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Backyard chicken vaccination

 
pollinator
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So, we’re almost 1 full year into chicken keeping and I still find myself questioning things almost daily. One of my newest questions is along the lines of whether or not to buy vaccinated chicks, feed medicated feed or neither and the reasonings behind the choices.

I will start by saying I dont believe there is necessarily a “right” answer to this, and even if there is, it probably is far from universal.

So, for some background information: we started with 7 commercial hatchery bought buff orpington chicks last summer. None were vaccinated (at least not that im aware of) and none were fed medicated feed. One kept pasting up and seemed a bit behind the others, but they’re all alive and seemingly well now a year later. We have a small mobile coop and no dedicated chicken “run”. I move them to a new fenced off section of yard once a month or so to keep them from fouling (pun intended) the ground all up. We have nice lush growth in our yard, so their droppings dont last long, at least in the summer.

2 weeks ago, we let a broody hen incubate and hatch 2 eggs and bought 4 newly hatched chicks from a local breeder to slip underneath her. That had its ups and downs, and as of now, we’re down to 2 surviving chicks. 1 from our own and 1 from the breeder. Ours is noticeably larger and more feathered out than the foreigner chick. The other 4 chicks have all died, one by one, in a similar fashion. They appear totally fine one morning, in the evening one will seem a little more tired than the others, and the following morning that tired chick is dead or dying. The 2 that I came across as they were dying were totally limp and helpless. Unable to lift their heads, eat, drink or keep their eyes open. One chick got scalped on day 1 and thrived for a week afterwards only to succumb the same suspicions fate as the other 3. I have seen no worms and no bloody poop, although with them being outside, bloody poop may be hard to find. I considered infection in the injured chick and dehydration as a factor for the other ones, but the fact that their demise follows the same pattern has me suspecting coccidia or some other virus or disease.

So, I started thinking and reading and it sounds like there are 8-9 different strains, some more deadly than others, some birds are immune to some and not others, some aren’t immune to any, some vaccines work for some strains and not for others... a totally grey muddy mess in my opinion. It’s apparently highly recommended to either vaccinate or medicate your flock. This got me wondering why?

Why not focus on flock health and environment health instead of trying to stop an inevitable thing from happening? Surely people raise poultry without antibiotics, vaccines and medicated feed. Do they just lose more birds? I understand why people are into vaccines, not that i agree, but I understand. But from a sustainability standpoint or a permaculture perspective, shouldn’t we be trying to raise naturally healthy resilient animals? Not fragile animals that are depended on pharmaceutical industries and that entire food industry/farming industry/government spiderweb. So, as I sit wondering whether or not to buy some Corid for the flock or to continue with my natural approach, I cant help but wonder if any of us really ought to be relying on vaccines and medicated feed to get our flocks through. Is this not just a bandaid fix?

One other point is, say hypothetically our flock thrives while being exposed to the inevitable parasites and whatnot that they expose themselves to. Say we dont vaccinate and dont use medicated feed and all is well. Then we bring in a newcomer... obviously, that is risky for the newcomer who could also be bringing in new variables. But also, would the unvaccinated and unmedicated flock be constantly increasing the parasite and disease load of the yard despite being immune? And if so, does that even matter, aside from the eventual newcomer?

So many things to think about here...

 
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I don't medicate, vaccinate, anything-ate.  I raise my chicks on fermented food, keep them warm, dry, and when they are big enough to be in the coop and run, I make sure they have fresh water and lots of ventilation.  That's pretty much my entire recipe right there.  I can't remember the last time I lost a chick.
 
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First off medicated feed doesn't even exist here it would be illegal as you may not use medication on animals when there is no reason to. i.e they are not sick. Huge amounts of antibiotic resistance are due to willy-nilly dosing animals by unqualified people the world over.

As to Vaccinations well our chickens have never been vaccinated but the chicks I am looking at now will be against salmonella and possibly a couple of other diseases, simply because the supplier sells to big concerns as well where the chicks must be vaccinated. I do not care either way on a vaccination for chickens, if there was a disease here that regularly affected backyard flocks I would vaccinate against it, but since there isn't I do not mind if they are or are not vaccinated.

The rules here have some odd twists, they say for a specific vaccination you may NOT have vaccinated and unvaccinated birds together. The supplier mentions this on their website, saying they have never heard of any real life problems but they have to tell you this information ha!


So basically I do not vaccinate, or medicate in any fashion but I do not mind if the birds have been vaccinated previously. We have raised two sets of chicks and two sets of muscovies with their "mothers" and not lost a single bird to disease, we did lose quite a few ducklings to rats. (Oh and keeping ducks and chickens together here is also illegal due to disease worries)
 
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I used to wrestle with worries about what to do as far as getting vaccinated chickens too.  Now I don’t even think about it, but I have been doing this about 10 years now.  

We incubate some eggs when there are particular birds we want to continue traits of or just experiment with. (Raised eggs from a Cornish cross and a barred rock this year). We also have a couple broody hens that add a few new chicks. Ever few years I get suckered into the cute factor and add a few of some new breed to the flock.  

I figure that any new chicks that come in stay in the house a few weeks anyway and have second period of a separate pen outside until they reach a bigger size before getting put in with the main flock.  This acts as an isolation period in case there is some problem with the new birds.

Other than that, I don’t worry about vaccinations or any medical issues.  

Have fun with your birds and try not to worry too much🙂
 
Brody Ekberg
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Trace Oswald wrote:I don't medicate, vaccinate, anything-ate.  I raise my chicks on fermented food, keep them warm, dry, and when they are big enough to be in the coop and run, I make sure they have fresh water and lots of ventilation.  That's pretty much my entire recipe right there.  I can't remember the last time I lost a chick.



That’s how I wanted things to go... the 4 of the 6 chicks died. Maybe it isnt a disease or a virus, but it at least has me wondering. Coccidiosis worries are rampant in online chicken forums (where I probably spend too much of my time!)
 
Brody Ekberg
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Skandi Rogers wrote:First off medicated feed doesn't even exist here it would be illegal as you may not use medication on animals when there is no reason to. i.e they are not sick. Huge amounts of antibiotic resistance are due to willy-nilly dosing animals by unqualified people the world over.

As to Vaccinations well our chickens have never been vaccinated but the chicks I am looking at now will be against salmonella and possibly a couple of other diseases, simply because the supplier sells to big concerns as well where the chicks must be vaccinated. I do not care either way on a vaccination for chickens, if there was a disease here that regularly affected backyard flocks I would vaccinate against it, but since there isn't I do not mind if they are or are not vaccinated.

The rules here have some odd twists, they say for a specific vaccination you may NOT have vaccinated and unvaccinated birds together. The supplier mentions this on their website, saying they have never heard of any real life problems but they have to tell you this information ha!


So basically I do not vaccinate, or medicate in any fashion but I do not mind if the birds have been vaccinated previously. We have raised two sets of chicks and two sets of muscovies with their "mothers" and not lost a single bird to disease, we did lose quite a few ducklings to rats. (Oh and keeping ducks and chickens together here is also illegal due to disease worries)



I agree that unnecessary vaccination is a bigger problem than not vaccinating. Are you in the US? I ask because medicated chick feed is for sale all over the place here. Many websites recommend either vaccinating chicks for coccidiosis or feeding medicated feed for the first 18 weeks instead.

Also, the disease remains in the soil, so if one is to vaccinate, they might as well always do so because the disease will always be there. But if one were to opt to go natural, ideally the flock could eventually build immunity to whats in their environment. Although thats constantly changing so outbreaks are always possible.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Tina Hillel wrote:I used to wrestle with worries about what to do as far as getting vaccinated chickens too.  Now I don’t even think about it, but I have been doing this about 10 years now.  

