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Disease Resistant Chickens

 
Posts: 56
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There is much discussion about disease resistant flora, but disease resistant fauna hadn't really occurred to me until last night when my husband told me about St. Croix sheep and how they are naturally resistant to parasites. That got me thinking about chickens so I searched the internet and lo and behold the Egyptian Fayoumi is resistant to several chicken diseases (possibly including avian influenza) and isn't prone to predation. There is research being done on them at the university level, but I couldn't find much information about what the researchers have found so far. It's a pretty rare breed here in the USA. Anyone have experience with this variety?
 
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Try this;
https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/chickens-101/egyptian-fayoumi-chicken-breed-profile/#:~:text=Their%20hardiness%20and%20resilience%20are,Egyptian%20Fayoumi%20Chicken%20pullets.
 
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I'd love to see more work done on this, even the backyard chicken keeper thoughts on the subject.
Unfortunately, there's limited immediate money in chickens NOT having diseases, but lots of money in sick birds, so I don't have much hope beyond the backyard observers.

https://www.sandhillpreservation.com/post/understanding-genetic-diversity
I have half my flock of Dorkings made up of birds from this hatchery, another order for chicks in (I hope I get them!), and am planning to hatch and raise crosses between these birds and ones I got from Murray McMurray a couple of years ago. I'm hoping to develop a flock of tough (environmentally)but tasty "heritage" birds with the useful characteristics that Dorkings have had through the ages.

If we're going to get away from the manufactured illnesses that are currently making their way around the world, we need critters that will go with us. Purposely selecting breeds and individual birds that have resistance or "immunity" from these problems is the only way forward I see.
 
John C Daley
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Can you tell us about ..useful characteristics that Dorkings ?
Please.
 
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Hi Katie,
I think that is a great thing to promote. Unfortunately many of the major companies dealing with the majority of birds think differently. Rather than breed birds with good immune systems, they prefer to simply kill all germs and/or pump them full of medicine just to get them finished.

Also, a healthy environment is important. A disease resistant chicken can still have its immune system worn down by unhealthy conditions. And one that may not be bred as "disease resistant" may still be able to train its immune system well, while it's growing in a healthy environment.
 
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Every now and again I have a bug go through my flock.  I don't medicate, I cross my fingers, offer supportive care, cull the dying.
I try to practice some biosecurity, but sparrows don't follow the rules, they follow the feed dish.  
The last bug that went through, I lost 20+ one year old hens, no older hens, no roosters.  I figured that whatever it was, my older hens had already experienced it and had immunity.  It hit during a cold-spell when everyone was in close quarters and not able/willing to go out and get fresh air.  
 
Kristine Keeney
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John C Daley wrote:Can you tell us about ..useful characteristics that Dorkings ?
Please.


You mean, someone's asking me to talk about one of my favorite topics? Awesome!

They are best known for their breast meat - being sweet, and meaty.
As birds in my general flock, they are shorter than most "standard-sized" chickens - mine run between 5 and 7 pounds, on average, for an adult (over a year) old bird, but are noticeably shorter than adults of other breeds. They have 5 toes, and are shaped like feathered bricks.
Unless their broodiness has been bred out of them (as is the case with the more recent Murray McMurray and most most other commercial hatchery birds), they are great broodies. One of my hens hatched a gosling and took reasonably good care of it, considering it was taller than she was. They lay consistently, a medium sized cream egg. They were known for being winter-layers. In fact, my Sandhill pullets have been laying for the past month while my, older by three months, Murray McMurray pullets are still not really laying yet. The coming cull is going to knock some holes in my flock.

I think their best characteristic is their calm temperament. I have never, in 20 years of chicken keeping, been attacked by a Dorking roo or had problems of any sort (temperamentally) with a Dorking hen. This isn't to say that they aren't capable of trouble - they are smart, stubborn, and willing to fight off another hen from their favorite nesting spot or chase another rooster around the yard three or more times. The roosters have been great at roostering - defending the flock as a whole and individual birds in part, as well as seeing to the hens. The hens are good mothers, and have seemed more than willing to mother any critter that trips their "baby" sensor.

