Chicken breeds fall into three basic categories — egg producers, meat birds and dual-purpose types. Broilers, in the second category, have been engineered to mature quickly, ready to market as early as 6 weeks of age. The commercial market depends on just a few broiler breeds or types. These birds don’t make good pets if you’re not in the market for meat. They’re not bred for longevity, and size creates issues in older birds.
The most common type of broiler isn’t an actual breed but is a cross of the white rock and Cornish chickens. Male Cornish/white rock crosses weigh about 4.5 pounds by the age of 6 weeks. If kept around five weeks longer, they weigh in at about 9.5 pounds. Females of this cross, known as Cornish game hens, grow more slowly, weighing approximately 2.5 pounds at 5 weeks old. Like other white-feathered meat birds, their carcasses don’t have discolored areas on the skin because of feather growth.
Red broilers, or Label Rouge, don’t mature as fast as the Cornish crosses. It takes them twice as long — 12 weeks — to reach market size. Males mature at about 7 pounds and females at 5 pounds. If you want to raise broilers outdoors instead of in an indoor facility, red broilers make a good choice. As their name implies, these birds have feathering of various shades of red, and some have dark tails. Hens produce large brown eggs but won’t go broody. That means you must incubate the fertilized eggs if you want to raise another red broiler generation.
Developed in the 1940s, Delaware chickens resulted from crossing Rhode Island Red hens with Barred Plymouth Rock roosters. At one time, Delawares were widely used in the broiler industry, but the Livestock Conservancy — which monitors rare breeds — now lists them as threatened. The Delawares’ white bodies sport black barring on their necks and tails. Males mature early, tipping the scales at 8 pounds; hens are smaller at 6 pounds. Unlike some other broiler breeds, Delawares are also useful for small-scale egg production.
Other breeds or types of broiler chickens are generally Cornish crosses. You can find these chicks for sale in large-scale hatcheries across the country. A relatively new breed is the Rosambro, a chicken resembling a red broiler with faster growth. Expect a Rosambro to mature between the ages of 8 to 10 weeks. Other common meat breeds don’t grow as quickly as broilers.
Baby chicks are really quite easy to raise. With a few pieces of equipment and a small place to put them, success in brooding and rearing is virtually assured. During this period of the bird’s life, the most important needs are for warmth, protection, feed, and water. When growing chicks of any species-chickens, turkeys, pheasants, or almost any other production bird-each of these aspects must be considered.
Natural vs. artificial brooding
In nature, chicks hatch after 2 to 4 weeks of incubation by the parents, most often the hen. The hatched chicks provide the stimulus to the hen to change her work from incubating eggs to brooding young. This form of brooding chicks is the easiest if only a few chicks are raised because the mother hen does all the work.
Hens that are “good mothers” include Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, Plymouth Rock, Cochins, and Silkies. Under natural brooding, chicks can easily be fostered under a broody hen at night, and she will raise them as her own even if they are pheasants, turkeys, quail, or waterfowl.
When broody hens are not available, or large numbers of chicks are to be raised, artificial brooding is necessary. Chicks will perform equally well under artificial or natural brooding, providing they are precocial; that is, able to walk and feed themselves within hours of hatching, as baby chickens are.
Novice growers are not advised to try artificial brooding for altricial chicks; that is, chicks such as pigeons, doves, finches, and parrots that remain in the nest to be cared for and fed by the parents. Many of these chicks are naked, blind, and unable to walk for several weeks after hatching and require around-the-clock care and feeding.
Chick brooders can be elaborate pieces of equipment such as tiered battery brooders (Figure 1) or as simple as a cardboard box (Figure 2) in the house or garage. In both cases, the most important aspect is to maintain conditions that allow the birds to thrive.
Because birds in battery brooders are kept in multiple layers, many chicks can be brooded in a relatively small amount of floor space. There are many designs. Most include an electric heat source at one end, usually in an area that is somewhat enclosed; another area, about two to three times the size of the heated area, is not heated. The walls and floor of each brooding area most often are wire. A droppings pan under the wire floor requires regular cleaning. In many cases, feed and water are provided outside the brooding space, making management easier. Battery brooders are an excellent way to brood chicks in a small space. However, chicks can remain in these brooders only a few weeks before they outgrow them. In addition, the cost to purchase one of these units is high.
Most growers will choose to brood chicks on the floor (Figure 3). Material requirements are minimal, but the environment is comparable to battery brooding.
Some type of bedding material or litter is required. Litter must be absorbent and must insulate the chicks from the ground. Most important, litter must not be slippery. A slippery floor, such as newspaper, cardboard, or a glass-bottom aquarium, is disastrous for baby chicks. Many chicks will develop “spraddles,” a condition in which their hip joints become dislocated, which is nearly always fatal. Ideal litter is sawdust or wood shavings; straw can be used if it is chopped into short lengths and is not moldy. Litter must be changed or top dressed (clean litter added over the dirty) if it becomes wet, and that must be done more often as the birds age.
A draft shield is cardboard or wire that surrounds the brooding area (Figure 3). The sides of a box used for brooding act as a draft shield. The draft shield provides two important functions. As its name implies, it reduces the possibility that drafts will reach the birds. It also keeps the birds close to feed, water, and heat. In some cases, young chicks become “lost” and succumb to the elements if brooded in too large an area. Draft shields can be removed after about 1 to 2 weeks, unless conditions are extremely cold or drafty.
For small numbers of birds, heat usually is provided by heat lamps or light bulbs. When large numbers (200 or more) are brooded together, it may be more economical to use propane hovers. Many types of hovers are available if desired. Proper temperature must be maintained if the chicks are to thrive. During the first few weeks, chicks are cold blooded; that is, unable to maintain their body temperature. As they age, they become warm blooded; that is, able to maintain constant body temperature under normal environmental conditions.
Two methods of monitoring chicks’ environmental temperature are used successfully. First, start chicks at about 95°F (measured near the heat source at chick height), dropping the temperature about 5°F each week until the birds are feathered or ambient temperature is reached.
The second method relies on observing the chicks (Figure 4). If the chicks are all under the heat source, it is too cold; if they are all far away from the heat, it’s too hot; if they are clumped away from the heat, it is drafty; if they are milling about in all areas of the pen, the temperature is correct.
When brooding in a small area, take care that both warm and cool areas are available to the chicks so they can move from warm to cool and back again at will. Otherwise, chicks can get chilled or over-heated when only cool or warm conditions are available.
Baby chicks are small when they hatch but grow quite rapidly. Broiler chicks reach 5 pounds in little more than 6 weeks. Therefore, chicks need space to grow. Space usually is not limiting in most small-flock situations; in fact, most chickens reared in small flocks have plenty of space.
Minimum space requirements are as follows:
- For broilers, 0.75 to 1 square foot per bird
- For Leghorns and bantams, 1.5 to 2 square feet per bird
- For heavy breeds, 2.5 to 3 square feet per bird
- For turkeys, 3 to 4 square feet per bird
- For game birds, double or triple the requirements for turkeys
Feeder and waterer space
Feeder space requirements vary with feeder type and the age of the birds. The rule of thumb is that all the birds should be able to eat or drink at the same time. Therefore, when using trough feeders or waterers, allow 1.5 to 4 inches per bird. When using circular feeders or waterers, allow about 1 to 2.75 inches per bird.
Light is a powerful stimulus for most production birds. The small producer should consider both light intensity and photo-period (day length). Light intensity is the brightness of the light as measured in foot candles (the amount of light a candle emits at a distance of 1 foot). Most chicks can be started at about 2 foot candles and reduced to 0.5 to 1 foot-candle at after 1 week. An easy rule is that if you can read a newspaper, there is enough light. If light in the brooder is too bright, the chicks may begin feather picking.
Photoperiod is the number of hours of light in a 24-hour period. Ideally, chicks that will be kept for laying should be raised under 24 hours of light for about the first week. Then, light should be dropped to about 16 hours a day until about 10 weeks of age. Between 10 and 20 weeks, chicks should be placed either on short days (less than 12 hours of light a day) or a decreasing day length. In the latter case, reduce day length by 15 minutes each week.
Under natural light, spring-hatched chicks reach maturity under decreasing day lengths. The reverse is true of chicks hatched in the late summer and fall. If chicks are given long or increasing day lengths too early, they will begin laying early and may have poor production their entire lives.
Broiler chicks should be raised in 24-hour light for maximum growth rate. Various lighting schedules can reduce energy usage while maintaining the birds’ growth rates. However, these schedules may be complicated, and they must be strictly followed or their effectiveness is greatly reduced.
Modern Broiler Poultry Housing
Broilers are raised for commercial meat production and they gain maturity within a very short period of time. They are genetically improved and have a great meat production efficiency. But for proper growth and maximum production from your birds, you have to make a suitable house for them and ensure good environment. Modern fast growing broilers are more dependent on suitable environmental conditions than any other poultry birds. So suitable broiler poultry housing is very important for commercial and profitable production. Here we are describing more about the steps for constructing a suitable house for your broiler production business.
On an average wood, concrete or steel trusses and supports are used for constructing broiler poultry houses. And the houses are usually clear span structures from side wall to side wall. Steel trusses or concrete poles are used to support the weight of the roof. If you use trusses, then you don’t have to use support posts (which make the house cleaning process and bird catching process harder). The floor of broiler house is usually compacted dirt that is covered with various types of bedding materials. You can use rice hulls, sand, wood shavings, peanut hulls etc. for making the bed over the floor. For commercial production, the better dimensions of your broiler poultry housing will be 40 to 50 ft wide, 400 to 600 ft long with about 8 ft sidewalls. Although, the dimension may vary depending on the number of birds and your production purpose.
