How To Keep My Chickens Disease Free?

Written by: Mutinta Mulokota, Veterinary Doctor

Disease occurrence causes major losses both in livestock and poultry farming. Sick chickens result not only in reduced or poor production and reproduction, but also in increased mortalities. Despite hard work, we all know that this leads to increased economic losses for farmers.

You want to do everything you can to reduce the chances of an infectious disease being carried onto your farm by people, animals, equipment or vehicles. This is called biosecurity and it also means doing everything you can to reduce the chance of a disease leaving your farm, spreading to other farms. Though it may sound insignificant, biosecurity is one of the most important ways to  keep your chickens healthy and reducing the risk of disease occurrence in your chickens.

Components of biosecurity

Biosecurity refers to measures aimed at preventing the introduction and/or spread of harmful biological agents, like viruses, bacteria and parasites to animals, like:

Isolation:
Traffic control:

Sanitation:

How to keep your chickens safe? Keep your farm clean, break the chain of infection!

Firstly, do not wait for something to happen, identify potential risks or problems (as listed above) then put in place measures on how to deal with these problems.

Don’t bring the disease with you

  1. Place footbaths and tyre-baths at the entrance to your farm and poultry houses.
  2. Avoid bringing infection onto your farm or spread it around your farm on your clothes, footwear or hands. Human transportation of microorganisms is one of the more serious threats to biosecurity. Always wear clean, protective clothing and footwear before entering the farm/poultry house, which should later on be removed washed and disinfected after use.
  3. Strictly keep entrance of visitors onto your backyard, farm and poultry houses to a minimum. If possible, the site should be fenced with a controlled entry point. Always provide clean protective clothing and footwear for visitors and ensure to educate them about the importance of the biosecurity measures you have put in place.
  4. Incoming stock must be isolated from the rest of the flock for not less than 21 days and their health status monitored and tested.
  5. Always know the health status of the birds/eggs that you are going to buy. Only buy from trusted sources.
  6. Always isolate any chickens that look ill from the rest of the flock where they will receive treatment.
  7. Practice proper disposal of carcasses far from the poultry house where they’ll be destroyed by burning or burying.
  8. Use separate equipment or handle isolated stock last. Never re-enter your main flock buildings after dealing with isolated stock until you have washed and changed into cleaned overalls and boots.
  9. Try to limit exchanges in equipment, tools or supplies with other farmers and between poultry houses on the same farm as diseases can be easily spread. When sharing is necessary, make sure to clean and disinfect equipment before and after it reaches another property or poultry house.
  10. Never share items that cannot be properly cleaned, such as wooden pallets, fresh litter and cardboard egg cartons.
  11. Regularly change the litter. Wet, soiled litter promotes bacterial and parasite proliferation.
  12. Keep wild birds, dogs, cats, rodents or other livestock out of poultry buildings and feed stores.
  13. Keep areas around poultry houses and storage areas clean, tidy and well maintained. This helps avoid wild birds and animals being attracted onto the site and entering buildings and stores. Keep grass and weeds cut around poultry houses and remove used equipment or trash; this is beneficial in keeping rodent and insect populations under control as they can spread disease.
  14. Wild birds can carry poultry diseases hence, minimise contact between poultry and wild birds. Prevent accumulation of standing water and remove spilled feed that could attract wild birds as well as rats, mice and insects. Maintain buildings to ensure that wild birds do not nest or roost in them. Ensure to place wire meshes over the poultry house windows to help keep out wild birds, rodents and insects.
  15. Have an active and suitable rodent and pest control system in place both in and around the poultry house as well as in the store rooms. Be vigilant for evidence of vermin.
  16. Supply only clean fresh drinking water to birds. Water lines and drinkers must be flushed through and cleaned regularly. In the case of free-range birds, restrict access to possible sources of standing water used by wild birds.
  17. Feed bins and feeding equipment must be cleaned and maintained regularly. Feed silos and containers must be sealed to prevent animals and wild birds contaminating the feed.
  18. Feed should only be obtained from a trusted mill or supplier.
  19. Damaged eggs, dead birds, litter and manure may carry disease. Dispose of them promptly and properly.
  20. Regularly clean and disinfect all crates, containers and other equipment before and after use. Do not move any equipment into different poultry buildings without cleaning and disinfecting them first.
  21. At depopulation at the end of a cycle, thoroughly clean the building and all equipment and carry out rodent and other pest control. Remove all surplus feed, dead birds and litter. Cleaning equipment and protective clothing must also be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

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