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Chickens and botulism

Posts: 1158
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Has anyone had problems with their chickens getting botulism? I had to put mine in a chicken tractor after two were killed by possum in the large pen they had. My whole back yard is fenced, so I let them out of the tractor often to forage. The two that survived the possums got paralyzed and died. My vet tech friend says it was probably botulism. I read that they can get it just from eating a bad bug. I'm worried about the baby chicks I'm raising. Anyone have any suggestions on preventing it? Or maybe it was something else?

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Location: West Tennessee
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I have not had any problems with botulism positively identified as a cause of death in my flock. I have lost two birds to unknown causes. One was keeled over one day and the other was clearly ill for a few days. I'll never know what did them in. I guess the only way to know it was botulism is to do a necropsy with toxicology analysis on the chickens.
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Quoted from “The Poultry Site”



A condition of chickens, turkeys, ducks and other waterfowl occurring worldwide and caused by a bacterial toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum mainly types A / C.
The toxin is produced in decaying animal (usually carcases) and plant waste, and toxin-containing material (pond-mud, carcases, maggots) is consumed by the birds.
Toxin may also be produced by the bacteria in the caecum.
Morbidity is usually low but mortality is high.
The toxin and bacterial spores are relatively stable and may survive for some time in the environment.
It has also been suggested that poultry carcases lost in litter can be a cause of botulism in cattle grazing land or consuming silage where poultry litter has been spread.

• Nervous signs, weakness, progressive flaccid paralysis of legs, wings then neck, then sudden death.
• Affected broilers tend to settle with eyes closed when not disturbed.
• A soiled beak, because it rests on the litter, is also quite typical.

Post-mortem lesions:
• Possibly no significant lesions.
• Mild enteritis if has been affected for some time.
• Feathers may be easily pulled (chicken only).
• Maggots or putrid ingesta may be found in the crop.

History, signs, mouse toxicology on serum or extract of intestinal contents.
Differentiate from acute Marek's disease ('Floppy Broiler Syndrome') by histology of the brain.

Remove source of toxin, supportive treatment if justifiable, antibiotics, selenium.

Preventing access to toxin, suspect food and stagnant ponds, especially in hot weather.
The single most important measure is careful pick-up and removal of all dead birds on a daily basis.
This will reduce the risk of botulism both in the poultry and in any grazing animals on land where poultry litter is spread.

Since this is a disease brought on by a bacterial toxin, keeping any decaying animal or plant materials away from the birds.
Compost is decaying plant material and unless you are using hot composting methods, you will need to keep the chickens and other poultry from having access to those heaps not hot composted.

I have chickens and I am fairly well known for composting everything on my farm, including dead animals.
I take precautions so that the chickens don't have access to these heaps until such time that they have completed the high temp, hot composting and my samples test negative for gram positive bacteria.

This is from the USDA;
Clostridium botulinum is an anaerobic, rod-shaped sporeforming bacterium that produces a protein with characteristic neurotoxicity.
Under certain conditions, these organisms may grow in foods producing toxin(s).
Botulism, a severe form of food poisoning results when the toxin-containing foods are ingested.

Using good sense and following good protocols will keep you and your flock(s) safer.

Ken W Wilson
Posts: 1158
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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Thanks! Very informative!
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