A Health Program for Small and Specialty Poultry Flocks

By The University of Maryland - This article looks at setting up and managing small flocks.
calendar icon 12 September 2004
clock icon 4 minute read
Good Neighbors A Health Program for Small and Specialty Poultry Flocks - By The University of Maryland - This article looks at setting up and managing small flocks. Practice Confinement Management. Always keep your poultry housed or in a fenced area. Never let poultry or other fowl run loose. Try to eliminate all contact between domestic poultry and free-flying waterfowl or other wild birds. Dead birds should be burned or buried at least one foot deep or properly composted.*

Avoid Mixing Types. Keep wild or tame waterfowl, cage or pet birds, ratites, and any other exotic birds on separate premises from chickens, turkeys and game birds. If this is not possible, maintain in separated, nonconnecting pens. It is important to raise all species separately, if possible, to minimize the spread of disease.

Wild waterfowl are reservoirs of avian influenza and other diseases; mixed-species poultry operations can serve as a catalyst for virus mutation and increase the risk for disease outbreaks. Just as chickens and turkeys should not be kept together, so should web-footed birds (ducks, geese and other waterfowl) be kept away from non-web-footed birds such as chickens, turkeys, game birds, etc.

Control Human Traffic. Lock doors. Allow visitors only after they have put on properly sanitized footwear, clothing and hats. Change clothes and footwear before leaving home and upon returning to your premises. Do not transfer fecal material and dust to or from your flock.

No Unsanitary Crates, Equipment or Vehicles. Insist that all buyers of poultry bring only clean, disinfected crates, equipment and vehicles onto your farm, with no visible fecal material or feathers.

Better yet, take your birds to a predetermined location. Clean your hauling equipment before returning home. Remember, one speck of fecal material or a feather can carry billions of infectious germs.

All In, All Out. Process the entire flock at least every 12 to 15 months when possible. Freeze the meat for later consumption.

Wash and disinfect the poultry house. Then leave it empty for two weeks. Replace flock with healthy chicks from a single source. Do not add any new stock until the next cleanup. Limit the number of different age groups on your farm.

When all-in, all-out is not possible, bring new stock onto your farm only by hatching fertile eggs that you have purchased, or by buying Pullorum-Typhoid Clean chicks. Adult birds can be disease carriers, even if they appear healthy.

Nutrition. Fresh, clean feed and water should be available at all times. Keep feeders and waterers clean. Use feeds that are balanced for the species being raised. For example, do not feed turkey feed to laying hens, chicken feed to game birds, or cattle feed to poultry.

Generally, day-old to 21-day-old birds, and birds under stress-- such as from moving and severe weather changes-- can benefit from vitamins and electrolytes added to their drinking water.

Health Specifications. Insist that (1) replacement chicks have been vaccinated against Marek’s disease; (2) all chickens, turkeys, game fowl or waterfowl purchased are officially classified as U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean. Participate in avian influenza testing programs where available.

Medication. Feeds used for day-old to eight-week-old turkeys and day-old to 16-week-old floor- or range-reared chickens should include a coccidiostat. After turkeys are eight weeks old, a blackhead preventative should be added to their feed. Nitarsone with bacitracin at low levels is the only medication cleared for prevention of blackhead.

According to law, a number of medications, including anticoccidial drugs, have a withdrawal time before meat or eggs can be consumed. Read and follow all label directions. For additional help, consult with your local veterinarian, county Extension educator or feed dealer.

* Burial and incineration subject to local environmental regulations. Check with your state Department of Agriculture representative.

Source: University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources - August 2004
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