January 29, 2019

Ceaberry's Homesteading: Depopulation and Mycoplasma

Monday became a sad day for me. I will rewind time to last Wednesday when I called the AG extension office. My birds had been suffering form a chronic cold that seemed to never go away. I tried everything I could without needing a prescription. The use of antibiotics and other medicines in poultry is regulated and Tylan 50 is on the VFD, Veterinarian Feed Directive, list. So are a lot of the other common poultry drugs to cure respiratory disease. I can however purchase it online, but to then use it without a prescription is ILLEGAL. Its even worse if I was to use it in WATER or FEED. Please educate yourself on these new guidelines (as of 2017) so you don't inadvertently get yourself in trouble.

So I called the AG guys and one came out on Thursday. He looked at my flock and said he thought they had what would be the chicken equivalent of a "cold" and to get basil to help cure them of their mystery illness. He assured me multiple times my flock exhibited none of the signs of Avian Flu or Mycoplasma. They didn't have the swollen heads or the hanging down mucus. They were a healthy weight, good body condition, very alert, and active.

Come Monday I got the phone call. When I answered the phone his voice said it all. But it was to be the blow of Mycoplasma (if it was Avian Flu they come and depopulate, with mycoplasma you choose what you want to do but they don't come and help you). So I looked it up. Vertically and Horizontally transmitted, once infected always infected, highly contagious, can treat symptoms but they will return, loss of egg production, death of young chicks, infects eggs for hatching, and flock should be depopulated to rid the area of mycoplasma. That is it in a nutshell.

I CAN cure the symptoms and have a nice egg laying flock, although their capacity would be diminished as seen already by me only getting 3 eggs in 2 months from 80+ hens. They would always be infected, they could infect others and wildlife, and I couldn't sell hatching eggs nor birds to anyone unless I wanted to infect their flock too. Let's say I wanted to go the antibiotic route. $50 vet visit, $50 worth of medicine or more, withdrawal of 3 weeks for eggs, and the symptoms can return at ANY point with stress. I would have to maintain a closed flock and farm with biosecurity as high as Fort Knox. Anyone coming onto my property would be at risk at spreading the disease. My poultry could die from its symptoms and the death is either lameness or suffocation. Yes, I can get reinfected and go through this again, and again. If my neighbors have it, it is up to me to keep my flock safe but wild birds such as sparrows and feral cats and rats can bring it into the flock in an instant.

Welcome to the dark side of chicken farming. I do not mean to scare you off but its a nasty world sometimes and very cruel to you and your birds.

So, depopulation it is, aka mass killing of my ENTIRE flock. It might include the ones in the brooders in my basement and even the babies that are hatching tomorrow. Cruel. Very very cruel. As I have mentioned I am a mom of 3 young kids (check their ages above the post) and I do have a homestead to run. Due to circumstances I am left with this undertaking to do by myself (not from lack of compassion but for physical reasons on those closest to me). I will NOT put another farmer at risk and so any close chicken farmers are out of the list of helpers too. I am not setup for a task but by end of tomorrow I will be, and maybe by then I can figure out my plan. We are getting into windchill that will cut through you and so working outside is not a feasible option.

If my brooder chicks have to go then chicken farming won't be a part of my homesteading for a while and I will focus on gardening and the like. It is a blow for sure and I hope you understand if I have a few days in-between postings as I deal with this new situation.

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