Build dropped ceilings for improving ventilation and reducing heating costs. Dropped ceilings act as a vapour barrier, and help to protect the trusses and ceiling insulation. It reduces the ceiling surface area. Dropped ceilings also allow the installation of ceiling insulation for reducing heat loss during cold weather and heat gain during hot weather. You can construct broiler house that is well insulated with blown in cellulose or fibre glass batt insulation for reducing heat loss in the winter and heat gain during the summer. Recommended insulation values are at least R-21 and R-7 (both in the ceiling and walls).
Solid Side Walls
Most of the broiler poultry producers around the world used to construct houses with solid side walls, instead of having open sides with curtains. You can also use solid side walls for better insulation. This will help to reduce air leaks, provide better light control and will allow the house to be heated more efficiently. Compared to the open sides walls with posts, solid side walls will provide a smooth surface. This also help to improve air speed during tunnel ventilation (this will help to increase the cooling of birds next to the wall). Modern poultry producers are now building larger houses (as large as 70 * 600 ft) for commercial production.
Maintaining proper temperature is very important for broiler poultry farming business. For proper growth and profitable broiler poultry production, you must have to maintain proper temperature system. So heating a broiler house is extremely important. Usually broiler chickens can’t maintain their body temperature until they reach approximately 14 days of age. During this period, you have to keep the chicks under a strictly managed temperature between 85° to 90° Fahrenheit with minimum variation. Usually broiler poultry housing heating systems include forced air furnaces, radiant brooders, pancake brooders and radiant tube heaters. Tube and brooders are used for heating the floor, and the hot air furnaces heat the air first which then heats the floor. Usually cold air is heavier than hot air. This can result in stratification with the air being warmer at the ceiling than at the floor. You can use circulation fans for moving hot air from the ceiling down to the floor of the house. For saving fuel and improving the litter conditions, you can use circulation fans to mix the coll and warm air. While mixing cool and warm air, the warmer air helps to dry the litter. You can also use paddle fans for mixing air (but be very careful while using paddle fans and ensure that the chicks are not exposed to drafts).
Good ventilation system is also very important for broiler poultry housing. Proper ventilation delivers fresh air and removes excess heat, moisture and undesirable gases from the house. Proper broiler house ventilation system includes fans, air inlets, evaporative cooling system and thermostats/controller. Ventilation systems are of two types. Cold weather ventilation and hot weather ventilation system.
- Cold Weather Ventilation: Negative pressure ventilation is used to provide fresh air inside the house during cold weather. It removes excessive moisture and minimize the heat loss. Fans used for broiler house ventilation system, exhaust air out of the house by creating a slight negative pressure inside the house. Due to the negative pressure, fresh air is pulled into the house. And the fresh air enters through some planned air inlets. The air inlets are installed either in the ceiling or high on the house side wall. These inlets are designed to direct air across the ceiling allowing it to mix with warmer air located there and to heat up before coming into contact with the birds. Check temperature and determine the heating necessity. Doing this will help to minimize heating costs. For large scale commercial production, you can install automatic computer controllers.
- Hot Weather Ventilation: For keeping the birds cool during hot weather, you can use tunnel ventilation. Tunnel ventilation system in the broiler house consists of large air inlets at one end and fans at the opposite end. The fans used in one end pull air the length of the house at a velocity of 500 ft per minute. This system removes excessive heat from the building very fast and make a wind chill that provides the broiler birds additional cooling. Evaporative cooling system is also used for cooling the broiler house, when tunnel ventilation system alone is not sufficient enough.
Controlling House Environment
Controlling house environment is very important. You must have to have the facilities to control the temperature, moisture etc. This will result a comfortable environment and your broiler birds will grow well. Ensure that, your birds are not diverting energy from growth to stay cool or warm. For commercial broiler production purpose, use computer controlled environment system. Set alarms if the environment changed suddenly. Setup generators for constant power supply. In a word, do everything that are required for controlling the house environment perfect for the birds. And this will make good result and maximum production.
A good poultry house protects the bird from harmful animals and adverse environment conditions. Good house means ‘the house which has all the facilities required by the broiler poultry birds’. A poultry house must have the necessary facilities of well ventilation, capturing moisture, sufficient air and light movement, lighting, liter management etc. Broiler poultry are different than layer. They need more lighting period for consuming more food and drinking more water for proper growth. Before constructing broiler poultry housing, you must have to learn the process of building a poultry house. Keep in mind the following topics while building house for your broiler poultry birds.
- Broiler poultry housing system needs to be located in a higher place, free from flood.
- The selected area for building the house will be slightly higher than surrounding area.
- The house will be far from residential area.
- It will be better, if the house is located in a calm and quite place.
- Make proper drainage system inside the broiler poultry house.
- Always keep the litter dry inside the house.
- Ensure the availability of required lighting period.
- Proper ventilation is a must.
- Keep big sized doors and windows in the house.
- Make south faced house. Doing this will help to prevent cold air.
- Make a fence around the poultry house to keep the bird free from other animal and thief.
- Keep different aged broiler poultry in different houses.
- Keep sufficient feeders and drinkers inside the broiler poultry house.
Chicks require a balanced diet if they are to grow and thrive. When starting chicks, always feed a starter diet that is formulated to give the birds the proper levels of nutrients. They should be fed free choice; that is, feed is available all the time. Supplement only minimally with other feeds. Baby chicks do not need scratch. Heavy supplements of scratch, table scraps, or greens will reduce chicks’ nutrient intake and may result in poor growth or, worse, increased mortality. After about 6 weeks of age, they can be fed a grower diet; generally, this diet is lower in protein because the chicks are growing more slowly. Do not feed adult diets to baby chicks, especially layer diets. These feeds are very high in calcium for egg shell formation and are not suitable for baby chicks. Water must be provided constantly. It should be room temperature, clean, and fresh. Supplemental vitamins added to the water are not necessary if the chicks are fed properly. When brooding, make sure the water does not become too hot from the heat source because many birds will refuse to drink warm water.
Sanitation and disease
For the most part, chicks are quite hearty. For maximum survival rate and to minimize disease problems, buy chicks from a reputable source. Most commercial hatcheries vaccinate their chicks for Marek’s disease at hatch, so this should not be a problem. Most starter feeds contain a coccidiostat to reduce the potential for coccidiosis in the flock. (Non – medicated feeds are available.) Antibiotics are available at local feed stores but should be used only when absolutely necessary and then only according to the label instructions.
If birds get sick, get a proper diagnosis from your local avian veterinarian or your state avian pathologist. Call your county office of the OSU Extension Service for help in finding these veterinarians. Sanitation is your best defence against disease problems. Keep your facility clean, feed only fresh, non-moldy feed, clean waterers daily, and keep your flock relatively isolated from other birds. Bird and human traffic in and out of your facilities is the single most important means of bringing disease organisms to your birds.
Determining sex in chickens usually is easy. By about 4 to 6 weeks, males begin to show comb, waddle, and spur development, and they begin to grow larger than the females. Some species of game birds and waterfowl require “vent sexing,” a somewhat difficult procedure to examine their genitalia, to separate the sexes.
Most chickens don’t fly well, so flight prevention usually is not necessary. However, most game birds and waterfowl may require grounding. The easiest method is to clip the flight feathers of one wing; those are the 10 or 15 large feathers on the end. Repeat the process regularly as feathers grow back after molting. Don’t clip feathers on exhibition chickens because that may disqualify or downgrade the birds.
Brailing uses a strap to prevent the bird from fully extending its wing for flying. The brail strap should be moved to the opposite wing at least monthly so as not to cause wing atrophy. Pinioning and tendonectimizing are permanent methods of flight prevention. They should be attempted only by experienced growers or a veterinarian.
In confinement, many birds may begin to pick on each other, causing poor feathering or areas of the body without feathers. Various salves are available to reduce picking. Trimming about a quarter of the upper beak with a toenail or dog-nail clipper will greatly reduce picking. For serious cases, applying a plastic device called a spec, which prevents forward vision, is quite effective (Figure 5). For maximum effectiveness, trim beaks or apply specs on all the birds, not just on the aggressors.
Pan and jar type
This type of waterer is circular in nature, having two compartments i.e. jar for filling water and pan for delivering water
Water basin made of plastic / wood/GI with grill
Basins of different diameters are available (10”, 12”, 14” and 16” diameter).
A separate grill is available to prevent the entry of birds inside the water.
Bell type automatic waterer
These are made of high-impact plastic in a bell shape usually suspended from separate pipeline for the purpose.
This type of waterers has control over the water flow and maintains the required water level always.
There will be a continuous flow of water so as to ensure water available for the birds throughout the day.
Height at which the water is available can be easily adjusted by simple clamp mechanism and rate of flow water is adjustable by a valve (spring-mounted). Plastic drinkers will be brightly colored (red,blue) and hence are expected to attract layers, especially chicks to water.
No. of bell-drinkers=1.3*(circumference÷ Drinker space)
It can be used both in deep-litter and in cage system.
When used in deep-litter system, it is attached with cup under the nipple to prevent wetting of litter material.
These drinkers look like a nipple and water drops comes out when they are pressed.
They can be used for all types and classes of birds, but most commonly used in laying cages.
