

How long do chickens need quarantined?

Treat your  new chickens as if they have some type of illness that is contagious like coccidiosis or avian influenza, and isolate them away from the rest of the flock for a minimum of 2 weeks. Longer if they do end up being sick! 

With a perfect set up you'd want to keep the new birds in quarantine for at least a month, but that's not always feasible. 2 weeks is the minimum time that I'm comfortable with, but many chicken keepers have longer quarantine times they prefer. 

Many different diseases can lay dormant in a chickens system and be either triggered by the stress of moving, or just be something your  chickens have never been exposed to yet. 

Even though you are keeping them separate for a time, your old flock may still contract something that the new chickens are a carrier of. You'll have to observe your whole combined flock carefully for signs of illness in the weeks after they officially meet the new chickens.

Setting up a quarantine area for new chickens

A quarantine area can be as simple as a box, dog cage or crate in the corner of the garage or it can be in a room in the house that isn't being used. I prefer to not have new chickens inside my house until they have been checked for parasites. Once treated, certain parasites can jump off the chicken and even though poultry mites don't infest humans...I just don't want them in my house!

Their area needs some kind of bedding or lining that can be changed often. I use regular bedding in the coop but always start with puppy pee pads in the quarantine cage. You want to be able to get a good look at their poop the first few days to assess it for parasites and health conditions. 

I won't get into the many differences of poop here, but any droppings that are runny, foamy, discolored, have mucus, blood, or a general weird appearance are signs of illness or internal parasites. 

Obviously when evaluating chicken poop, puppy pads work better than traditional coop bedding. Regular coop bedding is easier to keep neat though, so I usually switch to that after a few days of healthy looking droppings. 

It also helps them to get used to the bedding they'l be using in the coop. Whatever you use, you'll want to throw it away in the garbage for the first few weeks. Do not compost it, especially if your flock has access to the compost bin!

Of course you'll want to provide the same feed and water they'll be getting once they join the flock. Offer grit unless they have access to the outside grass/dirt.

You want to care for the chickens in quarantine as if they were ill with something contagious. Take care of them absolutely last when you do each round of chores. Make sure the full flock is fed and watered and cared for before attending to the quarantine group and then immediately wash your hands and sanitize them. 

Be very careful not to cross the germs back to the regular flock or you'll end up undoing all the work you've done to keep your original flock safe!

Chickens in cage

How far away to quarantine new chickens

Many chicken diseases are airborne so you don't want there to be any contact between the original flock and the new chickens. NONE! 

  • Do not use a cage in the same coop with your current flock! 
  • Do not let them free range in the same areas at the same or even different times! 
  • Do not keep them on different sides of the same fence so they can see each other.
  • Do not let them within several yards of each other!

Leave lots and lots of distance between the flocks to prevent anything contagious getting from one flock to the other! 

Do I have to quarantine new chickens?

It's in both your new and current chickens best interests to quarantine new birds until you are certain they don't have any diseases or parasites. There are lots of people who don't quarantine and it ends up just fine, and there are other situations where whole flocks were wiped out by an illness a new chicken brought in. 

It's a simple step that can be very beneficial to the health of your chickens. If you ask me, I think chicken quarantine is essential.

Quarantine time is not fool proof though! As mentioned above, certain diseases can still be spread to the original flock if the new chickens are carriers. Also, the new chickens can contract any disease that the current flock is a carrier of. 

This time period simply gives you the chance to observe and treat any obvious issues and make sure the new birds are as healthy as possible before introducing them to the flock.

Not sure what your'e looking for health wise? Check out the other chicken diseases and health issues I've written about.


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