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Why you must get it right with poultry vaccination

By Dr Watson Messo | October 24th 2020

A farmer vaccinates his chicks. Experts recommend strict adherence to vaccination.

Hallo daktari,

I keep layer chicks and I have a query. On the vaccination programme, can I skip injectable vaccines? What are the consequences and is there an alternative to this method of administration?


Dear Steve, I need to state some facts clearly. Poultry vaccination is an important activity in flock health management. It works hand in hand with farm biosecurity, hygiene and sanitation.

Layer farmers who have been vaccinating their chicks against local diseases know benefits of this procedure in the event of a disease outbreak. Therefore, all poultry farmers should vaccinate their flocks to protect them from diseases such as Gumboro, Newcastle, Fowl Typhoid, Fowl pox and Infectious Bronchitis. In my years of avian medicine, I still strongly believe that poor vaccine administration is the major cause of vaccines failure.

All vaccination programmes are designed with the following in mind: understanding on the disease challenges, type of bird, type of vaccine and the best method to administer it. Vaccines can either be live or killed. Live vaccines are biological products produced from disease causing organism and if applied to healthy flocks’ results into development of immunity against that disease. Most live vaccines are administered through drinking water, spray or nasal or eye drop.

They are cheap, provide short term immunity, applicable against mainly respiratory diseases and if not properly given can cause severe reactions. The killed vaccines on the other hand are mainly injectables, they produce long lasting immunity and are administered as a second vaccine after a live priming vaccine. They are administered to long living birds. Here are five methods of vaccine administration in poultry.

Drinking water method

Vaccines administered through this method are mainly live in nature. The birds must be thirsted for 1-2 hours and the vaccine water must be free from heavy metals. You can mix 2grams of skimmed milk in one litre of water to protect the vaccines. Gumboro vaccines are administered through this method.

Spray Vaccination

This technique should be done for birds ranging between 11 days to 6 months. It requires a special spray gun that can deliver uniform droplets of water in a band approximately three metres in front. You need to use cool, fresh distilled water and the spray targets the upper respiratory tract. It is used for Newcastle and Infectious bronchitis live vaccines. It is also commonly used in hatcheries to vaccinate day-old chicks.

Eye drop Technique

This procedure is most effective way to deliver vaccines against respiratory diseases like Newcastle and Infectious bronchitis. It is labour intensive as you must handle every chick and using a provided dropper, apply vaccine in either the eye or nasal opening.

Wing web stab

This method involves use of a two-prong applicator that is dipped in the vaccine then used to puncture the wing web of chickens. The method is specifically good for application against Fowl pox disease. The operator must be trained to avoid the vaccine spilling on the eyes and beaks of the vaccinated chickens.

Injection of vaccines

This can be injected deep into muscles of the leg, breast or thigh. It can also be injected subcutaneously below the skin in the neck region depending on the type of vaccine. The vaccines used in this method are mainly killed type and is done in long living birds like layers or breeders. The vaccines used include Fowl typhoid, Mycoplasma, Coryza and Fowl cholera.

 Hygiene, knowledge and experience are critical when applying this method. The applicator must be thoroughly washed and steamed before and after use. The needle should be of the right gauge and length. This sort of application is mainly administered by qualified veterinary surgeons or para veterinarians.

Finally, failure to vaccinate your flocks puts them in danger in the event of disease outbreak. There is no vaccine given through feed.

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