How to Keep Your Homestead Animals Healthy (Chickens, Rabbits, Goats)
We recently had an incident with one of our baby goats, and he almost died. It scared me to death! As we raced little Sammy to the emergency vet over an hour and a half away, I realized how unprepared Mr. V. and I are to help our animals in the case of a medical emergency, and I felt completely powerless. What a horrible feeling!
After that trauma, I asked my more experienced homestead friends to let me know some of the things they do to keep their animals well, along with some of the more common illnesses to look out for and what to do, just in case. Here is some of their excellent advice for how to care for and deal with medical problems for chickens, rabbits, and goats.
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It's hard to find veterinarians for chickens and birds--they are definitely speciality animals, and sometimes finding answers for healthcare questions can be tricky! Even when you call a vet, they are usually not able to give you many answers. My go-to has been to search online, but you never know if the advice is accurate. Here are some resources from people I trust for taking care of chickens:
How to Care for a Sick Chicken--My friend, Laura, over at You Should Grow, asked some mixed animal veterinarians for some ideas about how to take care of sick chickens. Find out answers from animal doctor experts!
Laura has written several articles for chickens, but I thought this next one is great if you are getting ready to raise hens! What to Keep in a First Aid Kit for Chickens--Lots of great ideas for chicken eye-care, bandages, wound care, and what to do about digestive issues.
Over at Farming My Backyard, Kathryn has written a great post about Chicken Diseases, and it's very comprehensive! Things like Air Sac Disease, Bumblefoot, Avian Flu, and CRD are included along with many more! I have to admit--I hadn't even heard of some of these! Yikes!
Rabbits are quickly becoming a mainstay on many small homesteads and even in urban backyards because they are small, easy to care for, and provide excellent meat. However, sometimes unexpected things can happen, and it's a good idea to have some knowledge beforehand.
Dana at Piwakawaka Valley Homestead in New Zealand is very experienced with raising rabbits. She created this Rabbit Diseases Reference Guide that is unbelievably complete and interesting! Here is another article she wrote about Rabbit First Aid. Because things just go wrong, sometimes!
Kathryn, of Farming My Backyard, raises rabbits and has written quite a great article on Flystrike and Ear Mites. And, seriously, flystrike is nothing to mess around with---you have to catch it and treat it fast, or your animal can die a painful death very quickly. Mr. V. and I learned this from experience last summer. It's pretty horrible. She also has a great article on How to Resuscitate Baby Bunnies, Even if They Look Dead...which was REALLY interesting.
Rabbit's teeth are quite important to their health! Liz, at the Cape Coop, wrote a great article about Caring for Rabbit Teeth! If you are considering rabbits, check it out! She goes into the importance of their feed, among other necessary things to know about dental care for rabbits.
I don't currently have rabbits, but Mr. V. and I are thinking about adding them to our animal livestock after we get ourselves moved in a few months! These are all good things to know about ahead of time!
Well, after our little goat, Sammy, survived his bout with UC (Urinary Calculi), I figured I had better be a little (a lot) more knowledgeable about potential health issues goats can face. Luckily, I have met some great people online who know and share about their experiences and knowledge.
Kristin over at Mr. Animal Farm, shared the 5 Goat Medical Supplies to keep on hand. Super handy if you have goats and are new to raising them, like I am! I'll for sure be adding these five basics to my animal meds stash. Kristin has another article on how to identify Coccidia in Chickens & Goats (or any species), plus how she successfully treated her animals.
Sarah, at The Free Range Life, has a lot of experience with goats! Here's her article on Treating Barber Pole Worms in goats (which I understand are common and dangerous). Here is another of her knowledgeable posts on Selenium Deficiency in Goats. (I obviously need to learn a lot more about the mineral balances goats need.) And here is a great article on the 10 Goat Medications No Goat Owner Should be Without!
Over at Better Hens and Gardens, my friend Lesa told me about Copper Bolusing for Goats. I really need to learn more about the minerals for goats, because evidently, it's a big deal! She also explained to me about the importance of vaccinations, and here is an article about the CDT Vaccination goats should have annually.
Final Thoughts About Emergency Care for Homestead Animals
There's an awful lot to know when you are raising and taking care of homestead animals. This list doesn't even include horses, not to mention dogs and cats! When you own animals, you have a responsibility to take good care of them and have the items on hand you need to help them if there is a problem.
Unfortunately, in my experience, sometimes things do happen. Like when we had an egg bound turkey hen, or when one of our hens died of flystrike last year. It's really hard when one of your animals passes on due to an illness or problem, and there is little you can do to help. But if you are prepared and armed with a little knowledge beforehand, it helps you feel a bit safer and more in control of your animals' health. And, you might just save your animal's life!
I hope you enjoyed this little round-up of articles about homestead animal health. I encourage anyone (including myself) to keep learning!
Thanks for reading, and I'd love to hear your comments and experiences!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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P.P.S. You might also be interested in these articles: What I Wish I Had Known About Goats Before Getting Them, What You Must Know Before Bringing Home Chicks for the First Time, and How to Get a Small Homestead Ready for Winter.
Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. Also, most homesteaders are not veterinarians. Please be sure to seek medical attention from a medical professional if you can, before trying any of these ideas on your own animals. My statements in this article, elsewhere on my website, and in any of my publications are simply opinions and are for informational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.