should I cull the entire flock in late winter and start fresh?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by cutlass1972, Oct 12, 2010.

  1. cutlass1972

    cutlass1972 Chillin' With My Peeps

    261
    0
    119
    May 26, 2009
    This is my second year raising chickens. My first year was bumpy but educational and fairly productive. My flock got hit pretty hard last winter with something pretty nasty that sounds like MG (swollen faces, discharge in eyes, coughing, wheezing, etc..). I took one poor hen to my local AG department for a necropsy and they basically told me "it was sick" even though I specifically asked for a test for MG (they said that they would have had to buy 100 test strips to be able to test my one hen). I lost several hens, but they all did finally recover.

    Fast forward to this summer. I added a fair amount of new chicks to my flock. Around June I noticed a drop of egg production from 12+/- eggs per day to 2-3 eggs a day, 2 of which where coming from the 2 leghorns I have which layed like clockwork all along. I did notice a couple of hens with a slight cough / sneeze, so I medicated. I started out with sulmet for a few days and saw no change, I then switched to tylan for a few days. The symptoms seemed to all go away. I am just now starting to get a few more eggs per day but all of the pullets I have raised from chicks this summer are coming to laying age.

    I spoke with someone at the ag department here that was supposed to be an authority, the fellow that sent us to have the necropsy performed. He said it sounded like we had foul cholera. He also recommended that we cull our entire flock once a year and start all over, and if we did not we would just perpetuate whatever illnesses where contracted over the year.

    I REALLY do not want to have to cull my entire flock every year. I have done a good deal of research and it seems like the general consensus is that once your flock has MG that until you do a full cull and start over they will all have it, and it will be a reoccurring theme.
     
  2. Cloverleaf Farm

    Cloverleaf Farm Bearded Birds are Best

    10,367
    82
    328
    Sep 16, 2008
    Levan, UT
    Quote:Exactly. [​IMG]
     
  3. ND

    ND Chillin' With My Peeps

    213
    24
    111
    Jul 20, 2010
    MG or just about any other of the CRD illnesses... yes, it takes a complete cull, sanitize and some wait time for any active virus in the environment to die. Otherwise, your infected birds (carriers) will continue to pass it on to any new birds. An "all in- all out" policy is best, biosecurity wise, for keeping them as healthy as possible. Bringing any live bird onto your property risks infection. If you cannot hatch your own, your next 'safest' bet is to buy day olds from a reputable hatchery. Buying chicks from anywhere else that have been exposed to adult birds, or even housed in close proximity to adult birds, is far riskier.

    IF you want to start over with a 'clean' flock... you must cull them all, burn bodies, sanitize, and give the housing/coup/run a 'break' to allow for any diseases to die off. Some of them (strains of MG) can only live up to 3 days in the best favorable conditions outside of a host...but other illnesses can live in the soil and coop for literally months. Since you don't know for certain what it is that they have (could be MG, could be something else, could be MG+something else!), I'd go with the longest break without birds that you can.

    Then, repopulate with hatching eggs from a clean flock OR, next best... day old chicks from a hatchery that gets their eggs from clean stock. (some test, some do not...and what they may or may not test for can vary) Once you have a clean flock established, do NOT bring in ANY outside birds. It's impossible to tell if one is in a carrier state or not...until it's infected your flock. (or a sacrificial 'test' bird) Others who maintain clean flocks (to their knowledge), only get hatching eggs from tested clean flocks, or hatch their own replacements. Some feel OK enough with buying hatchery day olds as replacements, too. But otherwise, sensible biosecurity has to be in place, or you'll risk being right back at square one.

    I don't know anyone that culls an entire flock every winter and then starts again every year... unless you buy pullets nearly at the point of lay, you'd only get eggs for a few months out of the year, at best! AND...that (buying live birds) would defeat your attempts at maintaining a clean flock...


    All that said, it may not be whatever it is that they are carrying that is causing the slow laying. It could be... but I'd rule out everything else first.
    Most of the illnesses will cause a decrease in laying while in the acute phase of the illness, but not many of them will cause egg loss long term when there are no symptoms.

