4weeks-old     chicks in feed trough



It is vitally important if you do not want to wade through the longer version that you  at least make sure you have the basics.

  1. You need to do all the basic vaccines, which are compulsory by law.
  2. You need to make sure you know each vaccine, what it does, why you need it, and how to apply it.
  3. You need to ensure you have staff reliable enough to do the job, or do it yourself.
  4. You need to ensure the vaccine you use has been stored correctly from the time it left the depot to your farm gate, and also ensure it is not expired. If you are using inert vaccination via injection, make sure the vaccine has a late expiry date so that you do not have to use it all in a week…common trick suppliers use to get rid of stock which is near expiry date.
  5. You need to ensure you do not use more than one vaccine at a time, exception being the combination IB/ND and others. Wait seven days between vaccines. PLEASE.

Your basic vaccines would be: FOR LAYERS:

  1. IB/ND Hitchner at seven days.
  2. Gumboro (IBD) at 12 days
  3. IB/ND La Sota at four weeks
  4. MG at five weeks and again at 15 weeks.

These are the absolute basics that will avoid trouble later on. If your birds are slaughter birds there are specific ND vaccines which can be recommended by your suppliers. (Phone IMMUNOVET in Pietermaritzburg or Johannesburg).


This is for KZN, but I am sure Johannesburg has an address as well and you will be re directed.

The IB/ND vaccines mentioned as live vaccines are water based and need to be diluted in water. A 20 litre bucket with a vial of 1000 doses is usually enough to do 200 week old babies. Mix with unchlorinated water, and mix in a tablespoon of milk powder to stabilize the vaccine. Make sure babies are really thirsty and that they have no other water source available. They must drink all the vaccine if possible. Leave 24 hours and remove any left over vaccine. Keep the unopened vials in your fridge until use. Do not freeze.

Gumboro or IBD (Infectious Bursal Disease) is also water based.

Oil based injectable vaccines need to be injected at a rate of 0,5 ml per chick sub cutaneous, that is just under the skin, between the wings is best. Use a 20 gauge needle one half inch in length. Immunovet can advise.

One bottle of 500ml is 1000 doses.




Aust pullett winner royal 20132002 rir  australorp2010 champ

True showmanship is a rare quality indeed. It seems to be very very scarce these days from what I have seen on show floors in South Africa.

What exactly does one call true showmanship?

Well for  a start it means in poultry circles that you :

  1. Only show birds that you have bred yourself. It is not enough to buy a bird from some one else, put it on show under your name and then win a prize. Where is the fun and reward in that? The bird shows the work and ethics of his breeder, not you.
  2. Make sure that your birds are worthy of a prize. They must be well presented, clean, with clean legs, no smell and certainly no parasites!
  3. The birds must be worthy of being on a show: in other words they must represent the breed they are to the best of their capability, and yours as the breeder. It is no use paying so much money for travel and show fees, only to have your birds disqualified because it has one of the myriad disqualifying errors listed in the SA book of standard:
















These are all in the book of standards and on the web site:

As well as all these, the bird itself must be of good weight, not over the limit stated by the book of standard and not below either.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. Once the bird has passed all of the above, it also needs to look like a champion. It may have none of the faults above but still may be a mediocre bird, not of good type. You need to judge your own flock for this and make sure you are not deluding yourself!

This is not easy, nor does it come overnight to a person just beginning to show.

Your birds need to be judged constantly. From the time you know that bird has potential, you need to separate it from the others, so as to avoid unnecessary harm coming to it. You need to feed it especially well right from chick stage, or it will never reach its potential. Many a bird I have seen on the show floor, that could be a champion but lacks the final polish, the final grooming to achieve that potential. And that comes from feeding, care, as in making sure there are no parasites, living conditions that have to be clean and sanitary, good food, clean water.

Remember the potential of your bird needs to be unlocked by you. It is inherent in that tiny chick, but you have to coax it out, or the bird will stop developing at the stage feed has run out or feed has become insufficient for its particular needs. It wont come and tell you that it needs extra this or that…you have to figure it out by careful monitoring of your flock, daily scrutiny, and much much patience.

Let me say here too that faking a bird that is mediocre in order to mask its faults is definitely not  true showmanship. If you need to fake a bird, leave it behind rather. And NEVER tamper with the SASPO ring! That will not only get you disqualified but may get you booted out of the club and SASPO.

