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The demand for vaccination of backyard flock has increased with the popularity of keeping chickens.

Why should we vaccinate?

Vaccination is commonly used in commercial poultry and increasingly in backyard birds to control disease. Vaccines mimic natural infection, allowing the birds to build up immunity to the disease without any of the harmful effects. This way you can prevent your birds getting the disease.

Are there any problems with vaccination?

No vaccine can be 100% effective, if the birds are vaccinated but exposed to large levels of the wild disease then the immunity generated by the vaccine can be overcome. Also many diseases, such as Infectious Bronchitis (IB), will have several strains so it may mean the strain your bird has been vaccinated against may not be the same as the disease strains in your area.

Many of the vaccines come in large doses for commercial flocks and therefore there is a lot of wastage; however even with the waste it is still reasonably cheap to vaccinate.

It is very important to remember that the success of the vaccination depends on good vaccination technique. Vaccines are very vulnerable and are therefore easily destroyed.

What diseases can I vaccinate against?

There are a range of diseases which can be vaccinated against but below are some of the most common ones:

  • Mareks Disease
  • Infectious Bronchitis (IB)
  • Avian RhinoTracheitis (ART)
  • Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG)
  • Salmonella

Should I vaccinate?

The need to vaccinate, and which disease you should vaccinate against will depend on your holding, the number of birds you are keeping and whether or not you buy in or sell out birds.

With regard to Mareks disease, in general, we recommend against vaccination unless there is a problem on the site. The vaccine is given to day old chicks as an injection into their breast, thigh or the back of the neck but remember that day old chicks are small and fragile and can easily be injured by an inexperienced vaccinator. Incorrect vaccination with a needle can cause excessive damage to the chicks or even death.

The three respiratory diseases (IB/ MG/ ART) can all be vaccinated against. If you have respiratory disease on your holding it is probably worth getting a blood test carried out to ascertain which of these diseases are involved to ensure you are vaccinating against the correct ones. In general, if you are buying or selling a lot of birds it is worth considering vaccinating against all three. The vaccination consists of giving your birds two injections four weeks apart followed by an annual booster.

Salmonella vaccination in backyard flocks is possible, however we think, provided you have good kitchen hygiene there should not be any major need to vaccinate. The vaccination consists of giving your birds two injections four weeks apart followed by an annual booster. However it is important to note that the vaccination only protects your birds against S. Enteritidis and S. Typhimurium and as such your birds have the potential to pick up other Salmonella species.

In conclusion, you can vaccinate against a number of diseases and which ones you should vaccinate against will depend on your individual holding, how many birds you have, if you buying/selling a lot of birds and which diseases have been found on your holding in the past. Please remember vaccination is not without its problems and it is not 100% effective.

If you are considering vaccination please contact us at Chicken Vet. Alison Colville-Hyde, a member of our Field Service staff, will be happy to discuss vaccination with you.  Please contact 01392 872885 for advice on vaccinations.

Vaccination advice

  • do not add vaccine to chlorinated water without using a protective dyee
  • make sure the area where you make up the vaccine is clean
  • do not contaminate the vaccine with disinfectants
  • do not withdraw the water for too long
  • make sure the birds all have vaccine added water at the same time

We would normally recommend a site vist to help you set up the vaccine correctly.

Vaccines by injection

The most common times to give a vaccine by injection is at day old for Mareks disease or at point of lay to ensure a good level of protection during lay against Infectious Bronchitis, Turkey Rhiontracheitis Virus, Newcastle Disease, Egg Drop Syndrome and possibly Mycoplasma gallisepticum.

We will provide one to one training for any client wishing to vaccinate birds by injection as there are many problems and possible welfare issues if the technique, which is not difficult, is not carried out correctly. For further advice contact your vet, register with one of our associated practices.



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