We incubate some eggs when there are particular birds we want to continue traits of or just experiment with. (Raised eggs from a Cornish cross and a barred rock this year). We also have a couple broody hens that add a few new chicks. Ever few years I get suckered into the cute factor and add a few of some new breed to the flock.  

I figure that any new chicks that come in stay in the house a few weeks anyway and have second period of a separate pen outside until they reach a bigger size before getting put in with the main flock.  This acts as an isolation period in case there is some problem with the new birds.

Other than that, I don’t worry about vaccinations or any medical issues.  

Have fun with your birds and try not to worry too much🙂



I’ve been trying not to worry too much! That was the idea behind letting the hen incubate, hatch and raise chicks this time. That went south on day 1 of the hatch since we had an injured chick. Had to fire up the brooder and play mama hen for a week to get that chick on track. Then, one by one, 4 seemingly healthy chicks die... two of them died in my hands, limp and gasping for air as I watched in sorrow and bewilderment. Needless to say, I’m worrying again!
 
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Hi Brody,
So much good stuff :)

I think asking questions, particularly of long standing methods and ideologies, is a good thing. I think there can be confusion around these topics, and I want to see if I can throw out some ideas and see if they land in a comprehensible way.  

First, whether we are talking about a chicken or a human, my personal belief is that the focus should be on a healthy immune system, and not focused on a single method for getting that immunity for a single type of sickness (e.g. vaccine). I choose to raise my chickens without vaccines, and without what people would call "medicated" feed. I did this mainly because I am raising chickens so that I know what is or is not in them, and I did not want the ingredients from the vaccines in my chickens. I also didn't want to spend the extra small amount of money, and frankly, if the chickens need shots to survive, I do not want those chickens. I need chickens that I can keep sustainably.

However, while I am against all that sort of stuff, I do want to caution people. This needs to be a holistic approach to raising chickens. You cannot try to raise chickens in a "modern" way and simply not vaccinate. The vaccines were created for a reason (partly to make money I know), but partly because the methods people were using to raise chickens, increased their chance of getting sick and reduced their ability to fight it off. If you do not change any other part except vaccines, you will end up with a lot of sick chickens. You need to research what I would call "traditional" methods of raising chickens. These forums have tons of great posts about this (In fact Paul Wheaton has quite a post on all the various methods you can use to raise chickens at https://richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp. You could also check out Joel Salatin and Justin Rhodes for raising chickens.

Free ranging chickens or moving them frequently was very common for many years. This allows them to move away from the chicken manure which could harbor disease, and get on to fresh ground with fresh bugs and grass and grubs to eat. These in turn increased the vitamin and mineral intake beyond what pre-mixed feeds can do by themselves. While I don't use "medicated feed" I do often give apple cider vinegar. When they were young I gave an apple cider vinegar, honey, garlic, water mixture. People often think that no chicken vaccines means nothing given at all to help ward off sickness or to increase health. While some people may do this, most people will give access to medicinal herbs, fresh food, apple cider vinegar, dust baths, oyster shells, mineral supplements, and other things that will help the chicken be as healthy as possible.

Many people mistakenly believe that trying to grow chickens (or a garden) organically means that we do not do anything to enhance the health, size, or speed of growth of the animal or plant. Trust me, people who are into organic growing (or beyond organic growing) want big healthy chickens that grow fast. They want big healthy fast growing plants. The difference is how fast, how big, and most importantly, what method is used to achieve those goals. The example of foie gras comes to mind. In order to get this fatty liver from geese, many modern geese farmers will force feed grain to geese. This achieves a fatty liver very quickly, but I am against how they achieve that goal. Another farmer I saw on youtube (from italy maybe?) crossbred his domestic geese with wild geese in order to get the instinct to fatten up before the winter migration. He allows the geese to freely roam his property, and I believe also makes sure there is a lot of high fat forage growing around for them. In the fall, the geese fatten themselves up based on that instinct, and are processed. His method is a bit slower and may not produce quite as big a liver, but I think it is a pretty good system.

I would encourage you to keep going with the natural methods... but make sure you are thinking about the whole system. What do they eat, where do they live, what is under their feet?
 
Brody Ekberg
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Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi Brody,
So much good stuff :)

I think asking questions, particularly of long standing methods and ideologies, is a good thing. I think there can be confusion around these topics, and I want to see if I can throw out some ideas and see if they land in a comprehensible way.  

First, whether we are talking about a chicken or a human, my personal belief is that the focus should be on a healthy immune system, and not focused on a single method for getting that immunity for a single type of sickness (e.g. vaccine). I choose to raise my chickens without vaccines, and without what people would call "medicated" feed. I did this mainly because I am raising chickens so that I know what is or is not in them, and I did not want the ingredients from the vaccines in my chickens. I also didn't want to spend the extra small amount of money, and frankly, if the chickens need shots to survive, I do not want those chickens. I need chickens that I can keep sustainably.

However, while I am against all that sort of stuff, I do want to caution people. This needs to be a holistic approach to raising chickens. You cannot try to raise chickens in a "modern" way and simply not vaccinate. The vaccines were created for a reason (partly to make money I know), but partly because the methods people were using to raise chickens, increased their chance of getting sick and reduced their ability to fight it off. If you do not change any other part except vaccines, you will end up with a lot of sick chickens. You need to research what I would call "traditional" methods of raising chickens. These forums have tons of great posts about this (In fact Paul Wheaton has quite a post on all the various methods you can use to raise chickens at https://richsoil.com/raising-chickens.jsp. You could also check out Joel Salatin and Justin Rhodes for raising chickens.

Free ranging chickens or moving them frequently was very common for many years. This allows them to move away from the chicken manure which could harbor disease, and get on to fresh ground with fresh bugs and grass and grubs to eat. These in turn increased the vitamin and mineral intake beyond what pre-mixed feeds can do by themselves. While I don't use "medicated feed" I do often give apple cider vinegar. When they were young I gave an apple cider vinegar, honey, garlic, water mixture. People often think that no chicken vaccines means nothing given at all to help ward off sickness or to increase health. While some people may do this, most people will give access to medicinal herbs, fresh food, apple cider vinegar, dust baths, oyster shells, mineral supplements, and other things that will help the chicken be as healthy as possible.

Many people mistakenly believe that trying to grow chickens (or a garden) organically means that we do not do anything to enhance the health, size, or speed of growth of the animal or plant. Trust me, people who are into organic growing (or beyond organic growing) want big healthy chickens that grow fast. They want big healthy fast growing plants. The difference is how fast, how big, and most importantly, what method is used to achieve those goals. The example of foie gras comes to mind. In order to get this fatty liver from geese, many modern geese farmers will force feed grain to geese. This achieves a fatty liver very quickly, but I am against how they achieve that goal. Another farmer I saw on youtube (from italy maybe?) crossbred his domestic geese with wild geese in order to get the instinct to fatten up before the winter migration. He allows the geese to freely roam his property, and I believe also makes sure there is a lot of high fat forage growing around for them. In the fall, the geese fatten themselves up based on that instinct, and are processed. His method is a bit slower and may not produce quite as big a liver, but I think it is a pretty good system.

I would encourage you to keep going with the natural methods... but make sure you are thinking about the whole system. What do they eat, where do they live, what is under their feet?



Man, we are on the same page. I agree that organic doesn’t at all mean no help. I do all sorts of things to help myself, our chickens and our garden. Does any of it work? Who knows. It seems to help, and at least I can trust myself to do it and have faith in nature taking care of what needs to be done instead of trying to convince myself to trust the “normal” way of doing things and the motives behind that.

