If you’re looking for ways to take care of your chickens, you can find more info here. While blindness is not one of the more common illnesses for them, being on the lookout for telltale signs such as bumping into objects, depression, or pecking at the air is essential in treating the problem before it gets out of hand.
Why choose chickens?
Chickens seem to be all the rage these days when it comes to backyard pets due to their many qualities and how generally useful they can be for their owners. Regardless of whether you’re still dreaming about a flock of chicks or you already have one, it’s important to understand the needs and wants of these birds so you can be the best possible owner.
First and foremost, you will get certain benefits when having these girls in your backyard, such as a constant supply of fresh eggs. Once you have this, you will realize that no batch of eggs bought from the store can compete with the freshness of your own hens’ ones. Imagine the cakes you are going to bake!
Chickens are also great as protectors for your backyard. Since they spend a large part of their day pecking this and pecking that, their keen eyesight allows them to protect your yard against certain invaders which would otherwise be downright bothersome.
There is a lot of chicken raising information out there so you will have to be prepared to feel a little overwhelmed at first, just like with any new activity. It’s also quite important to understand that being prepared is crucial to starting this hobby the right way because a failure to do that will lead to you spending more money trying to urgently buy everything that you need.
How to generally protect your chickens
Any good owner will understand sooner rather than later the importance of adequately protecting his or her girls against the constant dangers which can affect them.
Basically, their needs for protection are divided into two categories: the need to be protected against the elements of nature and the need to be protected against predators.
When it comes to the first one, it is absolutely essential that you build or buy a chicken coop. While many people will talk about how much easier it is to just let your birds free-range all day, we tend to disagree. While free-ranging is a very important part of a chicken’s life, at the end of the day, just like everybody else, they need a place they can return to and unwind.
If you want to build the coop, we advise you to take into consideration the entire amount of money you will have to spend in order to purchase the materials and see if it’s possibly cheaper to simply order a kit off Amazon.
For the second part, remember that depending on the area you live in, there will be certain predators which will be drawn to your birds. Therefore, there are a few rules which you can implement to keep them safe.
This theory is based around the fact that most predators are active during the night so, for this reason, the chickens need to be confined to a predator-proof space as long as the sun is not in the sky.
It’s recommended that you call them in well before sundown and keep them in well after sunrise. For this reason, training your birds to answer when you call is quite important.
Since you’re aiming to do a thorough job, you should predator-proof both the coop and the run, to give the birds some space to move around in. This way, during mild weather, you can leave the pop doors open and the chickens can do a little light stretching.
High in the air
Contrary to popular belief, chickens do not like to sleep on the ground. In fact, a great owner will make sure that their coop is lifted up in the air and has a comfortable wood floor. If you do that, make sure to put the coop on stilts because the floor will eventually rot and create easy entry points for invaders like weasels and rats.
Last but not least, protecting their food is quite important. Store it in tightly-covered metal barrels that will prevent mice and rats from getting through to it. Furthermore, if your birds share their food with other visitors, they may also start sharing in the diseases brought by them and this won’t be nice for anybody.
What about blindness?
Since these were the generally-available rules for protecting your chickens, let’s look at a specific but very important case. Why do some of your birds suffer from blindness and what can you do to help them?
First and foremost, the eye is obviously a very delicate part of anyone’s body so any cleaning should be performed with great care and attention.
Blindness isn’t a particularly common problem in chickens. However, poultry can indeed get damage to the eye, conjunctivitis or, unfortunately, even go completely blind for a number of reasons, as follows.
Some crested birds such as the Poland, can have feathers grow into their eye which will obviously lead to impaired vision.
A special development of Marek’s disease can cause the eye to turn grey and the bird to become partially or completely blind.
Ammonia levels caused by droppings left in a coop with insufficient ventilation have a serious chance of causing the cornea in the eye to become damaged, from which the birds will usually not recover. As such, it is extremely important to ensure your coop is well-ventilated and allows fresh air to come in.
Checking for this problem is also quite easy. Just put your head inside the coop first thing in the morning and ensure you cannot smell any trace of ammonia. Adequate ventilation and regular cleaning will almost always prevent this problem from happening.
Scratches and physical trauma to the eye are another obvious cause of blindness in chickens. Respiratory infections in the upper respiratory tract can also cause a second infection which affects the eye, while puss ‘sticking’ the eyelids together can be another source of temporary blindness.
Partial blindness should be suspected if you notice a chicken regularly misses the mark when pecking. This can be caused by physical trauma to an eye, such as a scratch, but it will normally only affect the eye in question. If a bird misses the mark, the first cause you want to think about it Vitamin A deficiency.
Blood spots in eggs can also increase with Vitamin A deficiency so be on the lookout for these as a telltale sign to allow you to take preventive measures.
Improper diet is unlikely to be the cause of this deficiency, especially these days when formulated balanced feeds are available everywhere. However, it is more likely than an underlying health problem that is causing the birds to have absorption difficulties such as worms or coccidiosis is the issue.
Therefore, the best way to prevent this is to know the signs and symptoms that you can look out for and then take your girls to a vet and treat accordingly. To help with the Vitamin A deficiency, Cod Liver Oil mixed into the normal food ration can be a great help. However, keep in mind that too much Vitamin A is toxic to chickens so don’t overdo it!
General symptoms of blindness in chickens
Since, as we said, it’s good to know what you can be up against, let’s look at more signs that can show a potential vision problem for your birds.
Other than missing their pecking targets, they will also be bumping into objects, acting like they are not sure where to go, and even pecking at the air.
You’ll also notice depression and reduced overall activity, as well as enlarged or irregular-shaped pupils and, depending on the issue, cloudiness or discoloration of the eyes may also appear.
A quick and easy test that can be performed to check for this is to slowly move your finger toward the eye you suspect to be affected. A bird that does not try to move out of the way is likely blind. Keep in mind that you can’t use rapid movements because they may feel the airflow and sense the motion coming.