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Breeding for Disease Resistance?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by mirandalola, Nov 28, 2016.

  1. mirandalola

    mirandalola Out Of The Brooder

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    Is it really even possible? I'm disheartened. I started with 13 chicks, lost 4 to coccidiosis, lost 6 to mycoplasmosis (ms AND mg!), leaving me with only 3. I got 8 grown hens, lost 1 to unknown causes, and 3 to mycoplasmosis. I got a grown rooster, and he got some kind of respiratory infection, possibly ms. So out of 22 birds I'm down to 7.

    I know that most people breed for production, either eggs or meat, and ever since the invention of antibiotics and the abundance of medications of all kinds we have now, most people treat sick birds and keep on breeding them. I want my birds to be healthy from the inside out, to not catch every disease that blows their way, and I have read brief mentions of people achieving that goal (by culling every bird that gets sick and only breeding the ones that were naturally immune), but did they start out with a 70% loss in the parent generation?

    Is there anyone here who has experience breeding for disease resistance, that can give me some advice for trying to get my flock started?
     
  2. cavemanrich

    cavemanrich Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What you read about culling all .but the healthy chickens would be man made version of NATURAL SELECTION. Darwin was one who explained that process long ago. 1809 - 1882.. In my view you can try a mini version of natural selection, without culling any birds by purchasing older hens. Here is the logic.. Older birds already lived thru some trying times and they survived. Their weaker counterparts perished. Your 7 out of the 22 appear to be more disease resistant than those that died. They should be healthier stock for propagating more chickens. There are no quick steps that I know of. Most of my birds live long lives. Oldest was 13, and my current oldest is 10 1/2. a few are 7 and 8. They are ALL pets, In my 20 years of chickening out, my losses to disease were small. The rest were age and predators.[​IMG]
     
  3. Pork Pie Ken

    Pork Pie Ken Monkey Business Premium Member

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    I'd be inclined to source my birds locally as 5-6 months old birds. In theory, they should have built in resistance to strains of potential illness / disease that are specific to your area (of course, many diseases can be introduced by wild bird droppings etc), but it may a good starting point, at least.
     
  4. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    You can select for disease resistance. In most instances it takes multiple generations to get desired changes. Local sourcing what you start with is ideal, as CTKen suggested, and they need to have actually been exposed to the pathogens of concern. You bigger problem is it takes a lot more birds than a typical person will keep. Cocci I am battling requires 50 actual breeders and possibly an infusion of local genetics from birds not closely related to mine.

    I suggest focusing on acquiring healthy locally sourced birds and work to make so stress and exposure to pathogens is not too intense. To make life easier yet, concentrate on a single breed, particularly a heritage breed where you can find like minded people with whom you can periodically swap breeders allowing you in part get around the small flock size.
     
  5. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    Just because they don't appear 'sick' ....doesn't mean they are not carrying disease.
    Many(most?) birds carry some or multiple diseases, but may not show symptoms and may never if they have otherwise healthy immune systems.

    My take is not to treat, they either survive or not.
    Breed the best, cull the rest.
     
    2 people like this.
  6. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    The thing is, you have living Birds that were exposed to disease.....They are carriers.....You plan to introduce more birds to the existing flock....Your chances are high to end up again losing Birds to disease....Times of stress will bring on out breaks of what ever disease they carry.....

    Culling the entire flock and starting over might be your only option.....Clean your Coop and Run and leave it empty for the proper time that each disease needs to be killed without adding living hosts.....Research each disease to find out how to get rid of it, or if some remain dormant until a host is introduced........


    Best of luck.....


    Cheers!
     
  7. centrarchid

    centrarchid Chicken Obsessed

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    You are very much missing the OP's point.
     
    2 people like this.
  8. chickens really

    chickens really Overrun With Chickens

    Hmmmmm.....Always two sides to every coin.........I was talking about the flip side........



    Cheers!
     
  9. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Sorry for all of your losses. [​IMG]

    A loss of 70% seems abnormally high. How many of the 14 lost were necropsied by an avian pathologist?

    -Kathy
     
  10. mirandalola

    mirandalola Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 13, 2016
    NorthEast Texas, USA
    So, then, culling every bird that shows undeniable symptoms is the way to go? This is what I've been doing; most of the birds I've lost were intentionally culled. I just didn't expect to have to cull such a large percentage!

    Or are you saying I should just let nature run its course and let them die if they're going to, and live if they're going to? My problem with this is that for one thing it seems inhumane.... and with this generation of birds, I'm pretty sure that if they ever got sick before they came to me, they were medicated, so they aren't the birds I want to breed from. I'm not willing to keep a separate flock of sick birds, I've only got 2 acres. I've also learned the hard way that keeping the sick birds with the rest of the healthy flock, means that eventually I'm going to have a lot more sick birds. Yes I want disease resistance, so I do actually want all my healthy birds exposed to a germ, but I think keeping the sick birds with the healthy ones is a bit extreme, and leaves me with too small of a gene pool (since I'll only be breeding from the ones who don't get sick).

    So every day when I let them out, and when I shut their door for the night, and any other time I have a few minutes outside, I spend a few minutes just watching and listening for sneezes and anything else unhealthy. I keep a record of symptoms I see, because I know just one sneeze one day isn't a problem, but if that same chicken sneezes every time I see it for a week, it's sick.

    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to comment. I feel like the odd one out, being the only one I know (in person) not willing to treat diseases! People keep telling me what hard luck I'm having, that I've lost so many chickens, but I feel like I've just set my standards a lot higher than the average beginning chicken keeper!
     

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