Well I have made many mistakes since I started farming, but last week I made the largest blunder EVER!! As many of you know I raise poultry, small scale (less than 2000 per year), for the local Asian market. My good friend asked me to raise chickens for him and his friends a few years ago, and I have been doing it ever since.
At the same time all of this began many cities in my area approved backyard chickens. The only catch was NO ROOSTERS. For the past 2 years I have been a popular drop off for unwanted roosters. Occasionally I get the person who loves to hatch chickens and then finds themselves with 20 roosters. I am always careful to quarantine the chickens for at least 2 weeks. I also don’t let them walk back into the chicken pastures. I always sanitize everything. Because I also raise purebred stock to sell I maintain strict bio security between chicks and the pasture flock. Also, all the chicks I purchase from hatcheries are kept separate for a minimum of 6 weeks. I know this is not something to get lazy over. It seems like overkill, but I assure you it is necessary.
Last week a woman asked if she could drop off some roosters. They were all around 3 months old. I agreed, and then she dropped them off. Well my holding pen was full because processing day was in 2 days, and I had already taken in 4 roosters the day before. Without thinking I took the 10 roosters out to pasture. Processing day came and went, and everything seemed to be fine. Then Sunday morning I noticed a sick chicken. I immediately separated him, and went about my day. In the afternoon I noticed 3 more sick birds. This morning there were 4 more. All of these birds eventually died.
The thing about chickens is they don’t show signs of illness until it is too late. At least that’s the case most of the time. I realized that 2 of the “new” roosters were the first to get sick. I have since moved all the birds off that paddock and limed it. I also had to administer antibiotics through their watering system. Hopefully I will not lose the entire flock . For a small producer a quick mistake like this can be DEVESTATING. If the illness spreads tp my brooding shed I will lose 300 chicks. If it then spreads to my small layer flock I will lose all my pure breed French Copper Marans and Lavender Orpingtons.
The bottom line is that bio-security is crucial even on a small urban farm. You can not cut corners. If you do it can set you back months. Have foot baths, hand sanitizing (especially with chicks), and don’t let the public around your flock if that is possible. I wont know the extent of the damage to my flock for a few days. Hopefully, I stopped whatever it was. Since the start of the illness I have had two birds hang on. I thought they would die, but they seem to be recovering. That is most definitely a hopeful sign.
So, will I continue to take roosters form the public?? Probably. However, they will be quarantined for 2 weeks before moving anywhere near the birds I sell. That was my practice up until this past week, and it will be the practice going forward without exception.
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