Vacinations and other meds forever?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Eric R, Oct 17, 2017.

  1. Eric R

    Eric R Chirping

    Jul 12, 2017
    I've been reading posts regarding vaccinations, antibiotics and other health issues with chickens and it seems that most people buy chicks that are vaccinated and who are also put on antibiotics if anything occurs with their health. I've also read, however, that vaccinations are typically sold in large quantities more for commercial farmers. My question is, should backyard chicken owners with a small flock just never let their hens hatch any chicks? Is it better to just always buy new vaccinated chicks? Seems so pointless to not be able to see new generations of chickens come out of your own flock. One non vaccinated chick that may get something from their parents who are vaccinated but still carriers would mean your whole new batch of chicks would then get sick and even if they don't all die, a lot of people say just "cull" your entire flock. Respiratory diseases, mareks you name it. I can't imagine this was the case back in the day. Is anyone successfully breeding stronger birds by breeding those birds that are able to fight off these diseases and able to sustain a constant cycle that way? Is there info somewhere that we can read more about THAT type of chicken keeping?
  2. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs Making Coffee

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    I don't vaccinate or treat ever. Birds either recover or are culled. A flock will build immunity to many things. I see an occasional respiratory infection and an occasional Mareks bird. Cull out the carriers and the weak. Generally sick chickens have an underlying health problem going on.

    My flock is pretty healthy. I don't crowd, there's plenty of range and good ventilation. I buy hatchery day olds or I hatch. I never bring in adults or older chicks as they can be carriers of nasty stuff.

    I haven't seen even half the stuff I read on here. Read enough posts and it sounds like a healthy sustainable flock is impossible, but generally those without problems don't post much.
  3. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    In one word, Eric, YES.

    People do breed for long term sustainability, especially those who are certified organic (like my daughter and son-in-law).

    While vaccines and antibiotics have their place, in the industrialization of the livestock industry, they have been grossly over used. This overuse has at times allowed sloppy husbandry to the detriment of livestock and humans. So much so, that the FDA has pretty much taken off the shelves any over the counter antibiotics and wormers for poultry (and limited it for other livestock) that is also used in humans. They have cracked down on the livestock industry as they have found bacteria strains are growing resistance to meds creating super bugs that humans are catching. (January 2017 sunsetted a lot of poultry meds for this reason).

    As to Marek's. The Marek's vaccine is known as being "leaky." It is an incomplete vaccine. That means it does not stop the spread of the disease but merely diminishes the effects of the disease...the tumors that grow in various parts of the bird. A bird still catches the virus; the tumors generally don't grow (unless the bird caught a different virus strain than the vaccine). The industry is finding that it is inadvertently creating super-Marek's bugs that threaten to produce a severe outbreak in the poultry industry.

    The recommendation for Marek's is to now...wait for it.... breed for long term sustainability with naturally resistant stock. Something our old timers needed to do as a matter of course. (Old timers also grew some turkeys each season for holiday butchering. Turkeys naturally brought in the milder turkey form of Marek's that fortified chickens against chicken Marek's...however you have to watch for blackhead in turkeys, which they catch from chickens...but that's why they are short term turkeys, not a turkey farm).

    Again, don't get me wrong. I am not trying to be anti-vaccine or non-antibiotic here. Nor am I dishing on the fabulous agricultural industry that has managed to feed millions on much smaller acreage than just a few decades ago. My grandmother grew up in a time when children died from diphtheria and pneumonia. Meds definitely have their places. Industry has streamlined so that our food is efficient and plentiful. However, modern practices also have their limitations (and their intention was always for large commercial operations).

    So in answer to you question, yes, absolutely. Many small holder and organic farmers practice and breed for long term sustainability in their livestock, like our grandparents did.

    So what does that mean for the modern small holding poultry keeper?

    Find good breeder quality stock that has been bred for long term sustainability in YOUR local area, or get good quality lines from a reputable hatchery that have not been vaccinated.

    Develop a diversified stock, with a multitude of genes, then take good care of your stock. Keep and breed for long term sustainability. Yes, that does mean culling (spelled k.i.l.l.) any bird or chick that is not of good quality. At first, that means culling more. Over time, you have few to cull. After a long term, very few to kill.

    Long term sustainability does rely on good husbandry. That means, keeping good grounds. Building natural resistance is good, but don't keep a dirty or stressful habitat for your poultry. There is such a thing as too much of "natural" surroundings. That's why our birds are domesticated for our uses and not in the jungle lean, mean, and scrappy....with little meat and scant eggs.

    As much as possible, get rid of varmints (rats, mice, voles, wild birds, squirrels) that invade your coops as they are vectors for disease particularly external parasites (lice and mites).

    Especially avoid water fowl nearby or intermingling as they can carry deadly avian influenza to poultry.

    Give your flock adequate room and keep the area reasonably clean. Don't let poop mold or build up and attract Darkling beetles. However, not all poop is bad. My daughter and SIL are finding that allowing their birds to follow the cow herd is excellent for both cows and chickens. The probiotics in the cow poop is good for the hens, and the hens eat the maggots and such in the cow poop. (Gross, yes, but it is the type of eco-balance you need on an organic working farm.)

