The Low-Down on Poultry Vaccines

biosecurity

As a flock owner, a major decision you’ll have to make regarding your flock will be whether or not you use vaccines.  Making this decision will require you to take into account a number of factors.  While we are here to help you make this decision, this should not be taken as a one-size-fits-all guide to vaccinating chickens.  Much of the thought that goes into your decision will be very specific to your own farm.

 

Getting the Right Stuff

Many small flock owners decide not to vaccinate for many reasons including:

  • Minimal problems with disease in the past or past illnesses went by undiagnosed.
  • They are unaware that certain diseases are prevalent in the area.
  • They don’t know where to get the vaccines.poultry vaccines
  • The vaccines come in quantities designed for extremely large flocks.

Giving your flock a vaccine isn’t required, nor is it always the best idea for your flock depending on your situation.  One thing that is for sure is that the risk of infection and contracting a potentially devastating disease can never be completely ruled out.  The best thing you can do as a flock owner is become knowledgeable on the many diseases that your flock may be susceptible to contracting, their symptoms, and also poultry diseases that are common to your region.

Losing a large portion of your flock to disease is extremely inconvenient, not to mention sad and somewhat preventable.  In a logistical sense, losing part of or all of your flock means losing income or food from lost meat and eggs.  Other problems include losing your breeding stock or your ability to participate in exhibitions.  

 

When NOT to use Poultry Vaccines

When you sit down to think about vaccinating your flock, you must obviously take into account the likelihood that your birds will become infected.  This likelihood can increase and decrease due to a number of different circumstances.  If you are running a closed flock where you’re never introducing new birds from new flocks or letting that flock leave your farm, the presence and introduction of foreign pathogens and illnesses is greatly reduced.  While this doesn’t completely eliminate the risk of disease, this may lead a flock owner to not vaccinating his flock.

 

When TO use Poultry Vaccines

There are also factors that should cause you to vaccinate your birds.  For example, if you take your birds to exhibitions where they are around other chickens, or they leave the farm frequently for any other reason, you’re always running the risk of introducing foreign bacteria and illnesses into your flock.  Buying birds from hatcheries, bird auctions, and other sources also poses the risk of bringing unfamiliar diseases home to your existing flock.  At last, if you have struggled with disease in the past or know certain illnesses are prevalent in your area, getting a vaccine might be in the best interest for you, your birds, and your wallet.

 

The Low-Down

Now that we’ve discussed some basic reasoning regarding why you may or may not vaccinate your flock, we can examine the actual diseases and vaccines used for them.  Because it is much more common for larger and factory-sized flocks to receive vaccines, it can often be difficult finding these antidotes in quantities that aren’t designed for flocks the size of Rhode Island.  Alas, it is possible.  Most hatcheries and poultry supply companies will supply vaccines in smaller quantities, it just takes a little more time to find.  Another option is to seek out other flock owners in your area and try to split a larger vial.  Not only does this make buying a large quantity worth it, but it ensures that other flocks of chickens in your area are vaccinated like your flock.

poultry vaccinesIt’s also important to understand how the vaccines are best administered.  Some are able to be mixed and administered by you, while some diseases (needing vaccines at hatching like Marek’s) are best vaccinated by the hatchery itself before shipping.

Stay tuned for our follow up blog post on common poultry illnesses to learn about the disease that some vaccines help prevent, their symptoms, and how to treat your flock if you are plagued with any poultry illness.

 


One thought on “The Low-Down on Poultry Vaccines

  1. Andrea Martin says:

    REaders should keep in mind that vaccination prevents deadly disease in their flocks. 2 vaccines that most keepers should use: Mareks and Fowl Pox.

    Mareks is ubiquitous in chickens. Vaccinate at hatch and again a few years later. Mareks vaccine is derived from a turkey virus – it will not cause any disease in your flock (it limits the shedding of the virus, it does not eradicate the virus). Protection does not last for the life of the bird – be sure to vaccinate again. Mareks causes a deadly cancer that can infect an entire flock with high mortality. It will stay on your property for years and it can be introduced to your property. Assume your birds are carriers. Vaccinate. You never want to see this in your flock.

    Consult local agricultural specialists for Fowl Pox outbreak information. In areas of high mosquito (warm areas with limited freeze, wetlands), this may be important to prevent birds from getting this terrible disease. It causes great suffering and some deaths are not out of the question.

    If you show birds you must vaccinate for more diseases including IB and possibly LG. These diseases are readily contracted at shows. Coccidiosis may also be a good idea if birds have not been vaccinated as chicks.

    In December of 2016 all over-the-counter antibiotics will be banned. You will need a vet’s prescription to acquire antibiotics. The poultry industry strongly advises all keepers to vaccinate their birds to prevent disease.

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