One nipple drinkers in each cage housing 3 layers is sufficient.
In case of chicks during first week of brooding, manual drinkers are popularly used.
They also referred as “fountain drinkers” because water comes out of the holes like that in case of a fountain.
The main advantage of manual drinkers is the ease of giving vitamins and other probiotics/medicines/vaccines through water.
Manual drinkers with stand made of high-impact plastic in bright colors (red or blue) are available.
Arrangement of drinkers at an equal distance of 0.6m between any two feeders and feeder and a drinker.
Feeders are equipment used in feeding poultry birds. The food is deposited in the feeder and the birds feed from it. The amount of feeders provided for a poultry farm should be according to amount of birds available. It is important that you always keep the feeders clean to ensure the health safety of the birds.
Different sizes of linear feeder with guards are available
Provision is also made to adjust the height of the feeder.
Linear feeders are usually made of Galvanized Iron. However it can as well be made out of any locally available material like wood, bamboo, etc.
Provisions for stability and adjustment in height at which the feeder stands have to be made in its design.
Birds can stand on either side of the linear feeder.
Total feeder space available = 2* length.
No of linear feeders = (2*Length of the feeder) ÷ Feeder space with all measurements in cm.
These are semi-automatic feeders and can hold 5 to 7 kg feed in its cone at a time.
The feed is slowly delivered to the bottom by gravity.
It can also be attached with feed grills to prevent wastage.
These are made of high plastic and usually suspended from roof/ roof-truss or from separate pipeline for the purpose.
These are also called as ‘hanging feeders’.
These feeders are available in different capacity and when completely full, the feed will suffice 4 to 7 days, depending upon the age and number feeding on them.
The height at which the feed is available can be easily adjusted by simple clamp mechanism.
Plastic feeders will be brightly coloured (red or blue, generally) and hence are expected to attract layers, especially chicks to feed.
No. of hanging feeders = 1.3* (Circumference ÷ Feeder space) with all measurements in cm.
30% more birds can be accommodated in a hanging feeder when compared to that in linear feeder.
Shell grit box
It is used to provide shell grit to the layer birds as a supplemental source of calcium.
In case of automatic feeder, the feed is supplied to the entire length of the poultry house by specially designed feed troughs with auger type or chain type devices to move the feed from the feed bins to the other end.
These are operated with electricity and the height of the feeder can be adjusted depending upon the age of the birds.
Heaters or Brooders
It is essential that the temperature of the poultry farm be regulated especially during cold weather. The heater or brooder is an equipment used in regulating and increasing the temperature of the poultry farm. These helps to keep the birds warm when the weather is cold.
Charcoal stove / kerosene stove
These are used in places where electricity is not available or costly and where power failure is quite common.
These stoves are covered with plates or pans to sustain the heat in the brooding area
Natural gas, LPG or methane is connected to heating element which is hanged 3 to 5 feet above the chick to provide heat.
It is attached with canopy type reflectors to reflect the heat towards the chicks.
It is a self-reflecting bulb and hence no need of reflector over the bulbs.
150 and 250 watt bulbs are available to provide sufficient heat to 150 and 250 chicks, respectively.
These reflectors are called Hovers. These are reflectors of heat and light.
These hovers are flat provided with heating element, heating mechanism and pilot lamp and in some cases thermometer are also there in order to record the temperature.
Generally, they are mounted with stands on all four corners, instead of hanging from the roof.
Other Poultry Farming Equipment and their Uses
This is an instrument used in hatching eggs. Egg hatchery with an incubator can be described as a means of hatching of eggs in an unnatural way. These means can be employed when there are many eggs to be hatched.
The chick box is an equipment where the poultry birds are kept for egg laying. It has a roll away egg tray attached to it so that when eggs are layed, they roll away and the birds will not trample on the eggs. This particular equipment helps in preventing egg damage.
Fly trap is an equipment used in controlling the number of flies around a poultry farm. It helps to poultry farmer reduce the number of flies in the poultry.
Poultry Plucker Rubber Finger
This is an equipment applied to chicken dressing machine. These rubber fingers are fixed to the bottom and side plate of the of the dressing machine in order to produce many dressed chicken in a short period.
This is an equipment used in setting the eggs. Just like the name, it is a tray-like equipment where the eggs are place for sampling.
Poultry Incubator Controller
Poultry incubator controller is an equipment used for controlling the incubator and timer counter. It displays the temperature and humidity condition of the incubator.
The ventilation fan is an equipment used for ensuring maximum ventilation in the poultry farm. It is also an equipment used in reducing the temperature of the poultry farm during a hot weather.
Laying nest is another equipment that help the birds for laying of eggs. One of the advantages of this equipment is that it increases the egg productivity of the poultry birds.
This is an equipment used in weighing the weight of the eggs. It helps the poultry farmer know the eggs that are fertile enough for hatchery because it is assumed that an underweight egg does not have what it takes to form a chick.
Egg washer is an equipment that makes use of a powder called the egg washing powder. Water is added into the egg washer and then the egg washing powder is added also. It is used for washing the eggs before delivery.
Water Pots and Drinkers
Neat water is required for growth and digestion in poultry birds just like in humans. Therefore, the drinkers are equipment used for supplying water to the birds. You must ensure that the drinkers are washed regularly to avoid disease.
Cages and Coops
This poultry equipment is used for keeping poultry birds. Coops and cages are poultry equipment suitable for small scale poultry farming.
This is an equipment used for feathering birds after slaughter. The use of a dressing machine makes chicken dressing easier, clean and hygienic.
Lastly, the use of protective clothing for humans is very necessary. Special protective clothing like hair caps, disposable sleeves, boots and coverall are required to avoid transfer or contamination from the birds to man or from man to the birds. Also, it is important to ensure that visitor disinfect their hands before touching the birds.
Common Poultry Diseases
There are many common and important diseases which can affect the respiratory system (air passages, lungs, air sacs) of poultry (see Table 1). Poultry refers to birds that people keep for their use and generally includes the chicken, turkey, duck, goose, quail, pheasant, pigeon, guinea fowl, pea fowl, ostrich, emu, and rhea. Due to modern systems of management, usually with high poultry densities, these diseases are able to readily spread.
Synonyms: chicken pox (not to be confused with chicken pox in humans; the human disease does not affect poultry and vice versa), sore head, avian diphtheria, bird pox
Species affected: Most poultry—chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, psittacine, and ratites—of all ages are susceptible.
Clinical signs: There are two forms of fowl pox. The dry form is characterized by raised, wart-like lesions on unfeathered areas (head, legs, vent, etc.). The lesions heal in about 2 weeks. If the scab is removed before healing is complete, the surface beneath is raw and bleeding. Unthriftiness and retarded growth are typical symptoms of fowl pox. In laying hens, infection results in a transient decline in egg production (see Table 1).
In the wet form there are canker-like lesions in the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and trachea. The wet form may cause respiratory distress by obstructing the upper air passages. Chickens may be affected with either or both forms of fowl pox at one time.
Transmission: Fowl pox is transmitted by direct contact between infected and susceptible birds or by mosquitos. Virus-containing scabs also can be sloughed from affected birds and serve as a source of infection. The virus can enter the blood stream through the eye, skin wounds, or respiratory tract. Mosquitos become infected from feeding on birds with fowl pox in their blood stream. There is some evidence that the mosquito remains infective for life. Mosquitos are the primary reservoir and spreaders of fowl pox on poultry ranges. Several species of mosquito can transmit fowl pox. Often mosquitos winter-over in poultry houses so, outbreaks can occur during winter and early spring.
Treatment: No treatment is available. However, fowl pox is relatively slow-spreading. Thus, it is possible to vaccinate to stop an outbreak. The wing-web vaccination method is used for chickens and the thigh-stick method for turkeys older than 8 weeks.
Prevention: Fowl pox outbreaks in poultry confined to houses can be controlled by spraying to kill mosquitos. However, if fowl pox is endemic in the area, vaccination is recommended. Do not vaccinate unless the disease becomes a problem on a farm or in the area. Refer to the publication PS-36 (Vaccination of Small Poultry Flocks) for more information on fowl pox vaccinations.
The highly contagious and lethal form of Newcastle disease is known as viscerotropic (attacks the internal organs) velogenic Newcastle disease, VVND, exotic Newcastle disease, or Asiatic
Newcastle disease. VVND is not present in the United States poultry industry at this time.
Species affected: Newcastle disease affects all birds of all ages. Humans and other mammals are also susceptible to Newcastle. In such species, it causes a mild conjunctivitis.
Clinical signs: There are three forms of Newcastle disease—mildly pathogenic (lentogenic), moderately pathogenic (mesogenic) and highly pathogenic (velogenic). Newcastle disease is characterized by a sudden onset of clinical signs which include hoarse chirps (in chicks), watery discharge from nostrils, labored breathing (gasping), facial swelling, paralysis, trembling, and twisting of the neck (sign of central nervous system involvement). Mortality ranges from 10 to 80 percent depending on the pathogenicity. In adult laying birds, symptoms can include decreased feed and water consumption and a dramatic drop in egg production (see Table 1).
Transmission: The Newcastle virus can be transmitted short distances by the airborne route or introduced on contaminated shoes, caretakers, feed deliverers, visitors, tires, dirty equipment, feed sacks, crates, and wild birds. Newcastle virus can be passed in the egg, but Newcastle-infected embryos die before hatching. In live birds, the virus is shed in body fluids, secretions, excreta, and breath.
