Best practice for small poultry flocks There are lots of different Legislation: options when choosing stock: hens or bantams, ex- Poultry are included in the farmed animals welfare layers or ‘fancy fowl’, codes and the 5 freedoms apply: waterfowl, turkeys, or quail i. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst and therefore management should be individually ii. Freedom from Discomfort tailored to meet their needs. iii. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease Producing a flock health iv. Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour plan is very useful even for v. Freedom from Fear and Distress small flocks including a basic worming regime and All medicines should be recorded in a medicine record treatment/ prevention of and kept for 5 years external parasites (lice and mites). Including biosecurity Premises with 50 or more birds must be registered on notes is also important as it the Poultry register (DEFRA) is the best method of Flocks with more than 50 laying hens need to stamp preventing diseases eggs for sale with their producer code entering a flock. Vaccination is possible although most Premises with more than 350 birds must take part in vaccines are for commercial the National Salmonella Control Plan use and come in 1000 dose packs, this may be considered if a specific disease has been diagnosed. Individual Although the following list is not exhaustive it gives a general treatment is also necessary overview of indicators of disease. One of the most common on occasion and treatment causes of disease in small flocks is parasites and a brief or possible options should description is also given. be discussed with a vet. General health examination Beak This should be free from discharge. Overgrown beaks can also be a problem and may need trimming Combs and wattles Cyanosis (going blue), anaemia (pale), dry crusting are signs of disease Ears Swollen head/ ears may be due to Mycoplasma or yeast infections and need treatment Eyes These should be bright and open. Discharges or swellings may need medical treatment Plumage Poultry will moult naturally, mating, and brood patches are also normal causes of feather loss. Stress, disease and parasite challenge may cause feather loss. Wings Drooping wings is a sign of disease. In growing birds lack of Vitamin D can cause dropped wings Crop Pendulous crop- caused by damage to the muscle Impacted crop – due to too much long fibre and not enough grit Sour crop – is caused by bacterial or yeast overgrowth Muscles Weight loss should be investigated. Skin Breast blisters should be treated and change in husbandry discussed Respiratory There are many causes of respiratory challenge in poultry including: viral, bacterial, mycoplasma and fungal causes Legs Poultry going off their legs must be treated. Other diseases include scaley leg (Mite), Bumblefoot (Staphylococcal infection), Swollen joints (Mycoplasma) Vent Lice, diarrhoea, vent pecking – should all be treated Ascites Fluid in the abdominal cavity is abnormal Egg production Eggs are laid in batches but reduction in egg production may be due to disease. Soft shelled eggs, being egg bound and prolapses should be addressed. Internal Parasites Worms - Outdoor birds are likely to pick up gastrointestinal parasites. These often have complex life- cycles that involve earthworms and insects and can therefore live on pasture/ land for years. Checking for worm eggs in faeces is the best practice and may be discussed with a vet before starting a worming programme. Coccidiosis - is caused by a protozoan parasite which can cause diarrhoea and poor growth in young stock although older birds can be infected if there has been no previous challenge. There is a vaccine available, but in general this can be managed by medication in feed or water. External parasites Lice - are flat yellow and approximately 2mm, they can be seen by the naked eye. They are usually found around the vent and under the wings. Large clusters of eggs can also sometimes be seen around the vent. Lice can cause irritation, some feather loss and loss of production. Lice live on the birds and therefore treatment should be administered on each bird however cleaning the hen house should also be done regularly to help prevent infestation. Mites - Red mites live in the chicken coop and not on the birds, therefore you are unlikely to find them when examining birds. They are usually seen at night and cause anaemia in affected birds which is often detected by pale combs. They can live in the environment for 6 months even if birds are not in the shed. Scaly leg mites live on the birds and cause intense irritation. They cause whitish mounds of debris below the scales and can also affect the face. This can be very difficult to get rid of and veterinary advice should be sought.
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