How to Practice Biosecurity in Your Own Backyard Silkie Flock

7a31a8c5e329aa4f6b0d5ac6083b2c62Everyone wants their chickens to be healthy, but are you truly giving them the best protection possible?  There are some very lethal poultry diseases out there and you may, without even knowing it, be bringing those pathogens into your backyard. It is important to think about setting up some kind of defense between disease and your birds.

When we use the term “Biosecurity” we are talking about a system of methods that, used correctly, will help to protect your birds from the unseen viruses and bacteria that are looking for a new home. We don’t want that new home to be your chicken coop.

There are many contagious diseases out there that can effect your flock.  There has been an outbreak of Virulent Newcastle Disease is southern California this summer.  This particular outbreak is effecting small backyard flocks and not the large commercial poultry houses like we saw with the Avian Flu a few years back. The Newcastle outbreak highlights the need for year round poultry biosecurity.  If biosecurity is not practiced it would be very easy for Newcastle disease to make its way across the United States infecting birds as it hitches a ride on the tires of a truck or on the bottom of someone’s shoe.

The first thing that you can do is to keep things clean in your own backyard.  Something as simple as washing your hands or using hand sanitizer  before entering or exiting your bird area can be effective. Change food and water daily in your pen.  Clean and disinfect cages, tools or other equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings. There are several good disinfecting products.  I use Oxivir on everything. Other good products include Oxine and Virkon S.  Cleaning and disinfecting are important steps to keep your bird’s environment healthy.  Disinfectants only work effectively when you first clean all dirt,  manure, and bird droppings from your tools, cages, boots and equipment. Clean these things outside of your house to keep germs outside.

Have a separate set of clothes and shoes that you wear only in your poultry area. I have a pair of slogger boots that I only wear when I am doing chicken chores. They slip on and off easily and can be cleaned daily with a garden hose.  I do not go down to the chicken coop unless I am wearing those boots. I have a set of snowmobile boots that I use in the winter for chicken chores. When I go into the house I change into my house shoes.  Those shoes I will wear in the brooder room and the incubation area.  I wear an apron in the brooder room that is washable.  Outside in the adult chicken area I have a coat that I only wear when doing chicken chores. It is washable as well. I also wear gloves that are easily washed as well.   It is important to me to keep the adult chicken germs away from the baby chick area and the rest of the house.  Wash and disinfect shoes and clothes often.

It is important to keep other people and other birds away from your flock as much as possible. That includes birds you just bought and wild birds. Both could carry disease to your chickens.  Restrict access to your property and your birds.  Avoid visiting farms or other households with poultry.  At your own place, do not let visitors near your birds at all if they have their own birds. It is sad to have to say this, but you need to protect your flock.  If you can’t avoid contact with others then make sure that you disinfect your shoes and clothes before being with your birds again.  This is why you need separate boots and coats that you only use with your chickens.  Don’t use other people poultry equipment without disinfecting it first.

If you like to exhibit birds at poultry shows, make sure that you quarantine birds for at least two weeks after the event. Wear different shoes and clothing when at the show or fair and disinfect when you return home. Disinfect cages that were used for transport.

Be sure to buy birds from a reputable source. Check and see what kind of biosecurity they practice.   Someone who is an NPIP breeder has their flock pullorum tested every year and can only buy from others who are NPIP.  A state inspected hatchery has a state vet come out and inspect the premises every year and discusses biosecurity standards with them.  Whoever you do buy from make sure that you keep new birds quarantined for at least 30 days.

Don’t let wild birds have contact with your flock.  If your birds are outside, consider keeping them in a screened area. Do not let wild birds eat food in your chicken run. This will also help keep insects and rodents away.  Hang fly strips or fly traps in the coop. Flies can transmit disease on the bottom of their feet. Put out mouse traps and clean up spilled feed to keep your area rodent free.

Change is always hard especially if you are used to doing things in a certain way. Just pick one suggestion and start with that. Once it becomes a habit, choose another biosecurity measure to implement.  You will feel better knowing that you are keeping your flock safe and healthy.

 

 

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

cute Chicken cartoon character with stop sign

 

Respiratory Health in the Silkie Chicken Flock

20180119_124720-1     During this cold snap you may hear some strange sounds coming from your flock.  All of a sudden you may hear a high pitched squeak which begins to sound like a sneeze. That is a red flag that one of your birds may becoming down with some kind of respiratory issue.  Upon closer examination you may see that your bird has a runny nose or watery eyes.  This is the time to take action and isolate that bird from the rest of the flock.

Respiratory issues in poultry can be either a minor problem or a major problem depending on the severity of it.  Most of the time it can be easily dealt with. However, there are some deadly respiratory diseases that can effect your entire flock and medicine will need to be given.

