Complicated - questions regarding management, health and biosecurity


12 Years
Nov 1, 2010
Northern L.P. Michigan
Before I ask my questions here are my flock basics. 15 eleven month olds (Polish, EE and couple brown egg layers) and 4 guineas housed in large coop, 7 three month olds (farm hatched mixes) housed in small coop, 5 EE (6 weeks old) housed in cage inside large coop. 3 three week old banties in a brooder box in the house, 1 one week old banty in a separate box in the house. 12 day olds are being shipped today.

My plan was to put the week old banty in with the standard chicks, then when they were a week or so old add the three banties in. However, now one of my 3 week old banties is sick. I started with four and one died of the same thing last week but I don't know what it is. I can't separate her from the two boys because I don't have enough space with the new chicks coming. I figure they were already exposed last week. How long should I keep them separate? And then what if it is something like coryzoa that they are carriers? I got those chicks from a feed store, the same one the EE's came from. My only thought was to forfeit one chick and put it in with them and see if it ends up sick also. Do I vaccinate by flock? I've heard that makes them carriers.

I'm the only one caring for all the chickens so how to avoid spreading something when I don't even know if it is contagious?

Now I am also nervous about putting my one tiny banty (we incubated)- who comes from show stock in with hatchery chicks that may or may not be ok. Am I worrying too much?

What is the safest way to get new birds? I don't mind hatching but then I end up with the rooster problem and I already have 8 of those problems after rehoming 9 of them last year. Even when I order pullets I still end up with roos.

Next thing is my son is in 4-H and they want to do a petting zoo. Is it safe for my chickens?

Any advice on my complicated flock? I love my chickens but right now I feel like I am juggling, trying to keep them all safe and healthy.
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Bio security is a real challenge.
1: Going to places where there are other chickens, fairs, 4H events etc. Consideration on not spreading disease goes both ways. We don't wear shoes to events with our yard mud on them. We wear clean shoes we spray the bottoms with disinfectant when we get to the event and then when we're done before we get back in the car.

2: At home it's really hard. If you have an ill bird, then what they have is probably airborne and unless you have them completely seperated in a different part of the house you don't go into a lot, then it's been spread already. You can still take precautions. Wash your hands, religously. Don't use feed and water pans from one enclosure in another. If you carry a dirty feeder to the bag of food to fill it from an area where birds are ill, you've effectively contaminated that bag. Keep a supply of food in your quarantine area.

3. A lot of what kills small chicks all birds already have in their systems. It's when something else is wrong and the chick is weakened the bacteria or virus is able to surge forward and cause disease. You can be the best chicken keeper int he world and still lose fuzzies to disease or other mysterious maladies.

4. Wash waterers every single day for any birds under 6 months old especially if the weather is warm. Waterers become contaminated easily and bacteria grow like crazy in them. Even fancy nipple waterers can become sources of disease and need weekly thorough cleaning.

5. Don't buy chicks that don't look healthy or from a situation that you think is dirty. A feed store or breeder has a responsibility to keep healthy stock and you aren't doing yourself or the animals any favors by "rescuing" them and encouraging bad pactices. You are risking all your birds bringing home a potentioall fatal disease. If you buy from a mail order source then check the BYC forum on hatcheries for other peoples experieinces from where you are hopign to buy. Where ever you get them form they should be quarantined form the rest of your birds for at least 4 wks, ideally 6.

Hope this helps.
First: Where does the feed store get their chicks? hatchery? Local farmer? Do they disinfect their brooders between batches? Do they allow customers to handle the chicks? That has much to do with disease transmission.

Second: Exposure doesn't necessarily mean infection. Never just assume because two birds were in proximity that one infected the other and keep sick ones away from ones with no symptoms.

I think you are adding too many staggered groups and you may need to slow down here, especially since you have no idea what you're dealing with. Some plans may need to be put on hold till you can figure out your issues. Yes, Coryza makes them carriers, but why would you think they had that? Can't answer your questions with nothing to go on. Only a necropsy will tell you what the chick died of. You seem to be moving a bit fast since you have sickness you need to deal with first.
I agree on the slow down. My chicks were already ordered and in the incubator when we brought home the extra chicks my son found. I should not have let myself be talked into the unplanned chicks. I want to hatch some of my own chicks but that is going to wait until later in the summer at this point, if it happens at all.

The second chick did die. I'm not sure what was wrong. It couldn't breath and had mucous in it's mouth, although wasn't coughing or sneezing. The strange thing was it's tongue disappeared. Someone suggested Coryza, I don't think it was but am not sure. I cleaned everything and the two remaining chicks from that batch will have to be separate a while longer.

I really need to learn more because even if I did a necropsy I wouldn't know what to look for. It bothers me when I don't know what wrong or how to treat or take care of my chickens. I really want to learn more but there doesn't seem to be much around locally to help me. I started out last year knowing absolutely nothing and have tried to learn all I can.

Thanks for all the great information! Sad thing is three months ago I had no idea what biosecurity was.
About a month ago I had two older chickens die in the same week with no symptoms. I tried to locate on our state website who to contact or how to find out about a necropsy. I ended up frustrated. I also haven't found a local avian vet. All that I called said they didn't deal with Poultry or fowl. We are in the middle of nowhere and most farmers around here just cull and don't bother with a vet. My chickens have become dual purpose birds - eggs and pets so I hate to cull if it's something treatable, I just have to learn the difference.

A couple times in the past I have had it mentioned to me that "speckledhen knows her chickens and has good advice" I know your 10 commandments are very good. Do you have any good management/care books you could recommend?

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