Treatment: There is no specific treatment for Newcastle disease. Antibiotics can be given for 3–5 days to prevent secondary bacterial infections (particularly E. coli ). For chicks, increasing the brooding temperature 5°F may help reduce losses.
Prevention: Prevention programs should include vaccination (see publication PS-36, Vaccination of Small Poultry Flocks), good sanitation, and implementation of a comprehensive biosecurity program.
Synonyms: IB, bronchitis, cold
Species affected: Infectious bronchitis is a disease of chickens only. A similar disease occurs in bobwhite quail (quail bronchitis), but it is caused by a different virus.
Clinical signs: The severity of infectious bronchitis infection is influenced by the age and immune status of the flock, by environmental conditions, and by the presence of other diseases. Feed and water consumption declines. Affected chickens will be chirping, with a watery discharge from the eyes and nostrils, and labored breathing with some gasping in young chickens. Breathing noises are more noticeable at night while the birds rest. Egg production drops dramatically. Production will recover in 5 or 6 weeks, but at a lower rate. The infectious bronchitis virus infects many tissues of the body, including the reproductive tract. Eggshells become rough and the egg white becomes watery.
Transmission: Infectious bronchitis is a very contagious poultry disease. It is spread by air, feed bags, infected dead birds, infected houses, and rodents. The virus can be egg-transmitted, however, affected embryos usually will not hatch.
Treatment: There is no specific treatment for infectious bronchitis. Antibiotics for 3–5 days may aid in combating secondary bacterial infections. Raise the room temperature 5°F for brooding-age chickens until symptoms subside. Baby chicks can be encouraged to eat by using a warm, moist mash.
Prevention: Establish and enforce a biosecurity program. Vaccinations are available.
Species affected: Bobwhite quail are affected. Japanese corturnix quail are resistant. The disease is prevalent in the southern states where bobwhite quail are common. Quail bronchitis occurs seasonally as new hatches and broods come along each year.
Clinical signs: Respiratory distress occurs with tracheal rales (rattles), sneezing, and coughing. Feed and water consumption declines dramatically. There can also be conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye). Loose watery feces are seen in older and sub-acutely affected birds. Nasal discharges are not seen, differentiating quail bronchitis from similar diseases in other poultry (see Table 1).
Transmission: Once infected, quail bronchitis remains on the farm for the duration of the breeding season, infecting each successive brood.
Treatment: There is no specific treatment against quail bronchitis. Quail bronchitis infections are often complicated by concurrent mycoplasma infections. Antibiotics can be used to combat secondary infections. Add tylosin (500g/ton) to the feed for 10 days, withhold the medication for 5 days, and then repeat medication for 5 days. Alternate medication regimens are tylosin (Tylan) or erythromycin (Gallimycin) in the drinking water for the same period of time.
Prevention: There is no commercial vaccine on the market. It is necessary to break the cycle by depopulating and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting pens and equipment, followed by a 30–90 day quarantine of the facilities.
Synonyms: AI, flu, influenza, fowl plague
Species affected: Avian influenza can occur in most, if not all, species of birds.
Clinical signs: Avian influenza is categorized as mild or highly pathogenic. The mild form produces listlessness, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhea, transient drops in egg production, and low mortality. The highly pathogenic form produces facial swelling, blue comb and wattles, and dehydration with respiratory distress. Dark red/white spots develop in the legs and combs of chickens. There can be blood-tinged discharge from the nostrils. Mortality can range from low to near 100 percent. Sudden exertion adds to the total mortality. Egg production and hatchability decreases. There can be an increase in production of soft-shelled and shell-less eggs.
Transmission: The avian influenza virus can remain viable for long periods of time at moderate temperatures and can live indefinitely in frozen material. As a result, the disease can be spread through improper disposal of infected carcasses and manure. Avian influenza can be spread by contaminated shoes, clothing, crates, and other equipment. Insects and rodents may mechanically carry the virus from infected to susceptible poultry.
Treatment: There is no effective treatment for avian influenza. With the mild form of the disease, good husbandry, proper nutrition, and broad spectrum antibiotics may reduce losses from secondary infections. Recovered flocks continue to shed the virus. Vaccines may only be used with special permit.
Prevention: A vaccination program used in conjunction with a strict quarantine has been used to control mild forms of the disease. With the more lethal forms, strict quarantine and rapid destruction of all infected flocks remains the only effective method of stopping an avian influenza outbreak. If you suspect you may have Avian Influenza in your flock, even the mild form, you must report it to the state veterinarian’s office. A proper diagnosis of avian influenza is essential. Aggressive action is recommended even for milder infections as this virus has the ability to readily mutate to a more pathogenic form.
Synonyms: roup, cold, coryza
Species affected: chickens, pheasants, and guinea fowl. Common in game chicken flocks.
Clinical signs: Swelling around the face, foul smelling, thick, sticky discharge from the nostrils and eyes, labored breathing, and rales (rattles—an abnormal breathing sound) are common clinical signs. The eyelids are irritated and may stick together. The birds may have diarrhea and growing birds may become stunted.
Mortality from coryza is usually low, but infections can decrease egg production and increase the incidence and/or severity of other diseases. Mortality can be as high as 50 percent, but is usually no more than 20 percent. The clinical disease can last from a few days to 2–3 months, depending on the virulence of the pathogen and the existence of other infections such as mycoplasmosis.
Transmission: Coryza is primarily transmitted by direct bird-to-bird contact. This can be from infected birds brought into the flock as well as from birds which recover from the disease which remain carriers of the organism and may shed intermittently throughout their lives. Birds risk exposure at poultry shows, bird swaps, and live-bird sales. Inapparent infected adult birds added into a flock are a common source for outbreaks. Within a flock, inhalation of airborne respiratory droplets, and contamination of feed and/or water are common modes of spread.
Treatment: Water soluble antibiotics or antibacterials can be used. Sulfadimethoxine (Albon®, Di-Methox™) is the preferred treatment. If it is not available, or not effective, sulfamethazine (Sulfa-Max®, SulfaSure™), erythromycin (gallimycin®), or tetracycline (Aureomycin®) can be used as alternative treatments. Sulfa drugs are not FDA approved for pullets older than 14 weeks of age or for commercial layer hens. While antibiotics can be effective in reducing clinical disease, they do not eliminate carrier birds.
Prevention: Good management and sanitation are the best ways to avoid infectious coryza. Most outbreaks occur as a result of mixing flocks. All replacement birds on “coryza-endemic” farms should be vaccinated. The vaccine (Coryza-Vac) is administered subcutaneously (under the skin) on the back of the neck. Each chicken should be vaccinated four times, starting at 5 weeks of age with at least 4 weeks between injections. Vaccinate again at 10 months of age and twice yearly thereafter.
Synonyms: LT, ILT, trach, laryngo
Species affected: Chickens and pheasants are affected by LT. Chickens 14 weeks and older are more susceptible than young chickens. Most LT outbreaks occur in mature hens. In recent years, LT has also caused significant respiratory problems in broilers greater than 3 weeks of age, especially during the cooler seasons of the year. This is believed to be due to unwanted spread of LT vaccines between poultry flocks.
Clinical signs: The clinical sign usually first noticed is watery eyes. Affected birds remain quiet because breathing is difficult. Coughing, sneezing, and shaking of the head to dislodge exudate plugs in the windpipe follow. Birds extend their head and neck to facilitate breathing (commonly referred to as “pump handle respiration”). Inhalation produces a wheezing and gurgling sound. Blood-tinged exudates and serum clots are expelled from the trachea of affected birds. Many birds die from asphyxiation due to a blockage of the trachea when the tracheal plug is freed (see Table 1).
Transmission: LT is spread by the respiratory route. LT is also spread from flock to flock by contaminated clothing, shoes, tires, etc. Birds that recover should be considered carriers for life. LT may be harbored in speciality poultry such as exhibition birds and game fowl.
Treatment: Incinerate dead birds, administer antibiotics to control secondary infection, and vaccinate the flock. Mass vaccination by spray or drinking water method is not recommended for large commercial or caged flocks. Individual bird administration by the eye-drop route is suggested. Follow manufacturer’s instructions. In small poultry flocks, use a swab to remove plug from gasping birds, and vaccinate by eye-drop method.
Prevention: Vaccinate replacement birds for outbreak farms. Vaccination for LT is not as successful as for other disease, but is an excellent preventive measure for use in outbreaks and in epidemic areas. Refer to the publication PS-36 (Vaccination of Small Poultry Flocks) for more information on LT vaccinations.
Synonyms: TRT, rhino tracheitis
Species affected: Turkeys of all ages are susceptible, but the disease is most severe in young poults. Chickens are susceptible to the virus. Experimentally, guinea fowl and pheasants are susceptible, but waterfowl and pigeons are resistant.
Clinical signs: Respiratory signs in poults include snicking, rales, sneezing, nasal exudates (often frothy), foamy conjunctivitis, and sinusitis. Drops in egg production can be as much as 70 percent.
Transmission: Spread is primarily by contact with contaminated environments, feed and water, recovered birds, equipment, and personnel.
Treatment: No drugs are available to combat the virus. Antibiotic therapy is recommended to control secondary bacterial infections.
Prevention: No vaccines are currently available. Prevention is dependent on a comprehensive biosecurity program.
