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Home / Smart Harvest

Why you need to vaccinate your birds

Dr Watson Messo

The true population of indigenous or backyard chickens in Kenya is not well known. Although it is important for policy makers to know this information, we sometimes hear of figures like 31 million or 45 million in seminars hosted by senior State officers.

The best chance we have in counting these birds is during the next national population census slated in the middle of this year.

These backyard chickens are mostly kept in rural and peri-urban areas, as free-range birds during the day and huddled together at night in the kitchen, stores or in the living quarters with the rest of the family members. These birds are most important ready source of protein and subsistence farming for our rural farmers or households.

Why should we vaccinate backyard chickens?

Together with the commercial chickens, the backyard chicken’s industry contributes 6-7 per cent into the national Gross Domestic Product of our economy and supports over 3 million livelihoods in this country. Kenyans generally eat 1.1kg of chicken meat per person per year and consume about 40 eggs per person per year, what is referred to as per capita consumption. It is therefore important that we protect this population through modern farming practices, like vaccination.

Proper strategic vaccination programmes if adopted and embraced by all poultry keepers, will go far in eradicating diseases like Newcastle, Fowl cholera, fowl pox, Fowl typhoid etc from our flocks and guarantee a steady stream of income to our rural folks and other industry players within the value chain.

It is also a good welfare requirement that we take good care of our animals against disease, pain and suffering.

Can vaccination be a problem to my birds?

Vaccinations are safe to birds if used properly and in healthy birds. Overreactions can occasionally occur in situations where the vaccines are deposited on the wrong target glands, done at the wrong age of birds or inappropriately applied. Although it does not give 100 per cent protection, in the unlikely event of a disease outbreak, flocks which are vaccinated will stand a better chance of protection compared to flocks that are not vaccinated.

Which diseases should I vaccinate against?

Among the backyard flocks, Newcastle disease should be considered a must for all types of birds at all ages and preferably at day-old to vaccinate against. This disease is airborne and can be moved from one flock to another through the feaces of infected wild birds in range lands/yards. In non-vaccinated flock, the disease can easily wipe out a population of hatchlings within 1-2 weeks after the onset of the infection. if I had my way, I would legislate that all poultry be vaccinated against Newcastle disease.

Fowl typhoid, Gumboro and fowl pox are also diseases that can be prevented simply by carrying out a planned vaccination programme with assistance from the State veterinary officers near your location.

There are vaccines available from your local vet offices manufactured by Kenya Veterinary vaccinesproduction Institute (KEVEVAPI) or your registered Agrovets. Please visit your nearest vet office and ask for assistance.

[Dr Watson Messo Odwako is the Head Vet at Kenchic. For more information, contact: [email protected]]       

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