I uses compost, herbs, essential oils, bone meal, epsom salt, grass clipping tea and fish fertilizer in the garden. I use ACV, black walnut hull tincture, various herbs, oregano oil, aloe vera gel, oyster shells, wood ash, comfrey and other things for the chickens. I believe it all can work as efficiently and effectively as “normal” modern approaches, but is sustainable unlike them. But that is partially faith, partially wishful thinking and partially reading others experience. As far as my own experience goes... what do I know? I cant see parasites inside my chickens or disease in my soil, but that doesn’t mean they arent there. I see healthy birds one day and feel successful but a dead bird the next makes me skeptical. I’m ok with that though, especially knowing that a lot of others are doing the same or similar things. I also agree that I’m not interested in raising birds that need shots to stay alive.

Also, we will likely be trying to have a child or two soon, so I hope these sorts of natural remedies and preventatives will cross over to babies as well because I dont see how we can have this mindset towards ourselves, our gardens and our livestock but then get all the vaccines and a medicine cabinet full of drugs for a human baby! Although, for whatever reason, a human baby seems to be a lot more intimidating or like there’s more on the line than the other examples. I don’t necessarily agree that that’s the case, but it definitely feels like it and I think most of society would say that babies are more important and a higher risk.
 
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As far as coccidia goes, the first time we raised chicks we starting losing them to coccidia (we let the brooder cleanliness get away from us while we were building their tractor).
We used the homeopathic remedy "Cina" and that stopped it in its tracks. We were literally losing 1 check every hour, and once we gave the remedy in their water, they were fine.
We also obviously had to clean up the brooder because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.....now we always feed a lot of green grass, use ACV in their water, and put down fresh wood chips daily, and haven't lost a chick to coccidia since......chickens and very hardy and don't need vaccines or medication. If in a clean, warm enviroment with food, water, and grit, they will thrive.
 
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Brody I'm sorry you are having such a hard time. It's hard to loose chicks.  
I have had chickens for 17 years and I'm still questioning, still learning.  I think you're right there is no "right" answer.  It's about personal choice, and what works for you.  I personally have a similar thought line as you.  I don't vaccinate, or use medicated feed.  I'm not an expert. I feel modern society relies too heavily on medication of all kinds for chickens, animals, and humans for that matter. I do believe it is weakening us.  
I also feed my chickens fermented grains, and layer crumbles, and what ever is extra, or old garden, and kitchen fruit and veggies.  I try to keep the coop clean. It's very open, so we'll ventilated. I have healthy I think happy chickens.  In my mind if you're healthy then the body can fight pests, or illness.
I don't have experience with what you are going through.  I have always bought chicks. I keep them in a large bin with a hard wire cloth top.  It is in the house for a couple of weeks or so.  Once they have feathers, or are to big for the tote I put them in the coop.  I used to section off a space for them, but this year my son and I built a chick wing on to the coop.  The chicks and adults can see each other, but the chicks are safe.  I don't integrate them until the chicks are close to the same size as the hens.  This is what has worked for me. In all the year I have only lost one chick.  In 2020 I couldn't get spring chick, I got them in September. 2 days after I put them in the coop one died.  I think it got to cold, a heat lamp did the trick.  I don't have a rooster, so I have to do it this way
We have a lot of wild chickens in our city. They live in parking lots, and beside the road, all over. They seem to be thriving, though I don't know how.  I noticed they start off with quite a few chicks, but as time goes by the number is less and less.  Maybe hens hatch so many because the natural order is most won't make it.  The ones that do are probably the smartest, and toughest.  Maybe I'm wrong, but if not then you would have to decide if you want to let nature take it's course, and maybe end up with less chickens, or intervene, and have more live, but maybe they aren't as strong, or smart???  Sorry I seem to have more questions than answers.  I hope someone who let's nature take it's course posts a reply.  Good luck, and do what feels right for you.
 
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I think it is good to keep in mind that this is a worldwide group. Diseases that might be endemic in one area and almost require vaccination or medicated feed may not be in another. The same goes for size of flock, and how they are kept.

To vaccinate OR to use medicated feed would ideally be unnecessary, but the decision should be based on each flocks particular risk factors rather than a human's ideal as to what they would LIKE to do, or how they would prefer to do it.

I only mention this so as to not alienate those who due to circumstance, may be unable to go "all natural"; and to ensure that each person is truly evaluating "risk" before making these decisions.

NOTE: one should ideally isolate and quarantine new additions to a flock far away from the existing flock for at least two weeks, but do take into account prevalent diseases that affect you as that may increase the quarantine time.
 
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Vaccinating is indeed a question we all should at least consider.  

The only disease I like to get my birds vaccinated for is Mareks.  If they get it then it's a very high likelihood of having to euthanize the affected birds (or just have them die), and once it's in your flock it's really hard to eliminate without basically wiping everything out, and waiting a while before replacing them.  And, once it's in your flock it's VERY high risk to bring in unvaccinated birds.

I need to figure out how to get, and administer, the Mareks vaccine for the turkeys and possibly chickens we hatch out.  I don't have it in my flock (that I know of), but I'd also like to keep it that way.  I see it as cheap insurance.

I don't use medicated feed with any of my birds.  If I start to see what I suspect to be coccidiosis I'll treat with Corid.  The stuff they put in medicated feed is something comparable to Corid (not the same, but intended to treat coccidiosis), but I am a subscriber to not treating an illness that isn't there.  Coccidiosis is endemic to most places.  Your birds WILL be exposed to it, and there are so many strains that it's impossible to effectively vaccinate against it.  Most birds can tolerate the exposure, so most of the time they don't need treatment.  Hence why I don't treat unless it seems necessary.

Most other poultry diseases don't have vaccines anyway.  And as mentioned medicated feed only targets coccidiosis anyway, so again, no real need for it.  And FWIW, if you do get your chicks a coccidiosis vaccine, medicated feed will nullify the vaccine's effectiveness, so it's at least a waste, and likely counterproductive to do both.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jt Glickman wrote:As far as coccidia goes, the first time we raised chicks we starting losing them to coccidia (we let the brooder cleanliness get away from us while we were building their tractor).
We used the homeopathic remedy "Cina" and that stopped it in its tracks. We were literally losing 1 check every hour, and once we gave the remedy in their water, they were fine.
We also obviously had to clean up the brooder because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.....now we always feed a lot of green grass, use ACV in their water, and put down fresh wood chips daily, and haven't lost a chick to coccidia since......chickens and very hardy and don't need vaccines or medication. If in a clean, warm enviroment with food, water, and grit, they will thrive.



I will admit that our brooder could be cleaner... it wasn’t bad from the last round of chicks, but then was used sideways as a shelter for them as pullets and the pooped on one of the sides. It’s year old poop and dried up, so I thought anything that was alive in there must have died by now, but thats just an assumption. Maybe the scalped chick got into some of that in the brooder and then brought it into the flock of chicks with her.