Synonyms: ornithosis, psittacosis, parrot fever
The disease was called psittacosis or parrot fever when diagnosed in psittacine (curve-beaked) birds, and called ornithosis when diagnosed in all other birds or in humans. Currently, the term chlamydiosis is used to describe infections in any animal.
Species affected: Affected species include turkeys, pigeons, ducks, psittacine (curve-beaked) birds, captive and aviary birds, many other bird species, and other animals. Chickens are not commonly affected. Humans are susceptible, especially older and immunosuppressed individuals who are at a higher risk. Chlamydiosis in humans is an occupational disease of turkey growers, haulers, and processing workers in the live-bird areas and of workers in pet-bird aviaries although the incidence is rare. For more information, refer to publication PS-23 (Avian Diseases Transmissible to Humans).
Clinical signs: Clinical signs in most birds include nasal-ocular discharge, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, diarrhea, weakness, loss of body weight, and a reduction in feed consumption. In turkeys there is also respiratory distress and loose yellow to greenish-yellow colored droppings. Chylamydiosis runs rather slowly through turkey flocks, with a maximum incidence of around 50 percent (see Table 1).
Transmission: The primary means of transmission is through inhalation of fecal dust and respiratory tract secretions. It can also be transmitted on contaminated clothing and equipment. Recovered birds remain carriers and will continue to intermittently shed the infective agent for long periods after clinical signs have subsided. Environmental stress may provoke a reoccurrence of the disease.
Treatment: Chlorotetracycline can be given in the feed (200–400 g/ton) for 3 weeks. Other antibiotics are usually ineffective. Recovered birds are safe for processing. Permanent lesions on the heart and liver are not infectious. FDA withdrawal periods for medications used must be strictly observed to avoid residual chemicals in the tissues.
Prevention: There is no vaccine. Have a good biosecurity program, excluding wild birds as much as possible.
Swollen Head Syndrome
Synonyms: Facial cellulitis, thick head, Dikkop, SHS
Species affected: Chickens and turkeys are the known natural hosts. Experimentally, guinea fowl and pheasants are susceptible but pigeons, ducks, and geese are resistant to the infection. SHS does not presently occur in the United States, but is present in most countries of the world.
Clinical signs: In chicks and poults, there is initial sneezing, followed by reddening and swelling of the tear ducts and eye tissue. Facial swelling will extend over the head and down the jaw and wattles. Adult chickens have mild respiratory disease followed by a few birds having swollen heads. Other signs include disorientation, twisting of the neck, and a significant drop in egg production (see Table 1).
Transmission: The infection spreads by direct contact with infected birds or indirectly by exposure to infectious material.
Treatment: There is no proven medication for swollen head syndrome. The disease is caused by a virus classified as a pneumovirus. A disease closely mimicking SHS is caused by a mixed infection of respiratory viruses and specific bacteria. Antibiotic therapy may be helpful against the bacterial component.
Prevention: A commercial vaccine is available. Swollen head syndrome is considered an exotic disease and a live vaccine is not approved for use in the United States.
Synonyms: MG, chronic respiratory disease (CRD), infectious sinusitis, mycoplasmosis
Species affected: chickens, turkeys, pigeons, ducks, peafowl, and passerine birds.
Clinical signs: Clinical symptoms vary slightly between species. Infected adult chickens may show no outward signs if infection is uncomplicated. However, sticky, serous exudate from nostrils, foamy exudate in eyes, and swollen sinuses can occur, especially in broilers. The air sacs may become infected. Infected birds can develop respiratory rales and sneeze. Affected birds are often stunted and unthrifty (see Table 1).
There are two forms of this disease in the turkey. With the “upper form” the birds have watery eyes and nostrils, the infraorbitals (just below the eye) become swollen, and the exudate becomes caseous and firm. The birds have respiratory rales and show unthriftiness.
With the “lower form”, infected turkeys develop airsacculitis. As with chickens, birds can show no outward signs if the infection is uncomplicated. Thus, the condition may go unnoticed until the birds are slaughtered and the typical legions are seen. Birds with airsacculitis are condemned.
MG in chicken embryos can cause dwarfing, airsacculitis, and death.
Transmission: MG can be spread to offspring through the egg. Most commercial breeding flocks, however, are MG-free. Introduction of infected replacement birds can introduce the disease to MG-negative flocks. MG can also be spread by using MG-contaminated equipment.
Treatment: Outbreaks of MG can be controlled with the use of antibiotics. Erythromycin, tylosin, spectinomycin, and lincomycin all exhibit anti-mycoplasma activity and have given good results. Administration of most of these antibiotics can be by feed, water or injection. These are effective in reducing clinical disease. However, birds remain carriers for life.
Prevention: Eradication is the best control of mycoplasma disease. The National Poultry Improvement Plan monitors all participating chicken and turkey breeder flocks.
Synonyms: MS, infectious synovitis, synovitis, silent air sac
Species affected: chickens and turkeys.
Clinical signs: Birds infected with the synovitis form show lameness, followed by lethargy, reluctance to move, swollen joints, stilted gait, loss of weight, and formation of breast blisters. Birds infected with the respiratory form exhibit respiratory distress. Greenish diarrhea is common in dying birds (see Table 1). Clinically, the disease in indistinguishable from MG.
Transmission: MS is transmitted from infected breeder to progeny via the egg. Within a flock, MS is spread by direct contact with infected birds as well as through airborne particles over short distances.
Treatment: Recovery is slow for both respiratory and synovitis forms. Several antibiotics are variably effective. The most effective are tylosin, erthromycin, spectinomycin, lincomycin, and chlorotectracycline. These antibiotics can be given by injection while some can be administered in the feed or drinking water. These treatments are most effective when the antibiotics are injected.
Prevention: Eradication is the best and only sure control. Do not use breeder replacements from flocks that have had MS. The National Poultry Improvement Plan monitors for MS.
Synonyms: MM, N strain, H strain
Species affected: MM affects turkeys of all ages, although poults are affected more severely than mature turkeys. Recently, MM has been shown to infect pigeon, quail and peafowl.
Clinical signs: A drop-off in production and hatchability can be expected in breeder flocks. There can be very high mortality in young poults. Unthriftiness, respiratory distress, stunting, crooked neck with deformity of cervical vertebrae, and leg deformation are common in young birds (see Table 1).
Transmission: Egg transmission is low in the early breeding period, but rises as the the age of the flock increases. Infections can be introduced into a flock by contaminated equipment, shoes, and clothing of workers and visitors.
Treatment: Several antibiotics have been effective including tylosin, erythromycin, spectinomycin, and linco-spectinomycin.
Prevention: The best preventive measure is to keep MM-free breeders. The MM-free status of breeders can be confirmed by periodic blood tests through the National Poultry Improvement Plan.
Synonyms: brooder pneumonia, mycotic pneumonia, fungal pneumonia, Aspergillus. When the source of the disease is the hatchery, the disease is called brooder pneumonia. In older birds, the disease is called aspergillosis.
Species affected: All birds (domestic poultry, pigeons, canary and zoo bird species), animals, humans, and plants are susceptible.
Clinical signs: Aspergillosis occurs as an acute disease of young birds and a chronic disease in mature birds. Young birds have trouble breathing and gasp for air. Characteristically, there are no rales or respiratory sounds associated with aspergillosis. Feed consumption decreases. Occasionally there is paralysis or convulsions caused by the fungal toxin. Mortality in young birds averages 5–20 percent, but may be as high as 50 percent. Mature birds also have respiratory distress, reduced feed consumption, and may have a bluish and dark color of the skin (cyanosis). Nervous disorders, such as twisted necks, may occur in a few birds (see Table 1). Mortality in mature birds is usually less than 5 percent.
Transmission: Aspergillosis is caused by a fungus. The fungus grows well at room temperature and higher. All litter and nest materials (peat moss, peanut hulls, sawdust, peat, bark, straw) have been known to have been contaminated with aspergillus. Feed and water should be suspect when attempting to identify the source of contamination.
Treatment: There is no cure for infected birds. The spread can be controlled by improving ventilation, eliminating the source of the infection, and adding a fungistat (mycostatin, mold curb, sodium or calcium propionate, or gentian violet) to the feed and/or copper sulfate or acidified copper in the drinking water for 3 days. The litter can be sprayed lightly with an oil-base germicide to control dust and air movement of fungal spores.
Prevention: It is important to thoroughly clean and disinfect the brooding area between broods. Use only clean litter, preferably soft wood shavings. Do not use sawdust, litter high in bark content, or shavings that have been wet.
Viral Diseases (nonrespiratory)
Synonyms: acute leukosis, neural leukosis, range paralysis, gray eye (when eye affected)
Species affected: Chickens between 12 to 25 weeks of age are most commonly clinically affected. Occasionally pheasants, quail, game fowl and turkeys can be infected.
Clinical signs: Marek’s disease is a type of avian cancer. Tumors in nerves cause lameness and paralysis. Tumors can occur in the eyes and cause irregularly shaped pupils and blindness. Tumors of the liver, kidney, spleen, gonads, pancreas, proventriculus, lungs, muscles, and skin can cause incoordination, unthriftiness, paleness, weak labored breathing, and enlarged feather follicles. In terminal stages, the birds are emaciated with pale, scaly combs and greenish diarrhea (see Table 2).
Marek’s disease is very similar to Lymphoid Leukosis, but Marek’s usually occurs in chickens 12 to 25 weeks of age and Lymphoid Leukosis usually starts at 16 weeks of age.
