Preventing disease in poultry

Routine preventative measures form the next line of defence against disease, after providing a clean and hygienic environment through good poultry farming practices.

Manage biosecurity risks

Provide clean and appropriate housing

  • Keep your flock in a clean environment with minimal stress.
  • Always provide sufficient feed for the age and production status of the birds and plenty of cool, clean water.
  • Allow enough floor space and shade as specified in the poultry welfare code.

Keep equipment clean

  • Don't share equipment between flocks or properties. If this is unavoidable, only share essential equipment and make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use.
  • Routinely clean and fumigate poultry incubators.

Vaccinate birds

Follow a suitable vaccination program and only buy appropriately vaccinated stock. You can request vaccination certificates from your supplier when purchasing chicks or pullets.

Day-old chicks will often receive vaccinations before they leave the hatchery. When rearing from day-old, you will be responsible for continuing their vaccination program until point of lay.

When vaccinating:

  • always follow the instructions on the label, including storage conditions
  • use disposable syringes and needles
  • discard all unused vaccines, syringes and needles in a proper manner
  • be clean, but never use detergents or disinfectants near vaccination equipment.

Check with your vaccine supplier or veterinarian for vaccine availability.

Control parasites

  • Regularly inspect birds for external parasites.
  • Spray or dust birds thoroughly with an approved insecticide if you can see lice or mites.
  • Spray the shed, perches and nests thoroughly, making sure the insecticide gets into crevices.
  • Clean sheds and rotating ranges to prevent worms.
  • Regularly check faecal material for signs of worms.
  • Read the label on worming treatments for withholding periods as some are not suitable for production birds.

Quarantine sick and new birds

  • Always isolate sick birds from the rest of the flock.
  • Have a qualified person diagnose and treat them for illness.
  • Ensure new birds are separated from the flock for a month. Watch for any signs of sickness, lice or mites.
  • Always source birds from a reputable supplier.
  • Keep exhibition birds returning from shows separate from the main flock for at least 2 weeks.

Manage multi-age flocks

When introducing younger birds into a flock of older birds, there is an increased risk of disease transfer from the older birds to the younger birds. Older birds often build resilience to diseases and disorders that younger birds have not been exposed to.

To reduce disease spread:

  • keep age groups separate – have an all-in and all-out system for each age group to allow for a complete clean and disinfection of facilities and equipment between flocks
  • always start work with younger poultry and finish with the oldest.

Keep accurate records

Keep records on general production figures:

  • daily mortalities
  • feed and water consumption
  • egg production.

A drop in production or change in feed conversion ratio can often be the first sign of disease. Keeping and monitoring records can help to detect an illness early.

An increase in mortalities is an immediate alert that a problem exists.