Vet’s Fo­rum

Country Smallholding - - Inside This Month -

Wel­fare ad­vice from poul­try vet Vic­to­ria Roberts

Q We have just in­vested in a small flock of young chick­ens, all about 18 weeks old, and we have two small chil­dren who ob­vi­ously love them. Can you ad­vise on whether there are any dis­eases that are eas­ily spread from birds to hu­mans with ev­ery­day con­tact and, if so, what are the best pre­cau­tions to take to safe­guard the chil­dren.


Con­grat­u­la­tions on start­ing a won­der­ful hobby for all the fam­ily. I hope that you are us­ing good qual­ity feed and that the hens have al­ready been vac­ci­nated. Treats are tempt­ing to use, but keep these to a min­i­mum so that the hens get the nutri­tion they need from the pel­lets. Never use any treats or food scraps that have been in a do­mes­tic kitchen — this is the law to avoid dis­ease trans­fer­ence to the hens (and thus in to the eggs) from path­o­genic bac­te­ria. If you grow veg­eta­bles, sur­plus ones can be fed di­rectly to the hens, but not via the kitchen. Keep wild birds away from the chick­ens’ area and ideally keep the feed and water un­der cover so that wild birds are not at­tracted since they bring in many dis­eases.

Have a dis­in­fec­tant foot dip (eg, Virkon) at the en­trance to the hen run to min­imise trans­fer­ence of poo to other ar­eas. If the hens are free range, their poo will be ab­sorbed in to the ground quickly on a daily ba­sis. Keep a check on any ex­ter­nal par­a­sites ei­ther on the hens or in the hous­ing since red mite (in the hous­ing dur­ing day­light hours) can take a meal off a per­son. Make sure that hands are washed af­ter touch­ing the chicken lit­ter or the chick­ens them­selves, as sal­monella and campy­lobac­ter can be trans­ferred. The risk is low, how­ever, if the hens have been vac­ci­nated and com­mer­cially reared, but higher if they have been back­yard reared. Bear in mind that we all need our peck of dirt to keep our im­mune sys­tems func­tion­ing prop­erly.

Make sure that hands are washed af­ter touch­ing chick­ens

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