    You said you added a good number of additional birds... any change in flock dynamics can upset laying. Birds in, birds out... can throw them all off. PLUS, there are multiple strains of the same diseases... your original flock could have contracted MG, the new birds could've brought in a different strain of MG... that will slowly work its way thru the flock, too... in addition to the new birds contracting whatever it was that your original flock had--- plus the stress of the additions can cause "flare ups" in the carriers... on and on and on...
    Then theres:
    Worms, lice, mites.
    Other stresses- a host of things!
    Over crowding
    Changes in feed
    Hot weather
    Molting
    the list could go on for awhile...

    Additionally, make sure no one is eating your eggs! (hens or predators)



    One last thing... sometimes no amount of biosecurity/prevention will help, too. Some of these illnesses can be transmitted via wild birds. If, for instance, the wild birds in your area are carrying various strains of MG or other CRD illnesses, they're dropping it all over the place anyway.

    Only you can decide if you want to cull and start over, but if you do... you'll find yourself in the same position if you're not very careful about how and where you obtain replacement birds, and mindful of basic biosecurity to protect your clean flock. It'd ALL be pointless if you didn't take as much care as possible when starting over.
    Culling yearly wouldn't be necessary if you managed your flock with good biosecurity practices and prevented as much of the threat as possible. (of course, there IS always that 'wild bird' factor... but you do what you can do!)
     
  4. cutlass1972

    cutlass1972 Chillin' With My Peeps

    261
    0
    119
    May 26, 2009
    Everyone is telling me what I really already knew, just didn't want to acknowledge. Last year I had made up my mind I was going to cull them all and start fresh. I bought 24 chicks from ideal hatchery in january and raised them in a huge stock tank in my garage with heat lamps. My intentions where to cull my entire flock and have these birds as close to laying age as I could get without overcrowding problems in the stock tank so that I would go as short of a period as I could with no eggs.

    The time to cull came near and my existing flock was hitting on all cylinders, I was getting more eggs per day than ever from them. I coudl not bring myself to cull them, and thought maybe they didn not have something that "didnt go away". I built a chicken tractor to migrate my new chicks outside so they could get used to the change in environment without being thrown right in the coop with my existing flock. A couple of them got a small cough / sneeze, I treated only the ones that displayed any illness with a large dose of tylan for 2 days administered right in their mouth with a syringe so I didn't have to treat the whole flock and it cleared up right away. I did not see any signs of illness again until around june when I noticed a couple of hens sneezing and coughing (these are the ones I was referencing in the beginning of my thread). My point here is none of the new flock ever really seemed REALLY sick like last winter. Could this mean that I do not have MG, and whatever they where Ill from last winter was not something they keep for ever?
     
  5. Cloverleaf Farm

    Cloverleaf Farm Bearded Birds are Best

    10,367
    82
    328
    Sep 16, 2008
    Levan, UT
    What it really means is that you need to get another necropsy done, by someone else, at another facility. Overnight it somewhere if you have to, with ice packs. To tell you that your bird "is sick" via necropsy deserves that person a smack to the back of the head...with a boot. The next bird that shows symptoms - cull it right away, and send it off.

    I am guessing that it IS something you will have to cull for, as it HAS come back, sure it's not as bad as before, but your birds have built up some immunities and can therefore fight it better. But they WILL be carriers.

    When you cull everyone, do not prepurchase chicks to grow out before you cull. You need to have bird free property for a little bit, while you are cleaning and sanitizing coops, runs, etc. No matter how careful you are not to cross-contaminate, there is too great a risk, and as you are learning now, it's just not worth it to have to go through this all over again.

    I'm sorry this is happening, I hope we are all wrong, I really do... [​IMG]
     
  6. ihvpower

    ihvpower Chillin' With My Peeps

    435
    0
    121
    Aug 26, 2009
    Uxbridge MA
    CRD - Chronic Respiratory Disease...what is MG? Mycoplasma?
     
  7. nnbreeder

    nnbreeder Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,761
    30
    210
    Jun 22, 2008
    Oklahoma
    Usually there is a six-month waiting period between flocks also to let the illness clear the property. So if you cull late Dec you could start with new birds in about July. If you then start with chicks they will try to come into lay early winter and then shut off when the light goes or may not start until the next spring.

