13 ways to prevent poultry disease
1. Keep it clean
Clean, scrub, and disinfect your poultry house on a regular basis.
Reason: Thorough cleanings keep bacteria, viruses, and parasites from building up, and also help deter disease-carrying rodents.
2. Change the litter
Never raise chickens of any age on old litter used by a previous flock of birds.
Reason: Litter may have a build-up of disease agents the new flock has not been exposed to. This could lead to an outbreak.
3. Be careful adding birds
If you bring new poultry into your flock, especially adult birds from other flocks, do not mix them immediately with your flock. Chickens need to be quarantined in a separate house for at least two weeks.
Reason: The quarantine period will give you a chance to monitor the new birds for any signs of disease before they are mixed with the rest of your flock.
4. Monitor visitors
Don't allow visitors in your poultry house if they have had contact with other birds or have visited other poultry farms. Also make sure they are not wearing clothes, shoes, or other items that may have come in contact with other birds.
Reason: Visitors can transfer diseases from one flock to another through their clothing, shoes, and unwashed hands.
5. Keep wild birds wild
Prevent other birds like sparrows, pigeons, and other wild birds, from coming into contact with your chickens. Don't place bird feeders or bird houses anywhere near your chicken house, and use screen to prevent them from getting in.
Reason: Free-living birds can carry diseases and parasites to your flock.
6. Use quality feed
Buy your chicken feed from a reliable source, and never use old or moldy feed.
Reason: Chickens require a nutritionally balanced feed for health and productivity.
7. Learn about vaccinations
Contact a local veterinarian or university extension to see if you live in an area where poultry diseases are common. If so, vaccinate chicks and pullets.
Reason: Vaccinations will help the young birds develop antibodies against common poultry diseases.
8. Keep a cozy coop
Provide a well-ventilated but draft-free building with enough space for the number of chickens in your flock.
Reason: Proper ventilation reduces ammonia build-up. Making sure the coop is large enough will help prevent stress and fighting between birds.
9. Disposal is key
Properly dispose of all dead birds and old litter.
Reason: Dead birds and old litter attract flies, which can carry diseases from infected to healthy birds. Preventing flies and odors reduces the likelihood of this type of disease transmission.
10. Create a sick bay
Keep all sick chickens separated from the rest of the flock.
Reason: Diseases can easily be spread through direct contact with infected birds. Quarantine birds showing signs of infection, and if they can't be treated, cull them from the flock to prevent the spread of disease.
11. Ask a vet
If you suspect a disease outbreak in your flock, get an accurate diagnosis from a professional as soon as possible.
Reason: Since some diseases show similar symptoms, it's important to get an accurate diagnosis before administering treatment. It's also important to know what you're dealing with so it can be controlled before it spreads to other nearby flocks.
12. Separate species
If a chicken owner also has pet birds in the house, like parrots or parakeets, extreme caution must be used when caring for the pets and the flock.
Reason: Pet birds can harbor diseases that can devastate chicken flocks.
13. Practice proper procedures
Whenever possible, change into clean clothing and wash hands with anti-bacterial soap when working with one species of bird and then another, or different aged birds. If this isn't possible, work with younger birds first before handling older ones, and work with health birds prior to handling sick ones.
Reason: Younger birds may not have developed resistance to disease like older birds, so it's important to work with them before the rest of the flock. Likewise, if you're around sick birds and then walk into a coop full of healthy birds, you may spread the disease on your clothes and hands.