One cause of sneezing and cold- like symptoms in poultry can be all of the dust that can collect in a coop.  Chickens can cough, splutter and get watery eyes if they breath too much dust in. Dust can come from the pine shaving you use as bedding or just from the dander on the birds themselves. You may want to switch to a dust free bedding or use sand or straw.  Use an air hose to blow out the dust in the coop periodically. Install fans to blow air out or the coop so that dust can’t collect.  Let your birds free range when they can or be out in their runs all year.

When cleaning the coop and changing bedding it would be a good idea for you, too, to wear some kind of face or mask protection.  Dust, dirt and chicken feces particles and not good for your lungs. People that work in the poultry industry routinely wear masks when cleaning.

Any kind of stress can also cause your chicken to start to display respiratory distress.  Extreme temperatures , being transported and crowded conditions all add to a lowering of the immune system and coughing and sneezing can result.  Make sure that your coop is not too crowded and that the coop is well ventilated.  You need fresh air freely flowing through the coop.

The introduction of a new bird to the flock can cause stress as a new pecking order needs to be established.  Chickens love routine and anything that is new or different can stress them out.  That new bird could also be a carrier and be bringing in new viruses.  Quarantine is very important when adding new birds. A minimum of three weeks is needed to protect the rest of your flock from incoming diseases.  Buy chickens from trustworthy sources who you know have healthy birds.

Check your birds daily for signs of respiratory illness. Symptoms include sneezing or sniffling, runny nose or mucus coming out of the nose, watery eyes or swollen sinuses.  Isolate the bird if you see these symptoms in a crate and if possible keep it where you can observe it.  Your bird is contagious.  Change the bedding in the coop to try and keep germs from spreading to the rest of your flock.  Treat with some Vetrx around the nostrils or even in the water.  Use some Terramycin or Vetericyn in the eyes if they are watery or are closing shut.

You can bolster your bird’s immune system by giving them probiotics and plain yogurt. Chopped garlic added to the water is good for the immune system.  So is adding dill, oregano and thyme to the feed. I always add apple cider vinegar to my chicken’s water water to help with digestion and to improve health.  Vitamins and electrolytes also work well for overall health.

There are some serious respiratory diseases:

 

Causes of Respiratory Illness in Adult Chickens
Disease Occurrence in Backyard Flocks Distinctive Signs of Illness Average Mortality Rate
Mycoplasmosis Common Foamy eye discharge, more common in winter, roosters usually
show more severe signs
Usually none
Infectious coryza Common Swollen face or wattles, gunky eyes, foul odor, more common
summer and fall
5–20 percent
Infectious bronchitis Common Decreased egg production Usually none
Newcastle disease Mild strains are common. Highly deadly strains are absent from
chickens in the United States.
May also cause diarrhea, staggering, paralysis, sudden
death
5–99 percent
Fowl cholera (chronic form) Not so common Swollen face, gunky eyes, rattling or difficulty breathing,
more common in late summer
0–20 percent
Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) Not so common Gasping, coughing up bloody mucous, dried blood around nostrils
and lower beak
10–20 percent
Avian influenza Rare (Deadly strains are absent from chickens in the United
States)
Droopy birds, rattling breathing sounds, diarrhea, sudden
death
5–99 percent

*taken from Chicken Health For Dummies

If you feel that your chickens have one of these diseases, you should probably call a vet.  They will give you antibiotic for their water or antibiotics given with injections.

The problem with these more serious diseases is that the symptoms are the same as lesser illnesses.  Unless you do a blood test you will never know for sure what you have.  Treatment is the same for any respiratory disease.  Complete recovery may take 2-4 weeks.  Your bird may recover but become a long term carrier of the infection.  A healthy looking hen could be contagious to others because she carries the disease.

Vibatra is an all natural antibiotic alternative.  Homeopathic sprays are another natural alternative to antibiotics.

Amoxfin is an antibiotic used for tropical fish that you can get over the internet and put in their water.  Tylan is an antibiotic injection that you can find at places that sell chicken supplies.

It is important to know whether your bird is contagious if you are planning on selling birds or if you take them to shows.

Silkies have a hard time seeing with their large crests and muffs.  Many times I will see eye issues because feathers had lodged themselves into their eyes and are acting as a irritant.  Keep their crests and muffs trimmed if this is an issue.

Some people think that silkies need more vitamins than other breeds of chickens. You may want to feed them a better quality feed or give them vitamins in their water to help their immune system. Check out “When Something Is Wrong With My Silkie”

For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com .  VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul.  We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available.  Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.

Victoria J. Peterson

 

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