I struggle even understanding how one cleans/disinfects a rough, porous surface like plywood and rough cut lumber. I mean, I can scrape the buildup off and spray some stuff, but I wouldn’t consider that sanitized.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:Brody I'm sorry you are having such a hard time. It's hard to loose chicks.  
I have had chickens for 17 years and I'm still questioning, still learning.  I think you're right there is no "right" answer.  It's about personal choice, and what works for you.  I personally have a similar thought line as you.  I don't vaccinate, or use medicated feed.  I'm not an expert. I feel modern society relies too heavily on medication of all kinds for chickens, animals, and humans for that matter. I do believe it is weakening us.  
I also feed my chickens fermented grains, and layer crumbles, and what ever is extra, or old garden, and kitchen fruit and veggies.  I try to keep the coop clean. It's very open, so we'll ventilated. I have healthy I think happy chickens.  In my mind if you're healthy then the body can fight pests, or illness.
I don't have experience with what you are going through.  I have always bought chicks. I keep them in a large bin with a hard wire cloth top.  It is in the house for a couple of weeks or so.  Once they have feathers, or are to big for the tote I put them in the coop.  I used to section off a space for them, but this year my son and I built a chick wing on to the coop.  The chicks and adults can see each other, but the chicks are safe.  I don't integrate them until the chicks are close to the same size as the hens.  This is what has worked for me. In all the year I have only lost one chick.  In 2020 I couldn't get spring chick, I got them in September. 2 days after I put them in the coop one died.  I think it got to cold, a heat lamp did the trick.  I don't have a rooster, so I have to do it this way
We have a lot of wild chickens in our city. They live in parking lots, and beside the road, all over. They seem to be thriving, though I don't know how.  I noticed they start off with quite a few chicks, but as time goes by the number is less and less.  Maybe hens hatch so many because the natural order is most won't make it.  The ones that do are probably the smartest, and toughest.  Maybe I'm wrong, but if not then you would have to decide if you want to let nature take it's course, and maybe end up with less chickens, or intervene, and have more live, but maybe they aren't as strong, or smart???  Sorry I seem to have more questions than answers.  I hope someone who let's nature take it's course posts a reply.  Good luck, and do what feels right for you.



My perspective and logic would seemingly agree with you: brooding commercial chicks in a brooder would likely increase the chances of survival for all the chicks, even the weak, dumb or otherwise compromised ones. Where letting a hen incubate, hatch and raise chicks with or alongside the flock should weed out the sick, weak or dumb resulting in fewer but “better” birds. That leaves me wondering how some people dont lose any chicks with that method. Maybe theres are healthier than ours though. There are a lot of variables in the situation.
 
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:I think it is good to keep in mind that this is a worldwide group. Diseases that might be endemic in one area and almost require vaccination or medicated feed may not be in another. The same goes for size of flock, and how they are kept.

To vaccinate OR to use medicated feed would ideally be unnecessary, but the decision should be based on each flocks particular risk factors rather than a human's ideal as to what they would LIKE to do, or how they would prefer to do it.

I only mention this so as to not alienate those who due to circumstance, may be unable to go "all natural"; and to ensure that each person is truly evaluating "risk" before making these decisions.

NOTE: one should ideally isolate and quarantine new additions to a flock far away from the existing flock for at least two weeks, but do take into account prevalent diseases that affect you as that may increase the quarantine time.



Good points. I suppose in filthy situations or people raising their own chickens nearby or downhill from a chicken factory will likely require cautions that people in clean, relatively isolated conditions may not. We did have a large egg operation less than a mile downhill from us decades ago. I wasnt here at the time but was told there were thousands of hens in a barn and everyone around got their eggs from that place. Im sure disease and whatnot persist in the soil there, but thats maybe a half mile downhill from us. Animals could help spread it though. I should ask the neighbor closer to that location if she has had issues with disease in her flock or if she vaccinates or feeds medicated feed. Shes closer to that location and has been raising chickens longer than I’ve been alive. Shes also hard to track down though...

And as far as the isolation/quarantining: when/if we eventually add more mature birds to our flock we will definitely do a proper quarantine. But this was day old chicks being added underneath a broody hen who was hatching a couple eggs. No way to quarantine them without removing her from the coop and fudging the whole plan of not having a complicated situation. Although, the situation got plenty complicated anyway with one of the chicks getting scalped on day 1!
 
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:Vaccinating is indeed a question we all should at least consider.  

The only disease I like to get my birds vaccinated for is Mareks.  If they get it then it's a very high likelihood of having to euthanize the affected birds (or just have them die), and once it's in your flock it's really hard to eliminate without basically wiping everything out, and waiting a while before replacing them.  And, once it's in your flock it's VERY high risk to bring in unvaccinated birds.

I need to figure out how to get, and administer, the Mareks vaccine for the turkeys and possibly chickens we hatch out.  I don't have it in my flock (that I know of), but I'd also like to keep it that way.  I see it as cheap insurance.

I don't use medicated feed with any of my birds.  If I start to see what I suspect to be coccidiosis I'll treat with Corid.  The stuff they put in medicated feed is something comparable to Corid (not the same, but intended to treat coccidiosis), but I am a subscriber to not treating an illness that isn't there.  Coccidiosis is endemic to most places.  Your birds WILL be exposed to it, and there are so many strains that it's impossible to effectively vaccinate against it.  Most birds can tolerate the exposure, so most of the time they don't need treatment.  Hence why I don't treat unless it seems necessary.

Most other poultry diseases don't have vaccines anyway.  And as mentioned medicated feed only targets coccidiosis anyway, so again, no real need for it.  And FWIW, if you do get your chicks a coccidiosis vaccine, medicated feed will nullify the vaccine's effectiveness, so it's at least a waste, and likely counterproductive to do both.



Very good information, thank you!

I have heard of Mareks and it sounds like a lot of chicken keepers worry about it. I just cant help but feel that if most of us vaccinate for it, we’re just collectively begging the disease to mutate or evolve while at the same time breeding birds that are susceptible to it. I guess Im just leaning more towards upping the cleanliness factor of our chicken operation, being diligent with preventative herbs and whatnot, and upping the amount and frequency of chicks being hatched so as to be prepared to lose the weak and vulnerable. Hopefully if enough people do that, we can get some chickens that are capable of dealing with Mareks just the same as many other poultry diseases.
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

Andrew Mayflower wrote:Vaccinating is indeed a question we all should at least consider.  

The only disease I like to get my birds vaccinated for is Mareks.  If they get it then it's a very high likelihood of having to euthanize the affected birds (or just have them die), and once it's in your flock it's really hard to eliminate without basically wiping everything out, and waiting a while before replacing them.  And, once it's in your flock it's VERY high risk to bring in unvaccinated birds.

I need to figure out how to get, and administer, the Mareks vaccine for the turkeys and possibly chickens we hatch out.  I don't have it in my flock (that I know of), but I'd also like to keep it that way.  I see it as cheap insurance.

I don't use medicated feed with any of my birds.  If I start to see what I suspect to be coccidiosis I'll treat with Corid.  The stuff they put in medicated feed is something comparable to Corid (not the same, but intended to treat coccidiosis), but I am a subscriber to not treating an illness that isn't there.  Coccidiosis is endemic to most places.  Your birds WILL be exposed to it, and there are so many strains that it's impossible to effectively vaccinate against it.  Most birds can tolerate the exposure, so most of the time they don't need treatment.  Hence why I don't treat unless it seems necessary.

Most other poultry diseases don't have vaccines anyway.  And as mentioned medicated feed only targets coccidiosis anyway, so again, no real need for it.  And FWIW, if you do get your chicks a coccidiosis vaccine, medicated feed will nullify the vaccine's effectiveness, so it's at least a waste, and likely counterproductive to do both.



Very good information, thank you!

I have heard of Mareks and it sounds like a lot of chicken keepers worry about it. I just cant help but feel that if most of us vaccinate for it, we’re just collectively begging the disease to mutate or evolve while at the same time breeding birds that are susceptible to it. I guess Im just leaning more towards upping the cleanliness factor of our chicken operation, being diligent with preventative herbs and whatnot, and upping the amount and frequency of chicks being hatched so as to be prepared to lose the weak and vulnerable. Hopefully if enough people do that, we can get some chickens that are capable of dealing with Mareks just the same as many other poultry diseases.