Transmission: The Marek’s virus is transmitted by air within the poultry house. It is in the feather dander, chicken house dust, feces and saliva. Infected birds carry the virus in their blood for life and are a source of infection for susceptible birds.
Prevention: Chicks can be vaccinated at the hatchery. While the vaccination prevents tumor formation, it does not prevent infection by the virus.
Synonyms: visceral leukosis, leukosis, big liver, LL
Species affected: Although primarily a disease of chickens, lymphoid leukosis can infect turkeys, guinea fowl, pheasants, and doves, but not on a large scale.
Clinical signs: The virus involved has a long incubation period (4 months or longer). As a result, clinical signs are not noticeable until the birds are 16 weeks or older. Affected birds become progressively weaker and emaciated. There is regression of the comb. The abdomen becomes enlarged. Greenish diarrhea develops in terminal stages (see Table 2).
Transmission: The virus is transmitted through the egg to offspring. Within a flock, it is spread by bird-to-bird contact and by contact with contaminated environments. The virus is not spread by air. Infected chicken are carriers for life.
Prevention: The virus is present in the yolk and egg white of eggs from infected hens. Most national and international layer breeders have eradicated lymphoid leukosis from their flocks. Most commercial chicks are lymphoid-leukosis negative because they are hatched from LL-free breeders. The disease is still common in broiler breeder flocks.
Infectious Bursal Disease
Synonyms: Gumboro, IBD, infectious bursitis, infectious avian nephrosis
Species affected: chickens
Clinical signs: In affected chickens greater than 3 weeks of age, there is usually a rapid onset of the disease with a sudden drop in feed and water consumption, watery droppings leading to soiling of feathers around the vent, and vent pecking. Feathers appear ruffled. Chicks are listless and sit in a hunched position. Chickens infected when less than 3 weeks of age do not develop clinical disease, but become severely and permanently immunosuppressed.
Transmission: The virus is spread by bird-to-bird contact, as well as by contact with contaminated people and equipment. The virus is shed in the bird droppings and can be spread by air on dust particles. Dead birds are a source of the virus and should be incinerated.
Treatment: There is no specific treatment. Antibiotics, sulfonamides, and nitrofurans have little or no effect. Vitamin-electrolyte therapy is helpful. High levels of tetracyclines are contraindicated because they tie up calcium, thereby producing rickets. Surviving chicks remain unthrifty and more susceptible to secondary infections because of immunosuppression.
Prevention: A vaccine is commercially available.
Synonyms: EE, EEE, WEE
Note: This disease should not be confused with St. Louis Encephalits (SLE). Chickens are used as sentinels (test animals) in SLE suspect areas, such as southern Florida. While SLE is also carried by mosquitos, that is where the similarities between the two encephalitis diseases end. Chickens do not get SLE. Refer to Factsheet VM71 (St. Louis Encephalitis—The Role of Chickens) for more information on SLE.
Species affected: Equine encephalitis is a contagious disease of birds (especially pheasants), mammals (especially horses), and people. Birds are the major source of the virus.
Clinical signs: Two forms affect birds: eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and western equine encephalitis (WEE). The clinical signs are identical and include reduced feed consumption, staggering, and paralysis. Surviving birds may be blind, have muscle paralysis, and have difficulty holding their head up. Damage to the bird’s nervous system varies with species. In pheasants, there is pronounced leg paralysis, twisting of the neck, and tremors. Mortality is high. Chukar partridges and turkeys show drowsiness, paralysis, weakness, and death.
Transmission: Infected mosquitoes are the primary source of the virus. The Culiseta melanuria mosquito is the primary transmitter of the virus to poultry. Other mosquito species transmit the disease too, but feed mostly on other animals. Cannibalism of sick or dead birds by penmates is a major source of transmission within pens.
Prevention: Remove the source of infection by establishing mosquito control: keep weeds mowed in a 50-foot strip around bird pens. This removes cover and resting areas for mosquitos. Eliminate mosquito breeding areas. Fog areas with malathion.
It is possible to immunize birds, especially pheasants, with the vaccine prepared for horses. The recommended dose is one-tenth of a horse dose per bird.
Synonyms: epidemic tremor, AE
Species affected: The disease is most prevalent in chickens less than 6 weeks of age. Pheasants, corturnix quail, and turkeys are natural hosts as well, but less susceptible than chickens. Ducklings, young pigeons, and guinea fowl can be experimentally infected.
Clinical signs: Signs commonly appear during the first week of life and between the second and third weeks. Affected chicks may first show a dull expression of the eyes, followed by progressive incoordination, sitting on hocks, tremors of the head and neck, and finally paralysis or prostration. Affected chicks are inactive. Some may refuse to walk or will walk on their hocks. In advanced cases, many chicks will lie with both feet out to one side (prostrate) and die. All stages (dullness, tremors, prostration) can usually be seen in an affected flock. Feed and water consumption decreases and the birds lose weight. In adult birds, a transitory drop (5–20 percent) in egg production may be the only clinical sign present. However, in breeding flocks, a corresponding decrease in hatchability is also noted as the virus is egg- transmitted until hens develop immunity. Chickens which survive the clinical disease may develop cataracts later in life (see Table 2).
Transmission: The virus can be transmitted through the egg from infected hen to chick, accounting for disease during the first week of life. The disease can also be spread through a flock by direct contact of susceptible hatchlings with infected birds, accounting for the disease at 2–3 weeks of age. Indirect spread can occur through fecal contamination of feed and water. Recovered birds are immune and do not spread the virus.
Treatment: There is no treatment for outbreaks. Infected birds should be removed, killed and incinerated. Recovered chicks are unthrifty.
Prevention: A vaccine is available.
Egg Drop Syndrome
Synonyms: egg drop, egg drop syndrome 76, EDS-76
Species affected: The natural hosts for EDS virus are ducks and geese, but EDS has become a major cause of reduced egg production in chickens in many parts of the world. No illness has been observed in ducks or geese. Chickens of all ages and breeds are susceptible. The disease is most severe in broiler-breeders and brown-egg layer strains.
Clinical signs: There are no reliable signs other than the effects on egg production and egg quality. Healthy-appearing hens start laying thin-shelled and shell-less eggs. Once established, the condition results in a failure to achieve egg production targets. Transient diarrhea and dullness occur prior to egg shell changes. Fertility and hatchability are not affected.
Transmission: It is believed that the syndrome was first introduced into chickens from contaminated vaccine. Vertical transmission occurs from infected breeders to chicks. Newly hatched chicks excrete the virus in the feces.
Treatment: There is no successful treatment. Induced molting will restore egg production.
Prevention: Prevention involves a good biosecurity program.
Synonyms: viral arthritis, tenosynovitis, teno, reovirus enteritis, reovirus septicemia, malabsorption syndrome, helicopter disease
Species affected: turkeys and chickens
Clinical signs: Several serotypes of the reovirus have been identified. Some localize in the joints (tenosynovitis) while others target respiratory or intestinal tissues (septicemic form).
The principal sign of tenosynovitis is lameness with swelling of the tendon sheaths of the shank and area extending above the hock (see Table 2). Affected birds are lame, sit on their hocks, and are reluctant to move. Rupture of the tendon can occur in older roaster birds, resulting in permanent lameness of the affected leg. If more than two joints are affected, the entire carcass will be condemned.
Infection can also play a part in broiler stunting, the result of malabsorption syndrome. In chicks, malabsorption due to viral enteritis is called “helicopter disease” because feathering is affected. Wing feathers protrude at various angles. A reovirus is believed to play only a secondary role in this syndrome.
In commercial layer flocks, increased mortality may be the first sign of the septicemia form (see Table 2). Egg production will decrease by about two to three times the mortality rate. For example, a mortality rate of 5 percent will be accompanied by a 10–15 percent drop in egg production. In the septicemic form, joint involvement is present but less pronounced. Affected birds become cyanotic (blue) and dehydrated. The tips of the comb turn purplish. The entire comb darkens as the disease progresses (see Table 2).
Transmission: The infection spreads rapidly through broiler flocks, but less rapidly in caged layers. Spread is by respiratory and digestive tract routes. The virus is shed in the feces.
Treatment: There is no satisfactory treatment available. With hens, tetracycline, molasses, and oyster shell therapy is helpful.
Prevention: A vaccine is available for use in endemic areas or on endemic farms.
Nonrespiratory Bacterial Diseases
Synonyms: avian pasteurellosis, cholera, avian hemorrhagic septicemia
Species affected: Domestic fowl of all species (primarily turkeys and chickens), game birds (especially pheasants and ducks), cage birds, wild birds, and birds in zoological collections and aviaries are susceptible.
Clinical signs: Fowl cholera usually strikes birds older than 6 weeks of age. In acute outbreaks, dead birds may be the first sign. Fever, reduced feed consumption, mucoid discharge from the mouth, ruffled feathers, diarrhea, and labored breathing may be seen. As the disease progresses birds lose weight, become lame from joint infections, and develop rattling noises from exudate in air passages. As fowl cholera becomes chronic, chickens develop abscessed wattles and swollen joints and foot pads. Caseous exudate may form in the sinuses around the eyes. Turkeys may have twisted necks (see Table 3).
Transmission: Multiple means of transmission have been demonstrated. Flock additions, free-flying birds, infected premises, predators, and rodents are all possibilities.
