Monday, August 27, 2012

Steps to battling MG in your poultry flock

Well, after some delay I thought I should post this. It might come back and bite me in the butt, but you know what I dont care.
Someone can learn from this, and from what I have experienced not everyone is up and ready to help you when there is a problem. Those so called helpful forums are only helpful if people open there mouths and are willing to speak up!
I sat there for an entire year, between hawk attacks and my accidental de-worming overdosing, I only got about sixteen people to so much as suggest advice, while my posts hit record numbers of 100+ views almost every time.
I finally befriended a group of people who actually wanted to help me succeed, and that was how I figured out (after a horrible disaster) what my flock had and what I needed to do to prove it and then prevent it.
Before I start this, DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE I DID!!!! Always Always quarantine regardless what species it is! We believe that my flock got infected accidentally due to a pair of ducks I brought in. After a long, very long, talk with my vet that lasted about two weeks we figured out time frames and so fourth...Fowl can be carriers of many things even though they dont show it, I was ignorant and just threw them out with my hens. Well, now we know thats a bad idea...
Anyway, onto the steps!!

Step one: *optional* MG is an airborne virus that is: "Transmission may be transovarian, or by direct contact with birds, exudates, aerosols, airborne dust and feathers, and to a lesser extent fomites. Spread is slow between houses and pens suggesting that aerosols are not normally a major route of transmission. Fomites appear to a significant factor in transmission between farms. Recovered birds remain infected for life; subsequent stress may cause recurrence of disease."  It is a chronic respiratory disease in chickens, turkeys, game birds, pigeons and other wild birds. Ducks and geese can become infected when held with infected chickens."
What I was told by the state inspector was that I should pick my favorites, and "cull" the rest. I did not have the heart to cull my babys for no reason, and so only those who were symptomatic and obviously suffering were culled. *Which was horrible!* The rest I was able to place in a farm who had MG positive birds and new how to handle the virus. They willingly took on my birds and so far they are doing great.
I kept my favorites and had the poultry man test them, only two tested positive and thankfully my main favorites and first bird were negative. Those of you who followed my blog know which ones were negative and the whole story of my poor blind girl who got a very happy outcome!
The ducks, and six other birds however...Sadly were not so lucky. *I had a whole glass of wine that night, and those of you who know me know that I dont drink!*

Step two: Purchase the vaccine for MG, along with Tylan powder. Then buy a heavy duty poultry cleaner and power wash every single inch of the coop and flip the ground in the yard your birds are on *optional* and bleach it. MG lacks a specific cell wall that a lot of viruses have that allows it to be killed easily with strong chemicals, heat, or cold. Also: "The infectious agent survives for only a matter of days outwith birds although prolonged survival has been reported in egg yolk and allantoic fluid, and in lyophilised material. Survival seems to be improved on hair and feathers. Intercurrent infection with respiratory viruses (IB, ND, ART), virulent E. coliPasteurella spp. Haemophilus, and inadequate environmental conditions are predisposing factors for clinical disease."
Which means, according to the state guy, if you start over and get rid of every single bird then start over in a year with the following steps, you could very well end up with a clean slate and no virus. I was not willing to part with every single bird, and it was hard enough to place them... Especially my blind little Nugget!!! At least shes happy now and sporting a new hen saddle hehe.

Step three: vaccinate the birds you are keeping as a precaution! If they have not caught it yet then it will help, if they have it, well then it still wont hurt them. *You must vaccinate the birds every year if you choose this path!* If you wish to treat any sick birds, then use the Tylan powder and mix it according to the directions:

Step four: If you chose to not cull, and you do not have to start over then you do not have to worry about the next step to much, until the time comes when you wish to get a fresh batch of birds. The step is... NO CHICKS OR GROWN BIRDS ""unless"" they have already been vaccinated for the MG and have come from an NPIP tested flock. *This step is so hard to follow, but so far im doing it.*
Its a bit of a pain, because you all know what that means....Hatching eggs and incubators! But! You can not hatch out eggs from your own flock until it is proven that your flock is clean of any Virus, and even then think twice. The MG will go threw the shell and sit in the yoke...However! Remember the tylan powder in step two? This next mixture is what you need to follow that will help prevent the virus from penetrating the shell and infecting your chick, and or killing it.
This link has so far improved my hatch rates, chick survival, and growth! It is scary to think of dipping your eggs in cold water, but in order to keep healthy birds it is worth it.

Step five: The MG vaccination states on the bottle that birds can be vaccinated at a week old. It was suggested to me to wait until they were six weeks old to vaccinate. However, due to the issues I had I chose to vaccinate at a week old. My friend then suggested to vaccinate again at six weeks, so far my birds have tolerated it and I have not lost any from it. This step is all personal choice, if you want to wait, vaccinate right away, it is all up to you.

Step six: Keep a strict cleaning and disinfecting schedule and routine, and if you are organic keep a VERY strict schedule and routine. This virus is nasty, and when it hits it will hit hard and spread fast. In short, it sucks...
I clean my coops every two weeks per the suggestion of my friend. Chicks get cleaned every week, and as they grow I rotate pens to help with space and so fourth. It also is a good way to handle the birds. This is done in my garage so the doors can be opened and closed at will and they can get direct sunlight as well as fresh air.
I have also made a disinfecting step that has to be taken before anyone goes near the chicks. They must wash there shoes, then hands, and if possible pull there hair back so chicks cant peck at strands. If you recall  step two, its states that MG can attach to hair.

Step seven: Automatically assume every animal you take in is contagious and has to be quarantined for 30 days AWAY from any and all of your birds and or animals. Make it so only one or two people can come in contact with the animal/birds in question, and make sure you disinfect both coming and going from the room or place where the birds are being kept. Last thing you want to do is handle the bird, then go out to your flock and help spread what ever it is they might have.
If one of your own birds begins to act funny, or sick, then separate them at once and put them into the quarantine room.

And the last step!!
Enjoy your birds, after freaking yourself out and doing all of that you deserve it.

I know how strict and over the top this all sounds, but after being told by everyone "Chickens are rats with wings, they will be fine, dont worry, no problems..."
I call bull!
Chickens are very hard to raise when you have no clue what your doing, and once something hits them and no one is willing to open there mouths and tell you whats going on, then yeah...
Its really hard, and then before you know it you have lost half your flock and your half way down a creek without a paddle.
Always take precaution, and to those of you who read this looking for help, I hope it did just that.

Links to sources:

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