Poultry establishments may vary from basic or subsistence, indigenous or backyard poultry keeping to mechanised and automated farming methods. Others are mixed farming to joint meat and egg establishments or complexes.
All these poultry-keeping methods are still common in developing countries like Kenya. During the growing and production cycles, many factors may influence meat or egg production. Mortality rates may rise due to disease, predation, or temperature fluctuations, therefore the cycles must be managed effectively and efficiently to produce maximum output and profitability.
Diseases and parasites can cause massive losses. The common problems to watch out for are tuberculosis, fowl typhoid, Newcastle disease, fowl plague, aspergillosis, coccidiosis, worms and other ectoparasites. Whereas vaccinations are key to managing the majority of these ailments, clean and hygienic quarters still contribute to 90 per cent of solution to disease outbreaks in a population of flock. In light of that, here are five key factors to consider for a healthy flock.
Always put signs warning people not to enter your farm. This should be done at all the entrances to the farm. Additionally, all gates and door leading to poultry units should be locked during non-business hours. All poultry units should be bird-proofed to keep wild birds away from your elite flock, especially during this period of avian influenza. Backyard poultry should not be kept with the hybrid flocks, and neither should you allow dogs and cats inside your chicken units.
Provide foot baths at all entrances and this disinfectant solution should be changed at least daily. In some well-established farms, footwear and uniforms are provided to visitors. Hand washing facilities should be provided at all entrances and any equipment or tools brought to the farm should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to use in the farm.
This should also apply to all chicken transport vehicles like carts and loaders. For egg layer farms, only clean, sanitised, and disinfected plastic trays and boxes or crates should be allowed into the egg processing facilities. To keep diseases at bay, I strongly recommend new disposable fibre trays on the premises. Newcastle and fowl typhoid diseases are notoriously spread around by contaminated egg trays.
All workers must clean and disinfect their footwear prior to entering poultry units. I have noted that in certain farms, owners are exempted from this requirement. Everyone should wash and sanitise their hands before entering and after leaving poultry houses and processing zones.
No employee should own other birds such as pet birds, fighting cockerels, exotic birds, ducks, and geese and should also avoid visiting other farms or sites keeping poultry while in the same employment. Should an employee visit other farms for known reasons, they should keep off the site of employment for a minimum of three to seven days depending on the level of biosecurity of the flocks. Everyone in the farm should undergo biosecurity training at least once per year.
All vehicles entering the farm, especially the feed trucks should be cleaned and disinfected before entering the premises. In some farms, wheel baths are provided, and the disinfectant solutions should be changed at least once per day. Manure collecting trucks should never be allowed in the farm unless they are washed with detergent and disinfected prior to arrival on the farm. These trucks are associated with the spread of gumboro and fowl plague between infected and clean farms.
Visitors should not be allowed into chicken houses unless it is necessary. When allowed in, records should be kept of the visitor’s name, company, time of entry, evidence of no contact with other poultry in the last three days, contact details and reasons for the visit. Any visitor who may have contacted other chickens in the preceding two days should not be allowed into your flock units. When a visitor is allowed to enter the units, he/she must disinfect their footwear and wear protective clothing.
[The writer is Head Vet at Kenchic]