Treatment: A flock can be medicated with a sulfa drug (sulfonamides, especially sulfadimethoxine, sulfaquinonxalene, sulfamethazine, and sulfaquinoxalene) or vaccinated, or both, to stop mortality associated with an outbreak. It must be noted, however, that sulfa drugs are not FDA approved for use in pullets older than 14 weeks or for commercial laying hens. Sulfa drugs leave residues in meat and eggs. Antibiotics can be used, but require higher levels and long term medication to stop the outbreak.
Prevention: On fowl cholera endemic farms, vaccination is advisable. Do not vaccinate for fowl cholera unless you have a problem on the farm. Rodent control is essential to prevent future outbreaks.
Synonyms: navel ill, mushy chick disease
Species affected: chickens
Clinical signs: Affected chicks may have external navel infection, large unabsorbed yolk sacs, peritonitis with fetid odor, exudates adhering to the navel, edema of the skin of ventral body area, septicemia and dehydration (see Table 3).
Transmission: Infection occurs at the time of hatching or shortly thereafter, before navels are healed. Chicks from dirty hatching eggs or eggs with poor quality shells, or newly hatched chicks placed in dirty holding boxes, are most susceptible. Chicks removed prior to complete healing of the navel due to improper temperature and/or humidity are also more susceptible. Eggs that explode in the hatching tray contaminate other eggs in the tray and increase the incidence.
Treatment: There is no specific treatment for omphalitis. Most affected birds die in the first few days of life. Unaffected birds need no medication.
Prevention: Control is by prevention through effective hatchery sanitation, hatchery procedures, breeder flock surveillance, and proper preincubation handling of eggs. Mushy chicks should be culled from the hatch and destroyed. If chick mortality exceeds 3 percent, the breeder flocks and egg handling and hatching procedures should be reviewed.
Synonyms: bacillary white diarrhea, BWD
Species affected: Chickens and turkeys are most susceptible, although other species of birds can become infected. Pullorum has never been a problem in commercially grown game birds such as pheasant, chukar partridge, and quail. Infection in mammals is rare.
Clinical signs: Death of infected chicks or poults begins at 5–7 days of age and peaks in another 4–5 days. Clinical signs including huddling, droopiness, diarrhea, weakness, pasted vent, gasping, and chalk-white feces, sometimes stained with green bile. Affected birds are unthrifty and stunted because they do not eat (see Table 3). Survivors become asymptomatic carriers with localized infection in the ovary.
Transmission: Pullorum is spread primarily through the egg, from hen to chick. It can spread further by contaminated incubators, hatchers, chick boxes, houses, equipment, poultry by-product feedstuffs, and carrier birds.
Treatment: Treatment is for flock salvage only. Several sulfonamides, antibiotics, and antibacterials are effective in reducing mortality, but none eradicates the disease from the flock. Pullorum eradication is required by law. Eradication requires destroying the entire flock.
Prevention: Pullorum outbreaks are handled, on an eradication basis, by state/federal regulatory agencies. As part of the National Poultry Improvement Program, breeder replacement flocks are tested before onset of production to assure pullorum-free status. This mandatory law includes chickens, turkeys, show birds, waterfowl, game birds, and guinea fowl. In Florida, a negative pullorum test or certification that the bird originated from a pullorum-free flock is required for admission for exhibit at shows and fairs. Such requirements have been beneficial in locating pullorum-infected flocks of hobby chickens.
Synonyms: enterotoxemia, rot gut
Species affected: Rapidly growing young birds, especially chickens and turkeys 2-12 weeks of age, are most susceptible. Necrotic enteritis is a disease associated with domestication and is unlikely to threaten wild bird populations. Necrotic enteritis is primarily a disease of broilers, roasters and turkeys. Ulcerative enteritis, on the other hand, commonly affects pullets and quail.
Clinical signs: Initially there is a reduction in feed consumption as well as dark, often blood-stained, feces. Infected chickens will have diarrhea. Chronically affected birds become emaciated. The bird, intestines, and feces emit a fetid odor (see Table 3).
Transmission: Necrotic enteritis does not spread directly from bird to bird. Bacteria are ingested along with infected soil, feces, or other infected materials. The bacteria then grow in the intestinal tract. Infection commonly occurs in crowded flocks, immuno-suppressed flocks, and flocks maintained in poor sanitary conditions.
Treatment: The clostridia bacteria involved in necrotic enteritis is sensitive to the antibiotics bacitracin, neomycin, and tetracycline. However, antibiotics such as penicillin, streptomycin, and novobiocin are also effective. Bacitracin is the most commonly used drug for control of necrotic enteritis. As with all drugs, legality and withdrawal time requirements must be observed.
Prevention: Prevention should be directed toward sanitation, husbandry, and management.
Synonyms: quail disease
Species affected: Captive quail are extremely susceptible and must be maintained on wire-bottom pens or on preventive medications. Chickens, turkeys, partridges, grouse, and other species are occasionally clinically affected.
Clinical signs: In quail, the disease is acute with high mortality. In chickens, signs are less dramatic. Acute signs are extreme depression and reduction in feed consumption. Affected birds sit humped with eyes closed. Other signs included emaciation, watery droppings streaked with urates, and dull ruffled feathers (see Table 3). Accumulated mortality will reach 50 percent if the flock is not treated.
Transmission: Birds become infected by direct contact with carrier birds, infected droppings or contaminated pens, feed and water. Bacteria are passed in the droppings of sick and carrier birds. Infection can be spread mechanically on shoes, feed bags, equipment, and from contamination by rodents and pets.
Treatment: Bacitracin and neomycin can be used singly or in combination. Other antibiotics and drugs such as tetracyclines, penicillin, Lincomycin, and Virginomycin are also effective. Consult a veterinarian for dose, route, and duration of treatment.
Prevention: Ulcerative enteritis is difficult to prevent in quail. When quail have access to their own droppings, this disease commonly occurs. To eradicate, depopulate stock, thoroughly clean and disinfect, and start over with young, clean stock.
Synonyms: limberneck, bulbar paralysis, western duck sickness, alkali disease
Species affected: All fowl of any age, humans, and other animals are highly susceptible. The turkey vulture is the only animal host known to be resistant to the disease.
Clinical signs: Botulism is a poisoning causing by eating spoiled food containing a neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Paralysis, the most common clinical sign, occurs within a few hours after poisoned food is eaten. Pheasants with botulism remain alert, but paralyzed. Legs and wings become paralyzed, then the neck becomes limp. Neck feathers become loose in the follicle and can be pulled easily.
If the amount eaten is lethal, prostration and death follow in 12 to 24 hours. Death is a result of paralysis of respiratory muscles. Fowl affected by sublethal doses become dull and sleepy.
Transmission: Botulism is common in wild ducks and is a frequent killer of waterfowl because the organisms multiply in dead fish and decaying vegetation along shorelines.
Decaying bird carcasses on poultry ranges, wet litter or other organic matter, and fly maggots from decaying substances may harbor botulism. There is no spread from bird to bird.
Treatment: Remove spoiled feed or decaying matter. Flush the flock with Epsom salts (1 lb/1000 hens) in water or in wet mash. It has been reported that potassium permanganate (1:3000) in the drinking water is helpful. Affected birds can be treated with botulism antitoxin injections.
Prevention: Incinerate or bury dead birds promptly. Do not feed spoiled canned vegetables. Control flies. Replace suspected feed.
Synonyms: staph infection, staph septicemia, staph arthritis, bumblefoot
Species affected: All fowl, especially turkeys, chickens, game birds, and waterfowl, are susceptible.
Clinical signs: Staphylococcal infections appear in three forms—septicemia (acute), arthritic (chronic), and bumblefoot. The septicemia form appears similar to fowl cholera in that the birds are listless, without appetite, feverish, and show pain during movement. Black rot may show up in eggs (the organism is passed in the egg). Infected birds pass fetid watery diarrhea. Many will have swollen joints (arthritis) and production drops.
The arthritic form follows the acute form. Birds show symptoms of lameness and breast blisters, as well as painful movement. Birds are reluctant to walk, preferring to sit rather than stand.
Bumblefoot is a localized chronic staph infection of the foot, thought to be caused by puncture injuries. The bird becomes lame from swollen foot pads.
Transmission: Staphylococcus aureus is soil-borne and outbreaks in flocks often occur after storms when birds on range drink from stagnant rain pools.
Treatment: Novobiocin (350 g/ton) can be given in the feed for 5–7 days. Erythromycin and penicillin can be administered in the water for 3-5 days or in the feed (200 g/ton) for 5 days. Other antibiotics and drugs are only occasionally effective.
Prevention: Remove objects that cause injury. Isolate chronically affected birds. Provide nutritionally balanced feed.
