Having an excellent vet lined up for your chickens is essential. By the time hens are showing symptoms of illness the disease is usually fairly advanced and needs immediate attention. Chickens are very good at hiding their symptoms. It would help keep them safe from predators in the wild, but it makes it harder for us to notice when something is going wrong.
Sadly getting good vet care for chickens is not as simple as popping down the road to your local small animal vet. Although you may have a wonderful vet for your dog and cat, that doesn’t mean they know much about chickens. Many domestic animal vets will be the first to admit they do not feel confident treating chickens. Others may see your girl, but will not be able to give her the correct diagnosis and treatment that she needs. As many chicken "owners" are not willing to pay for treatment when chickens get sick, some vets do not see investing in training in this field to be worthwhile.
It is not uncommon for some vets to make derogatory comments about chickens and to give chicken carers the impression that they are weird for caring so much about a chicken. As people who care about and respect chickens and their right to a healthy life, we must not accept these derogatory comments. We must make it clear that these animals are a part of our family and that we are willing to pay reasonable rates for competent treatment.
To find out if your vet treats chickens well ask them:
How do they feel about chickens as companion animals?
Do they treat chickens? How often?
Do they often conduct surgeries on chickens? What kinds of surgery?
Do they offer Suprelorin implants for chickens with egg peritonitis? If they have not heard of this option then they are not up to date with chicken diagnosis and treatment. Do they seem willing to do more research on this or ask advice from a specialist?
Are they familiar with correct antibiotic doses for chickens? Per kg of body weight chickens require a larger dose of antibiotics than a dog or cat, so it is important the vet has a good idea of how to work out the correct dosage for chickens.
Ideally your vet should be an avian specialist, but some other vets may have done extra training in bird health and provide excellent treatment. On the other hand some avian vets may not be as compassionate towards chickens as they are towards other birds so they would not be ideal to work with.
We have put together a list of recommended vets for chickens in NSW and ACT. Let me know if you find an excellent chicken vet who is not on the list or if you have a bad experience with anyone who is listed.