Blog Busters: Sorting through online misinformation

Published on Sat, 06/28/2014 - 8:32am

Twenty four years ago, I was just out of college and purchased my first baby chicks. At that time, there were no blogs or forums about chickens, and chicken-related books and magazines were thin on the ground. Today, it seems like information about chickens is everywhere. While you can find useful information, there is, unfortunately, a lot of bad information out there that could harm or even kill your chickens. 

 

Ask the experts

Chicken Whisperer Magazine contributors Dr. Brigid McCrea, PhD; Peter Brown, aka The Chicken Doctor; and I often deal with this topic on my web radio show. People call in to discuss their chickens’ health issues, and we often learn that the caller relied on an ineffective or even harmful treatment sourced from a chicken-related blog or forum. Even when the treatment isn’t outright harmful, this delay in starting an effective treatment resulted in the death of their birds.

An example of an ineffective treatment that comes to mind is feeding a cup of store-bought yogurt to chickens each day to increase the good bacteria in their gut. While people think they are helping their chickens, Brigid has repeatedly informed our listeners that chickens aren’t equipped with the necessary enzymes to digest dairy products, including milk, cheese—and yogurt. These dairy products can cause diarrhea in chickens. In fact, chicken farmers at one time fed their chickens massive amounts of milk during a coccidiosis outbreak, hoping the resulting diarrhea would flush out the disease. 

Peter often tells listeners that store bought yogurt does not have enough good bacteria to provide any benefit, but contains plenty of bad ingredients your chickens don’t need­—like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial colors and flavors. And since one cup of store bought yogurt costs around $1.00, you’ll be wasting about $30.00 per month, per chicken. 

Effective treatment

To improve your chickens’ gut health, look at one of several probiotics on the market designed specifically for them. Added to their water source, these probiotics are not only more effective than yogurt, they are more reasonably priced, so you’re not only helping your chickens, you’re also saving money. 

I understand why chicken blogs and forums are so popular—people love their chickens. And with a vet visit averaging $100.00 combined with a nationwide shortage of veterinarians qualified to treat chickens, people are searching for alternative ways to provide affordable care. Unfortunately, not all of the information found on chicken-related blogs and forums is correct. And this erroneous, and in some cases outright wrong, information can delay seeking proper care. This delay can then lead to the unnecessary death of a chicken that could have been avoided if proper treatment were sought in the first place. 

Again, just because a person has kept chickens for a year or two and has a popular blog doesn’t mean all of the information they present is correct. When reading any chicken related blog or forum, ask yourself: Where is the proof? Facts will trump opinion every time.