Possible clinical signs for common respiratory diseases of poultry.
|Rales (abnormal breathing sound)||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Discharge from eyes||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X|
|Swelling of face and/or
|Green, watery diarrhea||X||X||X||X|
|Twisting of head and neck||X||X||X||X||X|
|Red/white spots on legs
8Swollen head syndrome
Possible clinical signs for common nonrespiratory viral diseases of poultry.
|Reduced feed consumption||X||X||X|
|Weight loss/stunted growth||X||X|
|Reduced water consumption||X||X|
|Bluish-purple discoloration of the face||X|
|Pale scaly combs||X|
|Reduced egg production||X||X|
Possible clinical signs of nonrespiratory bacterial diseases of poultry.
|Dead birds, no signs of disease||X|
|Reduced feed consumption||X||X||X||X|
|Discharge from mouth||X|
|Weight loss/stunted growth||X||X||X||X|
|Swollen foot pads||X||X|
|Huddling of chicks||X||X|
|Blood in feces||X|
Vaccination Programme for Broilers
In view of the recently confirmed outbreaks of Newcastle disease on the Highveld, it has become necessary to review our recommendations for vaccination, with special reference to Newcastle disease. We have to emphasize the fact that no one programme is suitable for every situation. An effective vaccination programme depends on the type of operation, maternal antibody levels of day old chicks, disease challenge on the farm, age at slaughter, level of hygiene on the farm and many other factors. It is best to consult a poultry specialist to advice a programme based on your specific circumstances. Effectiveness of vaccination programmes should be monitored by serological or challenge studies. The programme below must serve as a guideline only.
|BASIC BROILER VACCINATION PROGRAMME|
|Day old||Infectious Bronchitis Newcastle Disease (Avinew/Vitapest)||Eyedrop or course spray (Usually done at hatchery)|
|Day 14||Infectious Bursal Disease (Gumboro)||Drinking water|
|Day 16 – 18||Newcastle Disease (Avinew)||Drinking water|
|Day 18||Infectious Bursal Disease||Drinking water|
|Day 28||Newcastle Disease (Lasota type) (Only if birds kept longer than 42 days)||Fine spray (Atomist or other)|
|BROILER VACCINATION PROGRAMME (WHERE THERE IS A HIGH RISK OF NEWCASTLE CHALLENGE)|
|Day old||Infectious Bronchitis Newcastle Disease (Avinew or VH)||Eye-drop or coarse spray (Usually done at hatchery)|
|Day 14||Infectious Bursal Disease||Drinking water|
|Day 14-16||Newcastle Disease (Cloned La Sota)||Fine Spray (Atomist or other)|
|Day 18||Infectious Bursal Disease||Drinking water|
|Day 25||Newcastle Disease (La Sota type) (Only or if birds kept longer than 42 days)||Fine spray (Atomist or other)|
Fine spray application of La Sota type vaccines may cause vaccine reactions in some flocks. A slight “snick” among the birds is normal 3 to 4 days after spray vaccination. This should be monitored and birds treated with an antibiotic through the drinking water if symptoms become more severe or there is an increase in mortality.
Factors Affecting Production
It is generally accepted that there are three factors affecting poultry production, which are attributed to the success of modern systems. These are 1) improved genetic strains specialized for use (meat vs. eggs) and regional conditions, 2) improved knowledge of nutritional requirements and ability to match these for variable conditions, and 3) stable interior environment including air temperature and lighting. Each factor is discussed below.
A demonstration of improvements in bird genetic lines can be found in the improved performance characteristics of broilers. According to a report from 1944, after 90 days of growth, broilers weighed 1.3 kg with a feed conversion efficiency of about 3.9 kg feed per kg live weight. Typical current values are 40 days of age to reach 2 kg with feed conversion efficiency of 1.8 kg kg-1. These remarkable improvements in poultry genetics have been created by specialty genetic improvement companies. Their goal is continuous improvement of positive characteristics and elimination of negative characteristics. The ability of these companies to provide genetic strains appropriate to general climatic conditions, disease challenges and nutritional variations has greatly assisted the adoption of modern production methods.
Nutrition and Disease Management
The significant reduction in feed required to produce poultry meat (or eggs) is not solely attributable to genetics. Both nutrition and environment also play important roles, for without proper nutrition and a healthy stress-free environment, birds cannot achieve their genetic potential. Scientific research into nutritional requirements for poultry is an ongoing effort. A
majority of scientific articles on poultry research focus on improving the understanding of bird nutrition, both for fundamental knowledge of nutrition and for direct application to the industry. One key aspect of nutritional research is to optimize the requirements of birds for local conditions. In the Americas, broiler production relies on corn and soybean meal for the main protein constituents, whereas in other parts of the world, other sources of protein are used.
Likewise, our knowledge of disease management has drastically reduced production losses associated with poor health. Methods of biosecurity, such as limiting public access to facilities and reduced exposure to possible disease vectors, are now routinely applied in the industry.
Poultry are warm-blooded and must have a satisfactory environment in order to maintain their body temperature. If the environment is too hot or too cold, birds’ must expend energy to maintain this core temperature (e.g., by shivering in cold or panting in heat). They also adjust their feed intake, eating more food in colder conditions and eating less in warmer conditions. As bird genetics have improved in terms of production efficiency, the limits on optimal environments have shrunk. Thus, poultry must be provided with uniform, stable room temperatures.
Environment is also important for bird health. Environment factors, especially respirable dust and high concentrations of noxious room gases, can be correlated with increased mortality and reduced performance. By contrast, in 1944, the mean mortality of broilers was approximately 17 percent whereas at the end of the 20th century, it was reduced to below 4 percent. A major factor in this amazing improvement has been better control of the environment in which birds live.
In addition to providing an ideal thermal and light environment for poultry, modern systems have been developed to automate the delivery of feed and water. Thus, birds eat when they are hungry and drink when they are thirsty (subject to management methods) and are not required to await a visit by personnel to provide feed and water, or to fight their neighbors for a share. The automation of the poultry environment is closely related to the equipment used to raise poultry. This topic is covered below.
Tools and Equipment
Places to Buy Poultry Equipment and Tools
If you are planning to start a poultry farm, you would need the right equipment at suitable prices. It is unlikely that when you are starting your poultry farm, you would have a truck load of extra funds to throw around. Most likely, you would be on a tight budget because of the long list of things you have to put in place. This is why you must do everything within your means to cut on costs of buying poultry equipment.
The first step to take in cutting costs of poultry equipment is buying from the right source. In case you are confused about where to buy your equipment from, you have come to the right place because when you are done reading this article, you would have a clearer insight on how to go about buying equipment for your poultry farm. There are three options to consider when buying poultry equipment;
This involves buying new ready-made equipment from suppliers or in the open market.
Fairly Used Equipment-: You may find poultry farmers who are going out of business, relocating or selling off their poultry equipment as a result of expansion.
Custom made equipment
Another option is to have your own equipment custom-made specifically for you by manufacturers. The manufacturers would make the equipment to suit your taste, design and needs.
Now, I am going to discuss some of the popular poultry equipment and where you can get them from-:
- 1. Chicken Eggs Hatching Accessories-: One of the most popular processes in poultry farming especially for large scale farmers is incubation and hatching of eggs. You would need a number of accessories to hatch your own eggs. Some of the accessories you would need are-:
Candles Scales-: The scales are used to weigh the eggs to determine their value while the candles are used to track the development of the eggs.
Thermometer-: Used to measure egg temperature.
Boxes and Trays-: This is used for packaging the eggs.
Inserts and Cradles-: Incubator inserts and cradles are also very essential tools for egg hatching.
Egg washing tools-: You would also need some immersion and washing devices to clean the eggs which are usually very dirty upon collection.
You can get your egg hatching accessories from the following places-:
Alibaba.com-: A Chinese e-commerce platform where you can have almost any type of equipment custom-made for you.
- Poultry Processing Equipment-: If you want to go into poultry meat processing and packaging, you would need equipment with specific technical abilities which would also meet your market demands and most importantly, would be affordable for you. Some popular poultry processing devices and equipment are-:
Pluckers-: These are used for removing the feathers from the birds neatly. Poultry pluckers are designed to make the process very fast and easy.
Scalders-: Scalders are used to scald birds using special temperature control mechanisms.
Cutters-: This is used to prepare the meat and cut them up for further processing.
Killing Cone-: Live Chickens are inserted into the killing cones to automate the process of killing the chickens.
Processing bags-: When the processing stage is complete, you would need to pack the meat in durable storage bags for storage and supply.
You can get your poultry processing equipment from-:
- Poultry farm through standard poultry heating system: Poultry brooders use specialized thermostats to adjust the temperature in the chicken house from time to time. There are the automatic lamp brooders, battery brooders, area brooders and gas infrared brooders; each with its own unique specifications and use. You can get your brooders from-:
- Poultry ventilation systems-: The right amount of ventilation is crucial to the health of poultry animals and this is why poultry farmers spare no cost to put the right equipment for ventilation in place. You can get your poultry ventilation systems from-:
- Poultry drinking systems-: Birds have different drinking behaviors and to ensure growth and optimum level of performance from your birds, you have to set up a good water supply system. Some popular drinking equipment are nipple drinkers and bell and ground drinkers, You can get your drinkers from-:
- Poultry feeding systems-: The birds need the right type of food for growth and egg production and importance should be placed on the type of feeding system used. Some of the popular poultry feeding systems are-:
Automatic pan feeder-: This is the most suitable for broilers. It includes a feed hopper, automatic feed scales, integrated feed chain systems and champions; all designed to reduce human efforts in feeding poultry animals.
- Chain Feeding System-: This is specifically used to supply powdered poultry feed to the poultry house in pre-determined quantities.
Round and Hanging Tube Feeders-: This is one of the most popular poultry feeding systems although it is often argued that this feeding system is not too ideal because it does not provide a controlled and balanced feeding for the birds.
You can get poultry feeding systems from-:
8. Poultry feed milling machine-: Making your own poultry feed is more cost effective and it also increases profitability. You can have your feed milling machine custom made for you or buy from the following places-:
Most of the websites listed above can ship items to different countries so, it doesn’t matter where you are based, you can look at their website and when you are convinced that you want to do business with any of the suppliers, call them up for further discussion and shipment arrangement. You can also find most of these items in your locality if you conduct your research well.