    Rotate your fields as much as is possible. Organic farmers keep their livestock moving from one field to another seasonally so that the poop doesn't constantly build up. This helps to reduce the internal parasite load as it breaks the parasite cycle. Be aware of what the intermediary hosts are for the parasites in your area and act accordingly (ie slugs for tapeworms or earthworms for gapeworms).

    Food and water should be both plentiful and clean. Many recommend fermenting feed to keep healthy gut balance. If you free range, be sure the birds are getting enough protein and balanced nutrients too. Not all free range is plentiful range.

    I recommend absolutely hatching with brooding hens. The momma helps make smarter chicks who grow faster, feather faster, and lay earlier. You won't see the problems with pasty butt and coccidia in your broody chicks as you will in feed store chicks.

    But know your area and watch for boggy, stagnate land and feed. Clean, rich biotic, compost is one thing. Stench is another.

    I'll have to link the reading my SIL and daughter have done. They follow a particular fellow who I believe is in Washington state that is running long term experiments with sustainable farming.

    Good luck with your endeavors, and please keep us updated on your flock.

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  4. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    getaclue and Eric R like this.
  5. Eric R

    Eric R Chirping

    Jul 12, 2017
    I love it. I just read a post on here of how someone's grandparents raised chickens back in the day and I was reinspired. All great stuff. Keep it coming!
    getaclue likes this.
  6. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    Then you might enjoy this old thread, if you haven't found it yet:

    My grandmother owned a chicken ranch in her retirement years (they had always been small farmers).

    I remember hearing their stories during their early days, during the depression, not much thought was given to the hens. They free ranged as best they could and got periodic corn. They laid some eggs, but not lots.

    When grandma went into the egg business, during the 50's and 60's, she had a chicken house and yard. Hens had limited range, so she fed them bagged feed bought at the local feed store. (BTW, the feed came in pretty print muslin bags...My early play sets were chicken feed play clothes).

    I must state that if you want to limit meds and vaccines, it is very important that you field rotate as the build up of waste (of the same animal type) invariably causes problems.

    Chicken tractors are great for rotating chickens through fields, especially in predator heavy areas as much farm land can be. (A coyote can pick off a flock over night).

    I also agree with oldhenlikesdogs, once you've got your initial flock purchased (from the same location), add only young chicks or hatch your own to avoid bringing disease from other flocks.

    Diversity and good husbandry are the key.
  7. Lady of McCamley

    Lady of McCamley Crowing

    Mar 19, 2011
    NW Oregon
    ...oh, and I just remembered another old timer trick that my organic SIL uses, copper sulfate in the water is excellent for helping chickens fend off parasites and illness.

    You can purchase it at most feed stores or get it at Meyer hatchery. Use is just seasonally (as in not all the time in the water container). Do keep apple cider vinegar, raw with mother, non-metal containers, in the water. Good gut flora is the first line of defense.

    Follow the directions on the package.
  8. Arya28

    Arya28 Songster

    Apr 9, 2017
    Hi Eric! I am really glad you asked this, I think it opens a great discussion.

    I completely agree with you. It does seem pointless to never see chicks hatch out of your flock, and to start out with them all being vaccinated.

    This is exactly the premise we are going by with our flock. We are not vaccinating them, and we are not giving them antibiotics (unless it ever got to a point where there was absolutely no choice). We want to work with their immune systems, and build them up, so that the birds we hatch out from them will be stronger and more well adapted to our environment, for generations to come.

    We constantly read about, you must vaccinate your chicks, and give them medicated feed, and keep them (and the eggs they come out of) in a sanitary environment. Lots of people say you need to do this in order for them to be healthy. Well, how does this help their immune systems? How does it help the genetics for the generations to come? In a simple answer, it doesn't. It makes them more dependent on these outside things that wouldn't be necessary if we worked with their immune systems, rather than against them.

    I'm not trying to be "anti-vaccinations" or "anti-antibiotics" or anything like that, either. I am more trying to be "pro-nature" and "pro-immune system". People have had chickens for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they never did the things you are told to do with them today.

    Chickens are birds. They are meant to be birds, that's what their immune systems are for. They are meant to be outside, they are meant to be in the dirt, and they are even meant to be in an environment with other birds (imagine that!). Lots of people say, you can't let any other wild birds anywhere near your chickens ever. Well, I don't recommend purposely putting wild birds or wild bird poop in with your chickens, but if your chickens immune systems are working properly, you shouldn't need to worry as much about diseases and stuff.

    When we first got our first batch of chicks, we didn't get them vaccinated. We didn't feed them medicated feed. We get them organic, non GMO feed. And when we had an outbreak of coccidiosis, we didn't treat them with corrid, either (GASP! :eek:). We use herbs, such as garlic, oregano, and aloe to build up their immunity. We use probiotics, rather than antibiotics to build up their gut flora, and keep it healthy. And we did lose a few chicks those first couple weeks, and it was really super sad. But what we are doing makes it so that the ones who do survive will have a super strong immune system, and they won't need to depend on medications and such to keep them healthy. However, people who do use medications and vaccines loose chicks too.