So: Be wise: Breed sensibly. Be careful what birds you buy in to add to your flock. Make sure you never set a new cock that you have just purchased, probably at an exhorbitant cost, onto every hen you have. Give him a few hens and see what offsprings he gives you first. You could totally annihilate your entire breeding stock otherwise. It takes many generations to repair the damage believe me!

People who sell you birds at exhorbitant prices usually are in it for the money only. They have no scruples, and will cross breed anything and everything and sell you a so called brilliant coloured bird at a high price. When you get it home, and breed it, you find every chick it throws is different, a clear indication that it is not pure. So be wise, be careful, do the homework.


There are no short cuts to success in the show ring.





Aust pullett winner royal 2013

Feeding broilers that are going to live basically for 12 weeks and feeding a champion show bird that you expect to breed and to show, these are two separate issues and should not be confused.

If you are breeding for the show , feeding your birds should begin at birth. Separate the likely champions from your show pens as soon as you can see potential. Keep these in separate pens, so as to avoid fighting or pecking. Keep a close eye on these and make sure you deworm regularly (see section on parasites in this site).

The following are guide lines only:


Make sure you count one feeder to about 20 baby chicks, one feeder to 10 adult birds.

Also ensure you have good quality clean water to drink for the birds as filthy drinkers lead to diseases.

Feed a good quality compound feed such as MEADOW FEEDS PULLETT GROWER mash. Do not feed starter crumbles or broiler starter as this is for BROILERS only and the application is different.

In a plate or dish separate to the mash you can place some maas, and get your youngsters used to eating this as it is great food for gut health, feather growth, and general good condition. Maas contains lactose, fructose, vitamin C, calcium, fats and protein.

Vitamin C is your friend. Learn to find foods with this vitamin in it as it helps:

  1. To grow good healthy joints and soft tissue like muscle.
  2. To ward off diseases.
  3. To relieve heat stress and other stress factors. When a bird is stressed it pants, and vitamins and minerals are depleted in the body with the panting. To renew the minerals you can add a teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda to the drinking water. To renew the vitamins, give them fruit or veg with vitamin C.
  4. See section on feeding vitamin C to poultry.

At three weeks you can add whole wheat grain to the feed, a cup full to each feeder. The wheat has a higher content of protein that maize and will add to the general good gut health of your chicks. Don’t be tempted to feed broken wheat, it must be whole as the kernel inside is what contains all the goodness. Once the seed is fractured, the protective membrane of that seed is gone and it becomes a target for fungus and pathogens. The germ inside dies and you have no food value at all.

Keep up the maas every day if you can, or soured milk you are throwing out or yoghurt.

At this age you can start giving them greens to scratch in, such as lettuce, weeds like black jacks, chickweed, vegetable peels but these must be fresh. Do not give them rhubarb greens as this is poison.

At six weeks they should be old enough and have all their vaccines, ( see section on vaccinations)

Now they should be able to go outside to scratch and run around in the sun. Again protect them from hawks and predators.

By six weeks if these are large breeds, they should be able to handle whole maize, which you can add to your basic feed.  Even a bantam can handle whole maize as an adult, and my silkies do well on this too.Feeding whole maize is a good idea, feeding maize crush is a waste of money, as again, the germ inside the seed has died, the seed is vulnerable to fungus and pathogens, and you are not getting feed value. A simple test is to see what droppings you get in your adult birds if you feed crush: Most of the maize is untouched in the faeces, none has been absorbed by the gut. If you feed whole maize there is never any deposit of maize in the faeces.

The same can be said of other whole grains such as barley and wheat. Wheat in rations is a real boon, as it increases egg production. Whole grain is also very good for the gizzard as it expands the gizzard of the birds and allows more nutrition to be absorbed. Birds with large gizzards are always healthier and larger.

Deworm regularly starting at three months. (See the section on parasites)

This regimen should be sufficient until the birds reach eighteen weeks. At this stage, you may see them wasting the feed as they scratch most of it out of their feeders. This is an indication they need something more.

Time to add LAYER PELLETTS, ( Meadow Feeds Late Lay Pelletts) to your mash. Start with a cup, and slowly add more each week, adding less and less mash as you go, until you have replaced the mash completely. If you see there are some birds still very keen only on the mash, leave one small feeder in the pen with mash. They will soon tell you when they have had enough mash. Once you feed pellets your feed will last longer as the pellets are more substantial and they may eat a lot less.