Interestingly your statement I bolded is a real issue with Mareks.  Back in the 70's Mareks was killing a lot of commercial poultry, but it wasn't nearly as lethal to chickens as it is today.  The vaccine they developed basically allows chickens (and turkeys) to get Mareks, but not get sick from it.  Which has allowed Mareks to evolve to much more highly virulent strain today.  Mortality is basically 100% now when a chicken gets sick with Mareks.  I'm sure there's some that survive for a while, but it causes lymphoma, so even if your bird seems to recover initially within a few months it's going to die of cancer.

Unfortunately it's not like we can just stop using the Mareks vaccine.  Even if mortality from it was "only" 25% before the vaccine (and I don't know the actual number, that was a "for the purposes of discussion number) the commercial poultry industry will never agree to going back to that as they'd be bankrupted before Mareks devolved back to that level, and even at a hypothetical 25% (or even 10%) mortality rate it would still be devastating to the industry.  Hence why they developed the vaccine in the first place.  The days of $1.50/lb whole chickens at the grocery store would end forever even if losses to Mareks went back to pre-vaccine levels as of this afternoon, without the much larger losses that would have to be endured for years until virulence dropped.  Factor that in, and $4/lb chicken would be loss-leader pricing.

So, for the foreseeable future, when it comes to Mareks, you either roll the dice and hope your flock stays clean from it (which is high risk as wild birds can bring it in), or you vaccinate.
 
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:

Interestingly your statement I bolded is a real issue with Mareks.  Back in the 70's Mareks was killing a lot of commercial poultry, but it wasn't nearly as lethal to chickens as it is today.  The vaccine they developed basically allows chickens (and turkeys) to get Mareks, but not get sick from it.  Which has allowed Mareks to evolve to much more highly virulent strain today.  Mortality is basically 100% now when a chicken gets sick with Mareks.  I'm sure there's some that survive for a while, but it causes lymphoma, so even if your bird seems to recover initially within a few months it's going to die of cancer.

Unfortunately it's not like we can just stop using the Mareks vaccine.  Even if mortality from it was "only" 25% before the vaccine (and I don't know the actual number, that was a "for the purposes of discussion number) the commercial poultry industry will never agree to going back to that as they'd be bankrupted before Mareks devolved back to that level, and even at a hypothetical 25% (or even 10%) mortality rate it would still be devastating to the industry.  Hence why they developed the vaccine in the first place.  The days of $1.50/lb whole chickens at the grocery store would end forever even if losses to Mareks went back to pre-vaccine levels as of this afternoon, without the much larger losses that would have to be endured for years until virulence dropped.  Factor that in, and $4/lb chicken would be loss-leader pricing.

So, for the foreseeable future, when it comes to Mareks, you either roll the dice and hope your flock stays clean from it (which is high risk as wild birds can bring it in), or you vaccinate.



I totally understand the predicament, but fail to see how vaccinations are going to help in any way if what you said is true. I mean, obviously any commercial operation is going to continue vaccinating for financial reasons, but if it’s helping the disease to evolve and become more lethal, it seems to me like rolling the dice is a better idea for the average chicken owner. I mean, if the vaccine is certainly going to help make the disease worse, and not vaccinating will be a roll of the dice, at least you have dice to roll. I can see if people are only interested in making money now, or having chickens in their freezer this winter, then sure, vaccinate away. But if people want to have chickens in 5 or 10 years, or want their poultry to be around in 5-10 years, the vaccine will not help with that at all. At least not with my understanding.

I mean, maybe the era of the domestic chicken is coming to an end. If what it comes down to is either don’t vaccinate for Mareks and risk losing the entire flock and having this pathogen persist in the environment the way that it is, or vaccinate to keep the flock alive even though we’re helping the pathogen become more deadly, maybe we ought to have faith and risk it. If all the chickens die then we just go back to not eating chicken and eggs every day. Realistically, most humans have lived on this planet without relying on chickens anyway. Surely its just the last 100 years or so that the dependency on worldwide chicken production and the development of these widespread lethal diseases have cropped up. Maybe we should be working towards landrace poultry or breeding them with wild birds in order to get something that can actually survive in the environment that we place it. Or just hunt more and eat less eggs, i dont know. Just seems like vaccines are a bandaid on a broken arm.
 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

Andrew Mayflower wrote:

Interestingly your statement I bolded is a real issue with Mareks.  Back in the 70's Mareks was killing a lot of commercial poultry, but it wasn't nearly as lethal to chickens as it is today.  The vaccine they developed basically allows chickens (and turkeys) to get Mareks, but not get sick from it.  Which has allowed Mareks to evolve to much more highly virulent strain today.  Mortality is basically 100% now when a chicken gets sick with Mareks.  I'm sure there's some that survive for a while, but it causes lymphoma, so even if your bird seems to recover initially within a few months it's going to die of cancer.

Unfortunately it's not like we can just stop using the Mareks vaccine.  Even if mortality from it was "only" 25% before the vaccine (and I don't know the actual number, that was a "for the purposes of discussion number) the commercial poultry industry will never agree to going back to that as they'd be bankrupted before Mareks devolved back to that level, and even at a hypothetical 25% (or even 10%) mortality rate it would still be devastating to the industry.  Hence why they developed the vaccine in the first place.  The days of $1.50/lb whole chickens at the grocery store would end forever even if losses to Mareks went back to pre-vaccine levels as of this afternoon, without the much larger losses that would have to be endured for years until virulence dropped.  Factor that in, and $4/lb chicken would be loss-leader pricing.

So, for the foreseeable future, when it comes to Mareks, you either roll the dice and hope your flock stays clean from it (which is high risk as wild birds can bring it in), or you vaccinate.



I totally understand the predicament, but fail to see how vaccinations are going to help in any way if what you said is true. I mean, obviously any commercial operation is going to continue vaccinating for financial reasons, but if it’s helping the disease to evolve and become more lethal, it seems to me like rolling the dice is a better idea for the average chicken owner. I mean, if the vaccine is certainly going to help make the disease worse, and not vaccinating will be a roll of the dice, at least you have dice to roll. I can see if people are only interested in making money now, or having chickens in their freezer this winter, then sure, vaccinate away. But if people want to have chickens in 5 or 10 years, or want their poultry to be around in 5-10 years, the vaccine will not help with that at all. At least not with my understanding.

I mean, maybe the era of the domestic chicken is coming to an end. If what it comes down to is either don’t vaccinate for Mareks and risk losing the entire flock and having this pathogen persist in the environment the way that it is, or vaccinate to keep the flock alive even though we’re helping the pathogen become more deadly, maybe we ought to have faith and risk it. If all the chickens die then we just go back to not eating chicken and eggs every day. Realistically, most humans have lived on this planet without relying on chickens anyway. Surely its just the last 100 years or so that the dependency on worldwide chicken production and the development of these widespread lethal diseases have cropped up. Maybe we should be working towards landrace poultry or breeding them with wild birds in order to get something that can actually survive in the environment that we place it. Or just hunt more and eat less eggs, i dont know. Just seems like vaccines are a bandaid on a broken arm.



It's already at the point that you either vaccinate or roll the dice on losing most of, if not your entire, flock.  Backyard chicken keepers not vaccinating won't alter that course even a little, and at the potential cost of their own flocks.  Backyard poultry is 1-2% of the poultry raised in the USA.  If was even 20% or 30% the choices made by backyard flock owners might have an impact, but backyard flocks are much too small to make a noticeable impact.  There's an estimate that 13mil people own chickens in the USA.  No idea on the average number people own, but lets say it's 10 chickens (probably high, but close enough).  People like me drastically raise that average (30+ hens and 100+ broilers each year), but I'm unusual and most people only keep 2-5 chickens.  Anyway, that's 130 million birds.  Industrial broiler chickens numbered 9 BILLION in 2018.  Industrial egg producing hens add another 325 million.  So if I'm right backyard poultry is 1.4% of industrial chicken populations.