    I think that I would wait for a definate cause before sharpening the ax. Those symptoms are common in nearly all poultry resp. illnesses. Some I would cull for and others I wouldn't as they are found in most flocks. But stress or other factors just have not brought them to the surface yet.
     
  8. ND

    ND Chillin' With My Peeps

    213
    24
    111
    Jul 20, 2010
    Quote:Yes.
    CRD is just a "catch all term" that includes just about any of the different respiratory diseases. CRD isn't one particular disease.
    Saying a bird has CRD is like saying a person has a cold. "Cold" covers a lot of different viruses, even bacteria that cause 'cold like' symptoms...but each one does have a name if you bothered to have it cultured. It's not cost effective or necessary to know which actual strain of what virus you have... so, it's a 'cold'. (however, UNLIKE chicken CRD, people aren't generally carriers of an illness once the active infection is taken care of by the immune system)

    The main reason a backyard flock owner would want to know exactly what is infecting a flock, especially one that's planning on culling to eradicate the illness, would be to know exactly what they were dealing with. For instance, most strains of MG do not live long outside of a host. A few days, tops. Whether you sanitized or not... it'd be dead and non-infectious without a bird host in a few days. Others can remain infectious in the soil and environment for literally months and months, nearly impossible to sanitize it out of the run/soil. Knowing exactly what you were dealing with could mean the difference of being bird free for a few weeks and it being safe to start a clean flock vs. 6-9 months before a clean flock would have a chance...


    I also agree that you shouldn't have a replacement flock growing out before the old flock is culled...and sufficient time has passed to eradicate the disease in the environment. Cross contamination is just too easy with that close proximity. If your goal is a clean flock, take the time and patience to do it right so you don't end up culling your flock for nothing.


    That said, I'm not 100% certain that MG would be the cause of your egg production problems if there isn't an active, acute stage infection going on in the flock.

    And without a necropsy on a sick bird, you just won't know what you have or don't have unfortunately.
    Even WITH that, without testing every bird... alive... you wouldn't know if they were infected or not. Morbidity isn't always 100% in flocks, not all will necessarily get it.
    Depending on what it is or isn't, not all would necessarily become carriers, either. I think I read a thread some time back about a culled flock that tested positive for MG, and after sending in ALL his birds to be tested, roughly 30% of the birds tested positive. The others did not, despite being exposed to the positive birds for some time. It certainly makes an argument for culling any birds that display respiratory symptoms, or that can't recover on their own and 'relapse' often... and not culling those that don't show symptoms or never show them again. But, without testing, you wouldn't know if they were just asymptomatic carriers, or altogether clean.
     
  9. ihvpower

    ihvpower Chillin' With My Peeps

    435
    0
    121
    Aug 26, 2009
    Uxbridge MA
    That was an outstanding explanation, Thank you very much.

    My own flock is recovering from some sort of Respiratory illness...I lost 3 Hens and a Roo. I had the vet culture and it came back negative. I treated with Tylan. Most of the symptoms are gone and most look almost normal again. Scared though, My Silkie just hatched a handful of babies..
     
  10. therealsilkiechick

    therealsilkiechick ShowGirl Queen

    Jul 18, 2007
    Northwestern, pa
    look on the net at ilt and ib and ms and see if it might be any of those. i would try vaccinateing for ilt and ib before i would cull an entire flock. omg that would just be devistating and heart wretching. i have never heard of giveing tylan in the mouth , when we do it we inject it into the chest for poultry and for rabbits the back leg usually the dose is 5-7 days. maybe it is comeing back because they r not on it long enough or the dose is off? we leave them off a few days to 10 days depending on the antibiotic if it is still showing we do another round. if by 3rd or 4th round they still have it u know u got carriers and ones showing signs r who r carriers. find a poultry tech or the state vet in ur area and have them send one for a necropsy if ur flock is under so many birds they should be able to send it to the lab and do the paperwork for ya and would be free for disease prevention purposes. the necropsy should test for several things and ms and mg is 2 they should test for.
    hope that helps


    oh and no i would not cull a whole flock without testing to see what they had first and knowing what was causeing the problems. [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2010

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by