So - potential good thing - winter laying, good flavor to the meat, consistent laying, good foragers while not traveling far from roost, tolerant of heat (large combs, smallish body size), thrifty
      known good things - good temperament, sturdy frame and solid mass, good foragers without traveling far, broody, good mothers, good disease resistance
      bad things - medium sized eggs, go broody (because some people don't want this), not good in really cold weather (large combs)

Like some, I don't medicate my flock. I never have. I give electrolytes in their water when the chicks arrive, and sometimes ACV as a change. They have to be able to survive the most common illnesses instead of coughing, wheezing, and dying when the first strong wind or sniffly sparrow, comes along.
I have never lost a bird to disease. Opossums, raptors, dogs, and Random Sudden Chicken Death, but I have yet to lose one to anything that could be called an illness.
I don't, yet, see any signs of a parasite load. After 20 years, you'd think something might turn up. I don't worm, but I do feed garlic and onions (in moderation and free choice) and curcubits in a wide variety.
If they get sick, I will give supportive care, and treat wounds/injury. I have treated wounds, but haven't had to treat disease.

If they survive, GREAT! If they don't, they weren't suited to the situation. It's a shame.
Over the years, I have developed a flock of very disease resistant, stubborn, and sticking-close-to-home free-range birds.  

As soon as I figure out where I hid my pictures, I'll share a couple of my current flock.
 
Katie Nicholson
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I was talking with my husband earlier trying to figure out if it's worth buying some fayoumis and he asked a crucial question: "Has your mom's flock ever had any problems with disease?"

Hmm... nope! And they don't even have the roomiest setup for their birds. They are mostly crossbreeds of heritage varieties, selected for gentleness to people and each other so none of the modern franken chickens.

So, hybrid vigor might be a thing or it could simply be that their small flock of around 15 chickens (before they've gotten rid of the extra roosters at the end of the summer) isn't big enough or confined enough or kept in an artificial indoor factory (ever) to allow diseases to get a foothold.

My current conclusion is that I'm not going to break the bank to get fayoumis since their disposition is not what I'm going for with my flock. I want kid friendly, dual purpose chickens that aren't going to keel over at the faintest breath of bad air or throw themselves in the way of predators. The only things going for the fayoumis (in my book) is their disease resistance and ability to avoid predators. Their flightiness, unwillingness to roost in coops, and potential aggressiveness of roosters are all things I'd rather not introduce into my flock. All that being said, if I find a great deal on a fayoumi hen, I might add her to the flock.
 
Thomas Dean
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Katie Nicholson wrote:I was talking with my husband earlier trying to figure out if it's worth buying some fayoumis and he asked a crucial question: "Has your mom's flock ever had any problems with disease?"

Hmm... nope! And they don't even have the roomiest setup for their birds. They are mostly crossbreeds of heritage varieties, selected for gentleness to people and each other so none of the modern franken chickens.

So, hybrid vigor might be a thing or it could simply be that their small flock of around 15 chickens (before they've gotten rid of the extra roosters at the end of the summer) isn't big enough or confined enough or kept in an artificial indoor factory (ever) to allow diseases to get a foothold.

My current conclusion is that I'm not going to break the bank to get fayoumis since their disposition is not what I'm going for with my flock. I want kid friendly, dual purpose chickens that aren't going to keel over at the faintest breath of bad air or throw themselves in the way of predators. The only things going for the fayoumis (in my book) is their disease resistance and ability to avoid predators. Their flightiness, unwillingness to roost in coops, and potential aggressiveness of roosters are all things I'd rather not introduce into my flock. All that being said, if I find a great deal on a fayoumi hen, I might add her to the flock.



Landrace them.
 
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I think that the best way to have disease resistant chickens is to raise them in such a way that they don't have a lot to "fight off".  Cram 150 chickens in an 8x8 coop, only feed them commercial food, don't keep the coop clean, dry, and well ventilated, don't change the water every day, and I don't think breed matters.  Keep 10 or 20 chickens in a well designed, spacious, and ventilated coop, keep it clean, give fresh water daily, let them free range or range in a very large fenced area during the day, give them access to chicken food in addition to all the bugs and plants they can find, along with a compost pile full of life to dig in, and I don't think breed matters.
 
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