If you live in a warm climate and you keep chickens and perhaps even breed them, the chances are that sooner or later you see Fowl Pox or Avian Pox.
The incubation period for the disease is from four days to two weeks and the disease can least for three to five weeks in affected chickens. It can pass to other chickens through skin wounds, insect bites, by feathers and scabs although the most common method of spread is by mosquitoes carrying it from bird to bird.
If a bird is infected it usually gets a bit slow or quiet. It might have sniffles, lose its appetite and just be a bit off for a few days. A couple of days later you might notice some white blisters forming which later go darker and dry up into the typical scabs that you know as pox lesions. The sores begin looking like a blister or perhaps a pimple that later fills with fluid and then pus. These then break open and a crust or scab forms over it. These sores occur mainly on the unfeathered skin areas such as the comb, the wattles, the face and possibly the legs. In extreme cases chickens can get these lesions all over their body under their feathers.
There is not a lot that can be done to treat fowl pox except to support the chicken while its own immune system fights off the disease. You can house the bird in ideal conditions and make sure it’s fed well and stress-free. You can remove any scabs around the mouth and eyes that inhibit the bird’s ability to see or eat and drink. Putting an antiseptic like Betadine or a topical treatment like aloe vera on the lesions can help a little. You need to make sure the birds can find their food and water containers and can eat and drink while they are in recovery.
A complication that can arise in some cases is secondary bacterial respiratory infections. This may require antibiotic treatment as fowls can succumb to this fairly quickly when they are laid low by the initial disease.
Chickens should naturally recover from pox in a few weeks and are be immune from that point onward. In some cases they can get a second incidence of disease but it will be milder. Reducing the mosquito population can help manage the spread of disease.
It is possible in some cases to vaccinate for avian pox. You should consult with your avian vet for information on acquiring the vaccine. It can be done at any age. Two injections are usually required and the it is give with a double pronged needle into the wing web. Vaccines are often sold in large doses suitable for a commercial situation, and also have particular transport requirements that make it expensive to obtain them. If you are keen to try vaccinations it may be worth contacting your local hatcheries as some will include backyard breeders chicks with their own vaccination batches for a small fee. Vaccination is a hotly debated iss and it is worth noting that there are breeders choose not to go ahead with vaccinations for differing reasons.