I just started a backyard flock management course and during the first week I learned chicken anatomy and what to look for during a necropsy (autopsy.) I also learned how to do a physical exam on a live chicken and what to look for if doing a home visit for a flock that has an ill member(s).
And while this is all fascinating stuff (truly, I’m loving this course) it’s not going to be too helpful to many of the backyard chicken enthusiasts in New Hampshire.
Due to the discovery of sick chickens being sold at local chicken swaps, we are finding mycoplasma gallisepticum, or MG, a respiratory illness, and mycoplasma synoviae, or MS, which affects joints in birds in backyard flocks around the state.
If you purchased a bird from a flock that was contaminated (and some birds are asymptomatic) there is a very good chance that you might have brought the disease into your flock. When you buy a chicken from a chicken seller at a swap, your name is recorded and the state then has access to that information.
Which is why a friend of mine, who purchased a chicken to put in his flock, now has to cull his *entire* flock. His birds are asymptomatic but when the state came out to test the birds they tested positive. Even though chances are, these diseases might already be in your flock, even though the state said that the eggs are still healthy to eat, it’s a death sentence for all.
If the diseases are found in a flock, the entire flock needs to be culled. End of discussion.
A friend of mine whose flock tested positive passed on the following information:
“We’ve been following strict isolation since we were notified a few weeks ago, but with chicks on the scene, it’s too risky to keep them around so I’ll be sanitizing with the power washer and bleach, and rebuilding the run while it’s empty. I have a couple of months before the chicks will be going outside.
The state people will tell you off the record that it’s really not an issue, but that it’s handled seriously because we used to have a big poultry industry in NH, and they’d have big losses as a result but that most birds (e.g., mine) will never show any kind of symptom and live a happy long life
They also say that most hatcheries don’t test because it’s so pervasive. The gotcha is that someone that I bought a frizzle from took down my contact into (as they state requires), then tested positive so the state called and came out to perform a free blood test, and all but one of my birds tested positive, then of course they need to put quarantine on your flock until you cull them.
So most flock owners (so I’m told) have this, and never need to worry about it. It’s only when you get caught in the system that you need to do anything for it. The eggs, meat are just fine, birds happy, yet they need to be put down.”
It’s a very sad situation here in New Hampshire. On the one hand, the state really has no choice. With so many backyard flock enthusiasts and so many people using off label drugs (including antibiotics) to treat their pets, it makes the situation ripe for drug resistance and cross contamination between the birds and the owners.
Not sure what the answer is. Culling an entire flock seems like overkill but, on the other hand, the old saying that about an ounce of prevention may be valid here until we can figure out exactly what his going on. It’s not an easy decision for anyone.
In the meantime, I sure do miss those chicken swaps.
Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com
Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.