We can argue until we're blue in the face that industrial poultry is the cause of diseases like Mareks becoming more prevalent and virulent.  And we would be totally correct in that argument.  But that will only convince those of us on the fringes to alter our behavior.  The other 98+% of the human population will continue to buy industrial poultry either because they're oblivious to the issues, or because they care more about getting food cheaply than addressing those issues.  Most of us on Permies are more than well off enough that the extra cost of raising meat/eggs ethically isn't a major burden (otherwise we wouldn't be here).  But that is not true for most of the population in the USA and EU, and outside of developed economies, for anyone but the wealthy elite, the extra costs can be crippling.  Which is a long winded way of saying that industrial farming isn't going away, or even going to change most current practices anytime soon.

I'm not going to force anyone to vaccinate.  We're all adults and can make our own decisions.  You can try to turn the tide if you wish.  But the vaccine is the only thing that will keep backyard chickens viable 10 years from now, regardless of whether backyard keepers vaccinate in large numbers or not.  If you choose not to vaccinate you might get lucky, perhaps for many years, and not have a problem.  But one slip up on bio-security, or one escaped chicken that wanders close, or a wild bird that brings it in, and almost literally overnight you can lose 50-100% of your flock.  There is no effective treatment for Mareks.

Keep in mind here that I'm on your side.  I'd rather not have diseases like Mareks be such a lethal threat.  And if all backyard keepers stopping vaccinating would make a difference I'd be beating the drum to convince people of that.
 
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:

It's already at the point that you either vaccinate or roll the dice on losing most of, if not your entire, flock.  Backyard chicken keepers not vaccinating won't alter that course even a little, and at the potential cost of their own flocks.  Backyard poultry is 1-2% of the poultry raised in the USA.  If was even 20% or 30% the choices made by backyard flock owners might have an impact, but backyard flocks are much too small to make a noticeable impact.  There's an estimate that 13mil people own chickens in the USA.  No idea on the average number people own, but lets say it's 10 chickens (probably high, but close enough).  People like me drastically raise that average (30+ hens and 100+ broilers each year), but I'm unusual and most people only keep 2-5 chickens.  Anyway, that's 130 million birds.  Industrial broiler chickens numbered 9 BILLION in 2018.  Industrial egg producing hens add another 325 million.  So if I'm right backyard poultry is 1.4% of industrial chicken populations.

We can argue until we're blue in the face that industrial poultry is the cause of diseases like Mareks becoming more prevalent and virulent.  And we would be totally correct in that argument.  But that will only convince those of us on the fringes to alter our behavior.  The other 98+% of the human population will continue to buy industrial poultry either because they're oblivious to the issues, or because they care more about getting food cheaply than addressing those issues.  Most of us on Permies are more than well off enough that the extra cost of raising meat/eggs ethically isn't a major burden (otherwise we wouldn't be here).  But that is not true for most of the population in the USA and EU, and outside of developed economies, for anyone but the wealthy elite, the extra costs can be crippling.  Which is a long winded way of saying that industrial farming isn't going away, or even going to change most current practices anytime soon.

I'm not going to force anyone to vaccinate.  We're all adults and can make our own decisions.  You can try to turn the tide if you wish.  But the vaccine is the only thing that will keep backyard chickens viable 10 years from now, regardless of whether backyard keepers vaccinate in large numbers or not.  If you choose not to vaccinate you might get lucky, perhaps for many years, and not have a problem.  But one slip up on bio-security, or one escaped chicken that wanders close, or a wild bird that brings it in, and almost literally overnight you can lose 50-100% of your flock.  There is no effective treatment for Mareks.

Keep in mind here that I'm on your side.  I'd rather not have diseases like Mareks be such a lethal threat.  And if all backyard keepers stopping vaccinating would make a difference I'd be beating the drum to convince people of that.



Not that I have the numbers to compare yours to, but I’m guessing you’re at least in the ballpark. I agree that backyard chicken owners not vaccinating their birds may not have a noticeable effect on the overall population of chickens. But everything is connected and our actions multiply. If most backyard chicken keepers don’t vaccinate and something wipes out all the chicken factories and egg factories (very real possibility) that will have very little effect on us and our birds. Maybe they will be immune by then. Maybe not, and we need to start over. Either way, at least the main source of the problem (factory produced chickens and eggs)will be gone, at least temporarily. Plus, even if not vaccinating wont help the issue, at least it isn’t contributing to it!

And don’t get me wrong man, I’m not arguing with you and I feel we are pretty much on the same page. You mentioned 98% of the population buying industrial poultry and eggs and the other 1-2% of us not having much affect overall. That I do sort of disagree with. I believe (and hope!) that us 1-2% do have an affect, as little as it may be. We’re all connected and every action causes a ripple effect on the whole. If most backyard chicken owners decide not to vaccinate their chicks, and prefer to buy unvaccinated chicks, I believe the industry will respond accordingly. They’re in it for the money after all, not to feed us. Plus, I already feel like a minority in several ways. I’m living in that 1-2% in my mind as it is, and feel as though I’m going against the grain of society most of the time and I dont see why this aspect of life ought to be any different. Maybe us 1-2% of the population will be the only ones that survive a catastrophe. Or maybe we will be the ones to restart the chicken population after a massive disease collapses the population. Who knows!?
 
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When I buy chicks from a hatchery, I pay extra for the vaccine.  A lot of chickens in a crowded space, in human controlled conditions, means mistakes can easily be made.  The risk is more than I want.

But I haven't found a need to vaccinate home hatched chooks.  They have a lot of choices on what they do and where they go.  It improves overall health tremendously.   Every chicken gets a health check twice a day.  Something as simple as watching what order they come out of the coop in the morning can tell a lot about how healthy they are feeling.  

If I was selling live chickens or chicks to other farms, then I would reconsider as it would give me a responsibility to make sure the animals are as healthy as possible, in unknown conditions.  

That said, if a chicken gets ill or dies on my farm, I find out why.  I've even sent chickens off to the lab once they pass away to make sure there isn't any communicable illness.  

 
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Brody Ekberg wrote:

One other point is, say hypothetically our flock thrives while being exposed to the inevitable parasites and whatnot that they expose themselves to. Say we dont vaccinate and dont use medicated feed and all is well. Then we bring in a newcomer... obviously, that is risky for the newcomer who could also be bringing in new variables. But also, would the unvaccinated and unmedicated flock be constantly increasing the parasite and disease load of the yard despite being immune? And if so, does that even matter, aside from the eventual newcomer?

So many things to think about here...



There's a lot to say for natural immunity.  It's a lot like natural selection.  But... this might not be the easiest way to go with small flock.  Some of these illnesses have a 1 or 2% survival rate in chickens.  Two get two survivors to breed, you need a couple of hundred chickens dead.  Even then, those survivors might not have the genetics to thrive.  And if they are, the genetic makeup of those two individuals is creating a genetic bottleneck which can weaken future generations.  

A good way to look at it is to look at plants.  When I started my landrace kale, I bought every kind of kale I could and planted it all in the worst possible soil, without any irrigation.  It needed to survive 8 months without irrigation (from me or the sky) and then flooding and cold snaps.  Less than 1% survived.  But the children from those seeds the next year had a 25% survival.  The next generation, 50%.  I was willing to sacrifice tens of thousands of plants to get that 1%.  That's hard enough with plants, but not recommended for livestock.

