A step in time saves nine

The Poultry Bulletin - - FRONT PAGE - This is an edited ex­tract of an ar­ti­cle first pub­lished by the Univer­sity of Ge­or­gia’s Col­lege of Agri­cul­tural and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence.

As back­yard or small scale poul­try pro­duc­tion grows in pop­u­lar­ity and pro­duc­ers look for more out­lets to sell their poul­try prod­ucts, small flock own­ers need to be aware of the health of their flock and try to take the nec­es­sary steps to pre­vent the spread of dis­ease to other poul­try.

Un­for­tu­nately, many of poul­try res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases have sim­i­lar clin­i­cal signs. Sneez­ing, gur­gling, laboured breath­ing, nasal dis­charge, swollen eyes and head all are symp­toms that can be as­so­ci­ated with res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease. Lab­o­ra­tory anal­y­sis is of­ten needed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate one dis­ease from an­other.

Of the res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases that can strike poul­try, the three of the most wor­ry­ing are Laryn­go­tra­cheitis (LT), In­fec­tious Bron­chi­tis (IB) and Avian In­fluenza (AI).


LTis an acute, highly con­ta­gious chicken

dis­ease. Typ­i­cal signs in­clude laboured breath­ing with ex­tended neck, chok­ing, sneez­ing and vig­or­ous shak­ing of the head. Mor­tal­ity is of­ten high with this in­fec­tion.

In­fec­tious Bron­chi­tis

IB is a highly con­ta­gious, rapid spread­ing dis­ease. Symp­toms may in­clude eye and nasal dis­charge, chok­ing, and sneez­ing with very high mor­tal­ity in young birds.

Avian In­fluenza

Now sadly very well known, AI has the po­ten­tial to in­flict se­ri­ous dam­age in any flock. The im­pact of this dis­ease can range from mi­nor res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion to 100% mor­tal­ity, de­pend­ing on the strain of virus. Symp­toms that can present them­selves in­clude chok­ing, sneez­ing, tear­ing, hud­dling, ruf­fled feath­ers, and swelling of the head and face. Proper quar­an­tine or de­pop­u­la­tion of AI pos­i­tive flocks is es­sen­tial in pre­vent­ing the spread of this dev­as­tat­ing dis­ease.

An Ounce of Pre­ven­tion

Many peo­ple know the say­ing ‘An ounce of pre­ven­tion is worth a pound of cure’. This is true for the small­est back­yard flock right through to the largest com­mer­cial en­ter­prise. Min­imis­ing dis­ease in small flocks is im­por­tant since they can act as reser­voirs of trans­mis­si­ble dis­ease to the com­mer­cial poul­try in­dus­try.

The first step in dis­ease pre­ven­tion is to know the en­emy. In the case of colds and flu, viruses are the cul­prit. Viruses can in­fil­trate a flock by air, wild birds, in­sect and ro­dent pests, new ad­di­tions to the flock, and hu­man traf­fic. An­tibi­otic treat­ments will not rid your birds of these or­gan­isms.

With vi­ral dis­ease, there is no ef­fec­tive treat­ment once a flock has de­vel­oped the dis­ease. Pre­ven­tion of vi­ral dis­ease is through ef­fec­tive hus­bandry and in some cases by vac­ci­na­tion. Thor­ough san­i­ta­tion, dis­in­fec­tion, and re­duced ex­po­sure to out­side sources of birds, ro­dents, and in­sect pests can re­duce the in­ci­dence of vi­ral in­fec­tion.

Early recog­ni­tion of dis­ease can re­duce the spread of in­fec­tion. Look for changes in eat­ing, drink­ing and be­havioural habits and for signs and sounds of res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress. Look for swelling in the face and eyes as this→

can be an­other sign of the de­vel­op­ment of res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease.

Buy your poul­try stock from rep­utable deal­ers. Signs of dis­ease usu­ally ap­pear 6-12 days af­ter nat­u­ral ex­po­sure. There­fore, be­fore in­tro­duc­tion into the flock, quar­an­tine new birds from the ex­ist­ing flock for at least 3 weeks, watch­ing for signs and symp­toms of dis­ease. Treat the new birds for in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal par­a­sites be­fore mix­ing them with the ex­ist­ing flock.

Sep­a­rate your flock by age, keep­ing young birds away from breed­ing stock to give them time to de­velop their im­mune sys­tems. Sep­a­rate the species where and when pos­si­ble. Some species may not be af­fected by cer­tain dis­eases and yet may serve as car­ri­ers of dis­ease to an­other species that is sus­cep­ti­ble. Wa­ter­fowl in par­tic­u­lar serve as un­af­fected car­ri­ers of dis­ease or­gan­isms.

Be mind­ful of an­i­mals, ob­jects, and peo­ple that en­ter your premises. Res­pi­ra­tory dis­charge, fae­ces, and bird-to-bird con­tact are the main modes of vi­ral trans­mis­sion.

Min­imise free rang­ing of the flock by main­tain­ing some form of con­fine­ment to lessen the chance for ex­po­sure.

Main­tain good air qual­ity through ven­ti­la­tion while pro­vid­ing needed warmth. Block drafts to min­imise chill­ing and hud­dling. Cold-stressed birds are more sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease than birds kept in a sta­ble tem­per­a­ture en­vi­ron­ment.

Pro­vide ap­pro­pri­ate nu­tri­tion. Use prop­erly for­mu­lated di­ets as found at com­mer­cial re­tail­ers. Nu­tri­ent re­quire­ments will in­crease dur­ing the win­ter months when birds have to com­pen­sate for low tem­per­a­tures in their liv­ing quar­ters.

Im­ple­ment wild bird and pest con­trol mea­sures. Wild birds, par­tic­u­larly wa­ter­fowl, can serve as reser­voirs of res­pi­ra­tory dis­ease. Ro­dents and in­sects have been shown to har­bour pathogens that are trans­mis­si­ble to poul­try.

When birds die from dis­ease or un­known causes, rapid dis­posal of car­casses is im­por­tant to pre­vent dis­ease trans­fer. Mor­tal­ity should be re­moved promptly to pre­vent scav­eng­ing by the re­main­ing birds. Bury, burn, or com­post your mor­tal­ity away from the rest of the flock.

Do not sell dis­eased or sus­pect birds through lo­cal av­enues such as flea mar­kets or live an­i­mal sales, as this will only per­pet­u­ate the spread of dis­ease to un­pro­tected flocks.

Im­ple­ment­ing these dis­ease pre­ven­tion prac­tices can help pro­mote health and well-be­ing to your poul­try en­ter­prise and re­duce the frus­tra­tion and eco­nomic loss of­ten as­so­ci­ated with death loss due to pre­ventable dis­ease out­break.¡

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