    And you're right when you say a lot of people would cull their entire flock at the first sign of something being wrong! We had half of our whole flock get super puffy eyes, from some sort of respiratory problem, for weeks until we got it figured out. A LOT of people would have culled them all- no questions asked. We used herbs, essential oils, and a vitamin supplement and got it all figured out- they are all healthy now. Yes, the vitamin supplement had propelyne glycol in it as the carrier oil, which is not preferable. But, we figured it better then antibiotics or culling them. You can read more about our experience with treating them here.

    Another thing- do your chickens have worms? They need worm medication!... Or do they? Pumpkin seeds can completely treat worm and parasite infestations, but a lot of people don't know that. Our dogs had really, super bloody poop with a lot of worms. Nothing but parsley water, and ground up pumpkin seeds, got them all out! Pumpkin seeds do this for people, chickens, dogs, cats, everything. Plus, they are good for them and not bad for them. They build up their immune system, rather than hinder it. And, future generations, might be more genetically resistant to them. Just like if you sprout seeds from a blite resistant plant that is acclimated to your area, the offspring will be blite resistant, too.

    I feel like a lot of people get guilt-tripped into doing it (vaccines, meds, antibiotics, etc) because it's just "the right thing to do", and it's "what's best for your chickens". But what if it's not? What if that is what's harming them and making them more genetically prone to diseases (such as cocci) and deformities?

    In Africa, for example, they don't have corrid. When their chickens get coccidiosis, they crush up aloe leaves and give it to them in water. This works for them, and it's what they've done for generations. So now, as soon as we suspect cocci, we immediately add aloe juice to their water. We haven't had any die from that (thankfully) since we've figured out to give it to them soon enough.

    I strongly believe that for every ailment a chicken can get, there is a natural solution. You just have to find it. And it might take a few tries to get it right, but I also strongly believe that our flock, and their offspring are and will be healthier for it.

    We started our flock by buying chicks, not hatching eggs, so we haven't had a chance to raise chicks in our flock yet. I think it makes a lot of sense to do that though! We have an incubator, and will use it. But, the eggs we use are from chickens who weren't vaccinated, weren't medicated, and who are already more adapted to this environment. We do also plan on letting our hens hatch out some eggs at some point too though.

    I'm sorry I seem to have gone off on a bit of a rant here. I just get frustrated because so many people look down on the NATURAL way of doing things, because of "science". Well, if you look at the majority of chickens in the agriculture industry, lots of them have deformities and are deficient in vitamins. This is why they need the vaccines and medications to keep them alive- because they have been bred to be dependent on "the" system, rather than their own immune system.

    I would highly recommend you look up Justin Rhodes on YouTube. He has chickens and a homestead, grows a garden, the whole nine yards. He does everything as naturally as possible, and goes on tours to visit other farmers who do too. You might learn a lot from him! I know I have!

    So, I would recommend that you do treat your chickens naturally, and that you hatch out their babies rather than getting vaccinated and medicated ones.

    I wrote this article about how we treat our chickens and keep them healthy with herbs if you want to take a look. I am not a vet, but I am someone trying to keep our chickens healthy, the way they are meant to be!

    Again- sorry for such a long post. But I completely agree with your flow of logic, and I wonder why more people don't ask the questions you are asking. :)
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017
  9. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    I do not buy vaccinated chicks. As a matter of fact, if I was going to buy some chicks, and was told that they had been vaccinated for Marek's I'd choose not to buy them. I hatch from my own flock, keep a closed flock. Sometimes, I bring in chicks from a hatchery, and I've hatched eggs from other flocks. But, I'll never allow an adult bird from elsewhere into my flock.

    Will this prevent disease from entering my flock? NO. I do not practice biosecurity to the point that others might. Other flock owners visit me and walk on my property, as I do theirs. I go to the feed store, and return home without changing my shoes. Wild birds fly overhead and defecate where they will. Rodents can also be disease vectors, as can the insects that birds enjoy eating.

    I do not use medicated feed for my chicks. They get early exposure to my soil to build their immunity. I use fermented feed. Deep litter in coop and run. I've never had a "sick" bird. However, if I have a bird with reproductive issues, she gets culled. IMO, culling the weak birds from the flock results in a stronger flock with immunity to local diseases.

    Read enough, and you will be convinced that it's impossible to raise any kind of animal without constant monitoring by a vet, without constant immunizations, without constant medication.

    Read enough, and you'll be running to the doctor for every sniffle, hang nail, and belly ache.
  10. chickens really

    chickens really Crazy Call Duck Momma

    None of my Chickens are vaccinated.....I have a healthy flock....They are carriers for respiratory disease although I have only Culled one due to the illness...I manage them differently but that's another topic...
    I raise Chicks here and sell them...My flock is closed, meaning I never Bring in outside Birds to introduce to my flock...I raise what they hatch and keep back Pullets if needed...I only kept two this year...I give away all the Cockerels and sell the Pullets.....My birds are immune to the things they carry.....
    Best wishes.....
    getaclue and Eric R like this.

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