From my point of view, with animals, there is increased responsibility.  Letting thousands of chickens die of something preventable would be considered neglect and have the police around.  

But there are better ways.  

Get a library card and arm yourself with knowledge.  This is where a lot of backyard flocks fail.  They say, "oh, chickens are supposed to be that way" ... um, no.  Learn how to do health checks.  

Get a vet.  Most vets around here encourage a sub-clinical wormload.  That's having parasites at a low level but not showing symptoms.  Eradicating parasites isn't possible here (too much overuse of meds leading to resistance), so making sure the animal is strong enough to handle it, helps build up resistance to parasites in the flock.  

Get a canary bird - not an actual canary, but keep a couple of easily-sick birds in the flock and watch them closely.  Ones with poor starts in life.  Usually ones the mum rejects.  They get ill first to let you know there is a deeper illiness in the flock.

If any animal gets ill or dead on your farm, make certain you know why.  Send them off to the lab to get an autopsy.  Or a vet.  Chickens don't just die for no reason.  

Keeping a closed or semi-closed flock helps reduce new ailments that come in.

Keep the fancy meds for when they are needed.  You've got something going on in the flock right now, so it might be time to get the meds out and get everyone back to full health.  Then use simpler methods as prevention.  The more we use the fancy meds, the less effective they are.  But they are useful for treating urgent cases or getting the flock through tough times.  

And if anyone in the flock shows signs of not thriving DON'T FUCKING BREED THEM.  (sorry, it's a big issue for me).  If you only allow the stronger ones to create babbies, it will make the flock stronger overall.  (there are exceptions, but one needs to know what they are doing)
 
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r ranson wrote:
That said, if a chicken gets ill or dies on my farm, I find out why.  I've even sent chickens off to the lab once they pass away to make sure there isn't any communicable illness.  



If affordable, this is a really good way to deal with repeated unexplained deaths rather than throwing meds/vaccinations at the issue and hoping something sticks.

My grandfather's calves (beef calves on pasture) were all failing to thrive, stillborn, or dying shortly after birth.  He paid to have them examined by a veterinary university several hours away. No communicable disease, they were Vitamin E deficient. An easy supplement (possibly they were deficient in one or more trace minerals as well?) and suddenly his calves thrived.  Since his family also grew and ate food primarily off that land and the neighbouring farms, he also supplemented his family with Vitamin E.  Everyone's land has different minerals in the soil. My grass and bugs will have different nutrition than your grass and bugs.

If affordable, testing to figure out the real issue rather than guesswork and administering unneeded antibiotics and random supplements would be my personal preference.  
 
r ranson
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It's $25 in Canada to get a chicken autopsy at the lab. It's subsidized so they can keep track of different health conditions.  For a small farm like mine, more than once a year has extra fees.  

I don't like just throwing meds at a problem unless I know what caused it. It's a waste of money and can develop resistance to the meds.  

My first line of defence when someone isn't feeling awesome is to give them a double dose of vitimines.  This cures 80% of the problems.  
 
Brody Ekberg
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r ranson wrote:When I buy chicks from a hatchery, I pay extra for the vaccine.  A lot of chickens in a crowded space, in human controlled conditions, means mistakes can easily be made.  The risk is more than I want.

But I haven't found a need to vaccinate home hatched chooks.  They have a lot of choices on what they do and where they go.  It improves overall health tremendously.   Every chicken gets a health check twice a day.  Something as simple as watching what order they come out of the coop in the morning can tell a lot about how healthy they are feeling.  

If I was selling live chickens or chicks to other farms, then I would reconsider as it would give me a responsibility to make sure the animals are as healthy as possible, in unknown conditions.  

That said, if a chicken gets ill or dies on my farm, I find out why.  I've even sent chickens off to the lab once they pass away to make sure there isn't any communicable illness.  



I think getting them tested if they die is probably wise. I will probably do the same if we lose another chick. Its too late for the 4 that died already though because I buried them and planted oak seedlings on top right away.

This also brings up another point. If a chicken is weak or sick, is it safe for human consumption if cooked fully, or does that depend on what specifically the issue is? I ask because there seems to be a conundrum... nature always takes the young, the old, the weak and the sick. This allows the healthy and fit animals or plants to survive and reproduce. Humans seem to fight nature (in many ways) by ONLY eating the healthy and fit animals and allowing the sick, weak and old animals to linger around as a burden in the name of compassion, or we just burn them or bury them because we think that’s best for US. Not saying it might not be best for us, but it may not be whats best for the whole works.
 
r ranson
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Brody Ekberg wrote: If a chicken is weak or sick, is it safe for human consumption if cooked fully.



sometimes.

I tend not to eat those as they don't taste very good.  But a hunter friend buys ailing hens as he feels he can tell if they are good or not by looking at the liver.  I haven't the skill for that.  

Humans - traditionally - keep the healthiest and best animals for breeding.  They eat the middle ones.  They use the weak ones for other uses like pets or pet food.  
21st Century humans on the other hand...

 
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Catie George wrote:

r ranson wrote:
That said, if a chicken gets ill or dies on my farm, I find out why.  I've even sent chickens off to the lab once they pass away to make sure there isn't any communicable illness.  



If affordable, this is a really good way to deal with repeated unexplained deaths rather than throwing meds/vaccinations at the issue and hoping something sticks.

My grandfather's calves (beef calves on pasture) were all failing to thrive, stillborn, or dying shortly after birth.  He paid to have them examined by a veterinary university several hours away. No communicable disease, they were Vitamin E deficient. An easy supplement (possibly they were deficient in one or more trace minerals as well?) and suddenly his calves thrived.  Since his family also grew and ate food primarily off that land and the neighbouring farms, he also supplemented his family with Vitamin E.  Everyone's land has different minerals in the soil. My grass and bugs will have different nutrition than your grass and bugs.

If affordable, testing to figure out the real issue rather than guesswork and administering unneeded antibiotics and random supplements would be my personal preference.  



I suppose it would be wise of me to take the time to make connections with a local vet (if I can find one) that works with chickens and also figure out how/where send a dead bird for an autopsy. Once one dies and it’s 90 degrees out, its too late for researching. Something needs to be done with the carcass quickly!
 
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r ranson wrote:It's $25 in Canada to get a chicken autopsy at the lab. It's subsidized so they can keep track of different health conditions.  For a small farm like mine, more than once a year has extra fees.  

I don't like just throwing meds at a problem unless I know what caused it. It's a waste of money and can develop resistance to the meds.  

My first line of defence when someone isn't feeling awesome is to give them a double dose of vitimines.  This cures 80% of the problems.  



Our issue could easily have been a combination of vitamin deficiency and dehydration but since the bodies are gone now, I’ll never know for sure. I do know the chick starter feed was prebagged in a ziplock bag so could have been mislabeled or outdated. And I came home from an 8 hour day at work to find mama hen had filled the waterer with wood shavings to the point of having no water to drink at all, for an unknown amount of time. I did give vitamin E, electrolytes, yogurt and ACV to the survivors though and everyone seems good now.
 
Tina Hillel
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For me, eating them depends on the issue.  Older birds that are no longer laying are eaten unless it’s the very occasional one that gets a pass. For an injury, I will eat it.  For a bird that has something iffy, it may get trimmed and cooked for the dogs.  If it’s something that just seems too off, it goes deep in the woods to feed local wildlife.  I don’t want to add something potentially bad to my immediate gardening and food area.

 
Lorinne Anderson
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If an animal is unfit to eat due to illness or disease, even by dogs, please dispose of it properly by burning or burying and DO NOT use it as wildlife feed. That potentially is introducing an unknown pathogen into the wildlife chain. This could sicken or kill wildlife, but even more scary is the introduction of something currently not present in the wildlife population.

