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.
- 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.
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.
It’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.