Poul­try Pen

In­ter­nal Par­a­sites, by Andy Cawthray

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month - Andy Cawthray

If you hatch and rear your own chick­ens you will prob­a­bly en­counter ei­ther ex­ter­nal par­a­sites ( Poul­try, Oc­to­ber) or the in­ter­nal va­ri­ety, or both if you are un­lucky. If you buy in point of lay stock you should prob­a­bly pre­pare for at least one en­counter, but, ei­ther way, know­ing what to do and how to pre­vent in­ter­nal par­a­sites oc­cur­ring will not only im­prove the wel­fare of your birds, but will avoid po­ten­tially costly treat­ments in the fu­ture, cou­pled with a lack of pro­duc­tiv­ity.

Coc­cid­io­sis

Coc­cid­io­sis, of­ten re­ferred to sim­ply as ‘cocci’, is a par­a­site-in­duced ill­ness that can be de­bil­i­tat­ing and fa­tal to chick­ens. Young grow­ing stock will be ex­posed to the par­a­site (Coc­cidia pro­to­zoan) at some point in their lives and they will usu­ally de­velop an im­mu­nity to it, ei­ther be­cause the ex­po­sure is at a low level, or be­cause they have sur­vived the re­sult­ing ill­ness.

Ar­ti­fi­cially reared birds can be par­tic­u­larly at risk of con­tract­ing the con­di­tion when they are first put outdoors.

The out­ward signs of the dis­ease are a hunched, fluffed-up bird with drooped wings; it can also present it­self as blood in the drop­pings of the bird, al­though this doesn’t al­ways oc­cur. The con­di­tion can be con­firmed by hav­ing fae­cal sam­ples tested by a vet.

A rapid re­sponse to tack­ling the prob­lem is re­quired, as it can very quickly spread through­out the whole flock when the in­fected drop­pings come into con­tact with un­in­fected birds, po­ten­tially wip­ing out a batch of young birds within days. Keep­ing ground lit­ter dry and clean can help to pre­vent its oc­cur­rence, but clean­ing the coop and run with a suit­able par­a­sitic cleanser and us­ing an oral med­i­ca­tion sup­plied by a vet will be re­quired in the event of an out­break.

Par­a­sitic worms

Chick­ens are no dif­fer­ent from most other an­i­mals in that they are sus­cep­ti­ble to in­fes­ta­tion by par­a­sitic worms that have evolved to ex­ploit them. The two groups that are sig­nif­i­cant to chick­ens are flat­worms (ces­todes and trema­todes) and round­worms (ne­ma­todes). Both of these types of worms live within chick­ens, feed­ing off their host and re­pro­duc­ing while pro­tected from the out­side world.

An in­fes­ta­tion of worms can re­duce the nu­tri­ent up­take of the chicken and dis­rupt its im­mune sys­tem by cre­at­ing an ad­di­tional bur­den. In most cases chick­ens will de­velop a level of re­sis­tance to worm

in­fec­tion, al­though if the flock is kept on the same area of land the worm count can in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly and the flock may be­come heav­ily in­fested.

Reg­u­lar worm­ing can be per­formed us­ing off-the-shelf poul­try worm­ers if move­ment to fresh ground is lim­ited. Ad­di­tion­ally, worm­ing in the spring and again in the au­tumn is ad­vis­able in or­der to re­duce the risk of other dis­eases com­pro­mis­ing the flock.

Buyer be­ware

As the show sea­son ap­proaches a num­ber of peo­ple will be vis­it­ing the big two, namely the Na­tional Poul­try Show (1-2 De­cem­ber) in Telford and the Fed­er­a­tion Cham­pi­onship Show (15-16 De­cem­ber) at the Stafford­shire County Show­ground.

For some it will be their first time. They will wan­der along the aisles of chick­ens ad­mir­ing the con­form­ity and at­ten­tion to de­tail that each breeder has put into the pro­duc­tion of their birds. They may also find them­selves in the sale pens and con­sid­er­ing pur­chas­ing a pair or trio to breed their own show en­tries. Be aware, though, that two rosette win­ning birds are highly un­likely to pro­duce show win­ning off­spring.

In fact, it is more likely that the two iden­ti­cal look­ing chick­ens when mated to the same part­ner will pro­duce dif­fer­ent off­spring. They may look the same (have the same phe­no­type), but ac­tu­ally con­tain dif­fer­ent genes mak­ing up their phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance (have a dif­fer­ent geno­type). Such sit­u­a­tions read­ily arise in com­plex ge­netic colour forms such as Buff. The bird’s out­ward ap­pear­ance will be Buff in colour, but it may carry a re­ces­sive white gene when the phe­no­typ­i­cally iden­ti­cal bird next to it does not. It is im­por­tant to un­der­stand the hered­ity of a bird when pur­chas­ing it if the in­ten­tion is to breed, in or­der to avoid un­fore­seen chick colours emerg­ing. There­fore make sure you ask ques­tions to avoid dis­ap­point­ment.

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