How could my birds be sick?
I want to take time to put the whole "bird health" picture into a simple package.
It's no small wonder that our birds stay healthy in spite of so many diseases, parasites, and other unmentionable nasties.
It's not good enough, in my opinion, that my birds are healthy. I want to know why they are that way. There are a lot of reasons, and I'm going to try to get the message across in the most positive manner I can, by using negatives.
Here's a typical scenario that leads to sick birds
It's early Fall. Today I stumbled across the most beautiful bird I've ever seen. Somehow, I managed to talk the birds' keeper into parting with this gorgeous rooster.
I've known for years that I shouldn't bring birds home from other places, because I'm just asking for trouble, but I just couldn't take a pass on this old boy. On the way home, I formulate in my mind's eye a careful quarantine plan complete with additives, medications, and special feed; the whole shebang.
A month has passed, no symptoms have appeared, and the old boy is ready to go to work in my breeding program. Days are getting colder and shorter, my new rooster has taken up easily with his new hens, and I'm feeling pretty good about my acquisition.
A little snow has been blowing around, and when I made it out to take care of the birds, I noticed a pullet who's looking a little rough. She just doesn't seem herself. A few days pass, and she's falling off fast. I notice another young cockeral who's just not right. The pullet's face is getting puffy. Oh no!!! Today, I've got 5 birds who look not-so-good. The pullets' eyes have stuck shut, and two of the other young birds are sneezing.
Why is this happening to me???
The old boy brought baggage along. The thing with poultry sicknesses is that they mostly stem from the same organisms. My rooster carried a good load of MG (Mycoplasma Galliseptum) along when he moved to my house. The bacteria lied dormant, as it does, and only reared its head when the days got short, cold, and wet. Combined with deteriorating coop conditions from the always-wet-weather, the long cold days, and added stress from cramped indoor conditions, the potential for sickness was at a peak.
MG was there all along, but the excellent health of my birds masked it. As soon as they got stressed, the bacteria took the opportunity to take hold.
How could I have avoided this mess??? I can't. MG is everywhere. It's in the ground, the air, and most every living creature. You can't avoid organisms. You CAN close the door though. If MG doesn't have an opportunity to take hold, it won't. The bacteria is passed through hatching eggs, from generation to generation, and keeps marching on.
To close the door to MG and MS, there are many simple precautions you can take.
1.) Keep your coops, pens, and cages clean, especially in the late months, and early spring when the weather is breaking. Ammonia in the air causes birds' lungs to cry for mercy. The lungs become inflamed, sensitive, and allow bacteria to take hold very easily.
2.) Minimize the parasites among your birds. Use whatever means necessary to control mites, lice, and internal parasites.
3.) Do not introduce new birds in the Fall. Better weather, like early Summer, is the time to move birds. The long, warm weather conditions help keep stress on the birds to a minimum.
4.) Use a balanced feeding program. Avoid junk food, and minimize scratch, corn, and table scraps.
5.) See to it that your birds are getting all the proper vitamins and minerals they need by getting them out on the ground on a frequent basis. Use vitamin and mineral supplements in their feeding program.
6.) Minimize the amount of birds on your property. Keep only as many as you need, not as many as you want. Cramped quarters cause stress.
7.) Sickness loves stress. Take care to minimize stress in your birds. Barking dogs, predators, unsanitary conditions, cold, heat, and a million other things cause stress in your birds. Put yourself in their shoes. Things that would stress you will stress your birds much in the same manner.
8.) Keep an absolute minimum of cockerels and roosters. Even in the best conditions, a subordinate rooster can become stressed into sickness from the constant harassment caused by being in the same coop as 2 other dominant roosters. Pay attention to your birds. It's much easier to treat one bird heavily than an entire flock. If a bird is failing, treat him/her, and his ENTIRE immediate community. If one bird is sick, all the others are harboring, and you can cut off problems before they start.
Understand that there are so many ways for your birds to get sick that I can't possibly begin to discuss them all in one article. There are as many scenarios as there are birds in the world, or fish in the ocean.
The best weapon against disease and sickness is Good Old Fashioned Common Sense.
If you don't think that you would thrive in the same conditions that you've created for your birds, you certainly can't expect them to.
Happy, Healthy birds are a joy to keep, and it's very easy to keep them that way.
Take the pledge to give your birds an atmosphere in which they can thrive. It will make matters easier on you both!!!