Think of an eagle, fox, raccoon dining on that sick chicken...feeding it's offspring a meal of infected, diseased meat, AND potentially teaching them to develop a taste for chicken. This to me is illogical.

This could lead to wildlife becoming a vector for disease that could not only become endemic, but then put livestock at risk from re-contamination through contact with local wildlife.

The newly infected wildlife could promote a mutation that in turn may no longer be treatable in livestock.

Worse case scenario, is the possibility of said disease to mutate to the point where it jumps species into the human population, becoming zoonotic. As we have recently experienced with Covid. Yeah, perhaps that is a bit dramatic, BUT the threat remains, and the potential IS real.

Mink farms are suspected of introducing Mink Enteritis to the raccoon population in this manner. Feeding off deceased, infected dog and cat carcasses may well explain how Canine Parvovirus and Feline Distemper also joined the list of diseases now present in the raccoon populations. The presence of these viruses in raccoons puts our cats and dogs at risk, necessitating routine vaccination to keep them safe, even if they might never be off your home property.

Please dispose of sick or diseased animals properly.
 
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Brody, you might try fermenting your chick starter.  It adds probiotics, makes it easier to digest, and the nutrients are more available.  They love it, and tend to eat less, so it reduces feed cost.  
Put a day of feed in a container, and cover with water.  I like to use 2 parts water to 1 part food.  It doesn't matter as long as the feed stays covered with water.  ( It will increase in size). Put something over the top, I use a lid, but I guess it can build pressure and explode, some use cheese cloth, I used to put a bucket over it.   In 90 + weather I would let it set 2 days.  Shake or stir one or two times a day. In the heat I wouldn't leave it more than 3 days. When it gets cooler it has to sit longer.  It will have  a fermenting smell. If it goes to far it smells very bad!  And of course you don't want to use it if that happens. Some worry about mold, but as long as the feed stays covered with water it it won't mold.  It's easy, and healthy for your birds.  You might think about giving it a try.
 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:Brody, you might try fermenting your chick starter.  It adds probiotics, makes it easier to digest, and the nutrients are more available.  They love it, and tend to eat less, so it reduces feed cost.  
Put a day of feed in a container, and cover with water.  I like to use 2 parts water to 1 part food.  It doesn't matter as long as the feed stays covered with water.  ( It will increase in size). Put something over the top, I use a lid, but I guess it can build pressure and explode, some use cheese cloth, I used to put a bucket over it.   In 90 + weather I would let it set 2 days.  Shake or stir one or two times a day. In the heat I wouldn't leave it more than 3 days. When it gets cooler it has to sit longer.  It will have  a fermenting smell. If it goes to far it smells very bad!  And of course you don't want to use it if that happens. Some worry about mold, but as long as the feed stays covered with water it it won't mold.  It's easy, and healthy for your birds.  You might think about giving it a try.



If you're feeding minimally processed grains I agree with this 100%.  If it's a pelletized or crumble I will agree with everything except that they will wind up eating less and reduce feed costs.  Last year I fed fermented pelletized feed to my meat birds and overall consumption and total feed costs did not improve at all.  That was feeding fermented feed from day 1 all the way to slaughter day.  So this year I fermented the feed for the first 2-3 weeks.  Then they got dry pellets.  Total feed per bird was the same both ways.
 
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:Brody, you might try fermenting your chick starter.  It adds probiotics, makes it easier to digest, and the nutrients are more available.  They love it, and tend to eat less, so it reduces feed cost.  
Put a day of feed in a container, and cover with water.  I like to use 2 parts water to 1 part food.  It doesn't matter as long as the feed stays covered with water.  ( It will increase in size). Put something over the top, I use a lid, but I guess it can build pressure and explode, some use cheese cloth, I used to put a bucket over it.   In 90 + weather I would let it set 2 days.  Shake or stir one or two times a day. In the heat I wouldn't leave it more than 3 days. When it gets cooler it has to sit longer.  It will have  a fermenting smell. If it goes to far it smells very bad!  And of course you don't want to use it if that happens. Some worry about mold, but as long as the feed stays covered with water it it won't mold.  It's easy, and healthy for your birds.  You might think about giving it a try.



I’ve almost been doing that already, but with the all flock feed, not the chick starter. Usually what I do is just offer dry all flock pellets in a chicken feeder free choice and let them have at it for a few days. Once they eat all the pellets and all that’s left is dust (they cant eat the dust) I will put the dust in a container, cover with water, add a little sourdough starter and let ferment for a day or two. Then I just put the container out for the chickens and they love it. I suppose I could try it with the chicks too, but they’re so messy and always climbing in and dumping over their food, so I’d hate to waste it.
 
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Andrew Mayflower wrote:
If you're feeding minimally processed grains I agree with this 100%.  If it's a pelletized or crumble I will agree with everything except that they will wind up eating less and reduce feed costs.  Last year I fed fermented pelletized feed to my meat birds and overall consumption and total feed costs did not improve at all.  That was feeding fermented feed from day 1 all the way to slaughter day.  So this year I fermented the feed for the first 2-3 weeks.  Then they got dry pellets.  Total feed per bird was the same both ways.



So far, I pretty much agree with you. I feed dry all flock pellets most days until I get enough leftover feed dust to ferment. I cover it with water, add some sourdough starter and let ferment a day or two. The chickens love it, but I definitely dont think it makes them eat any less. But I could see it helping cut feed costs if we were making our own whole grain food as you said. I’d love to do that, but it’s totally a convenience factor to buy premade feed. I hate to admit it, because convenience kills, but I’m spread pretty thin as it is and just dont have the time to make our own chicken food at the moment. Plus, it seems like getting the proper ratio of things to provide adequate nutrition would take research and time.
 
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Tina Hillel wrote:For me, eating them depends on the issue.  Older birds that are no longer laying are eaten unless it’s the very occasional one that gets a pass. For an injury, I will eat it.  For a bird that has something iffy, it may get trimmed and cooked for the dogs.  If it’s something that just seems too off, it goes deep in the woods to feed local wildlife.  I don’t want to add something potentially bad to my immediate gardening and food area.



Lets say, hypothetically, you go to close your coop at night and find some headless chickens from a weasel or raccoon or something. Would you eat them or not? Or if a hawk kills one of your birds but you chase it off before it eats the chicken. No idea if some disease could spread through the wounds into the meat or if it would even be relevant since chicken gets fully cooked anyway.
 
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You are right that it would depend on the injury. There is the ick factor😀

Injured ones eaten have been ones with like a leg injury where I knew the cause.  I have eaten one killed by a hawk killed right in front of me but unknown injuries go to the dog.  Both were cooked very very well.

We have been very fortunate in that these events have been very rare.
 
Brody Ekberg
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Tina Hillel wrote:You are right that it would depend on the injury. There is the ick factor😀

Injured ones eaten have been ones with like a leg injury where I knew the cause.  I have eaten one killed by a hawk killed right in front of me but unknown injuries go to the dog.  Both were cooked very very well.

We have been very fortunate in that these events have been very rare.



I think I’m of a similar mindset as you. Chicken gets cooked thoroughly regardless of its condition, so unless there’s something that 165 degrees doesn’t kill, I’m not too worried about it. My “ick factor” may be different than others. Hell, I’ve eaten roadkill deer and partridge several times so long as it’s fresh and in good condition. But something that died from an unknown factor and has sat around long enough to not get bled out is a no go for me. Especially in the summer. If I dont see it die then it’s probably not getting eaten!
 
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