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Six tips for chicken vaccination to work

 Annette Muhavi, a poultry Technician vaccinates chicks in KALRO Offices, Kakamega. [Mumo Munuve, Standard]

Poultry vaccination is an important activity in managing flock health and product quality in addition to farm biosecurity, hygiene and sanitation. A good vaccination programme if done right, prepares chickens for any disease challenges in the future. I strongly believe that poor vaccine handling, storage and administration are still the major causes of vaccines failure in our industry. Every year poultry farmers lose a sizable amount of their flocks to Gumboro and Newcastle diseases, ailments that can be prevented by practicing good water vaccination techniques. Although disease vaccination programme may not show immediate returns on the investment, it will be profitable in the long term. Here are six tips to ensure water vaccination programme works.

Where do you buy your vaccines?

Vaccines are medicines and have a strict and prescribed way of handling from the manufacturer to the retailer. Under the laws of Kenya, this function falls under Veterinary Medicines Directorate. You should always buy vaccines from registered veterinary pharmacies under a prescription with advice on how to use it. In case of vaccines failure, report to the veterinary pharmacy where the vaccines were bought. Never buy vaccines that are expired, always check the date of manufacture and the expiry date before you buy them.

Vaccines handling and storage

Live vaccines for water application should be stored at between two to eight degrees centigrade in a fridge and regularly monitored using a minimum-maximum thermometre. Farmers can use cool packs, well insulated cool boxes, or flasks to keep the vaccines cool during transportation. If this cold chain is not maintained, the vaccines will expire. Do not keep your vaccines in a freezer but in the lower cooler cabinet of the fridge. It is even better to buy your vaccines a day before the date of vaccination.

The right time to vaccinate

Do not vaccinate sick and or unhealthy flock. Should you do that, the bird's immune system may not respond positively by producing enough protective antibodies and the exercise will be futile. For better outcomes, any sick bird must be treated first before any vaccination is done. Vaccination schedules are not cast in stone, you can do it a week later when the flocks are in good health. The right time to vaccinate should always be early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the temperatures are cool and away from extreme light or scorching sun.

Water for vaccination

The ideal water for vaccination must be free from chemicals, minerals, vitamins, disinfectants, and chlorine. These chemicals tend to denature (change the characteristics of a substance) live vaccines and render them inactive. Chemicals must be removed 48 hours before vaccination. The art of boiling water a day before can help soften it and remove chlorine. Alternatively, treat with skimmed milk powder at rate of 2g per litre or use a stabiliser like Cevamune, Aviblue at a rate of one tablet in 100 litres of water.

Calculate correct amount of water for vaccination

Calculate the amount of water by using 30 per cent of the previous day's total water consumed. Or alternatively, you can calculate water for vaccination by multiplying the number of birds in thousands by their age in days and then multiply by two. This will give you the amount of water in litres needed to vaccinate over a two-hour period.

Vaccine uptake

The birds must thirst for one to two hours so that every bird receives the intended dose of the vaccine. Controlling vaccine administration is key to obtaining the best vaccine response, make sure that a dye or colourant is added to the vaccine water prior to vaccination. Most vaccine stabilisers in the market are blue, this makes it easy to check randomly how the vaccines uptake has been successfully carried out. After vaccination, continue with clean water without addition of water treatment chemicals like chlorine until the following day. Give multivitamins for the next three days as an antistressor.

[The writer is a Head vet at Kenchic [email protected]]

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