Continue with whole maize and wheat, barley , or even whole oats if you have it. Whole seed will also help to slow down the digestive process so that the bird benefits more from the feed. Pelletised feeds also slow the digestive process down which is why it is better to feed pellets than mash. However, the pelletising process is known to totally destroy fats, vitamins and a lot of minerals. This is why you need to supplement with whole seed, oil bearing seeds like sunflower and wheat, and lactose in maas. 

Stay away from sorghum.  Sorghum as I have said elsewhere on this site is full of tannins such as are found in tobacco. The birds ingest these tannins and they become a blocker to any absorption of protein or any nutrition in fact that the bird may also ingest. In other words your feed will appear in the faeces, and the bird will not benefit from whatever feed you are using. You may see weight loss, totally unexplained and the birds will not thrive. They will not die from eating sorghum but the good feed you are buying is ending up on your floor. So what is the point?

If you are raising layers or show poultry stay away from broiler feeds. These contain growth hormones, and sometimes medications like Amprolium, which are not going to produce a healthy show bird or layer. Amprolium is added to prevent coccidiosis, but its side effects are so much worse than the coccidiosis itself. Amprolium builds up in the system and the next time you have a sick bird that needs an antibiotic, that antibiotic will not work because the bird has built up all sorts of immunity through the amprolium. ( See section on coccidiosis). Remember that you are not breeding a bird for the table, you are breeding a breeder.

Amprolium is poison for ducks.

Remember that feeding substances that are easy for a bird to absorb in the short journey through the gut is the whole point of the exercise. This is why feeding certain types of oil help to slow down the digestive process and the bird then has more of a chance to benefit from whatever he is eating. Just by the way, it has been proven that a high fat content in the diet, of a kind easily absorbed by the birds, helps to keep at bay infections such as MG.

If you like you can look on it as you standing by a fast moving conveyer belt. You have  6  hours on that conveyer belt in which to grab whatever nutrients are presented. If you move too slowly, you miss out. That is what the poultry keeper is dealing with every day!

You can feed sunflower, but be sure the wild birds are not eating all your sunflower. They bring disease, and parasites as they feed on your expensive food.

Make sure at this stage that the birds have sufficient food to last the day. Monitor how much they eat, refill only when empty. The general idea is to check at night before they roost. See if there is a lot of food left or a little. There should be a little left, to last them to the next feed time, and early morning. If your feeders are absolutely dry, you need to feed more. If they are still full at night, you need to feed less. This is a better system than measuring cupfuls of feed, as the birds themselves will tell you what and when they need it. Do not be tempted to restrict the birds in any way because you read it in a book that fat birds don’t give you eggs. This is the biggest con job on the planet, as fat birds are usually those given the WRONG kind of feed and not too much feed.

A fat bird is one that is incapable of digesting the food it is given, and so it is your responsibility as poultry owner to give it the right kind of food. Poultry gut health is complicated, because from start to finish in a bird the food takes about 6  hours if not less. That means you have about half that time in the gut of the bird to give it something it can:

a) digest

b) break down into components it can use for energy and feed conversion to eggs and growth.

If you give a bird for example, oil as an additive in the feed, make sure it is a type of oil the bird can digest and break down QUICKLY, otherwise it goes to fat. Cod liver oil is such an oil, wheatgerm oil, sunflower oil also are good. Do not give them chip fryer oil which has carbonated and is likely to be poisonous too! No, popcorn is NOT good for your birds!

Restricting birds, especially breeds like BRAHMAS (see feeding Brahmas), is counter productive as you will probably be restricting feed intake at a critical growth period in the bird’s life and in so doing you will be throwing away a potential champion.

At this stage you can add fruit to their diet, guavas, bananas, banana plants, paw paws, mangoes, avocados all are good.

The extra fresh source of vitamins will add lustre to your show birds.

Breeding birds need cod liver oil.

Add a half cup to some whole grain and feed once a week, especially the males.


Scraps from the table…

Easy enough to feed your birds with scraps from the table but please make sure these are worth it! Don’t give them yesterday’s cold fish and chips, or oily carbonated foods scraped from the frying pan. Any fresh vegetable scraps are allowed, outside leaves of lettuce, cabbage spinach, beetroot, cauliflower or broccoli are great. Carrot peels are also good. Stay away from foods that have gone off, especially meat which may give them botulism. Don’t feed smelly or rotten veggies, potato peels or slimy greens. Don’t feed them processed meats like polony or smelly ham you no longer want.

The natural way…..

I have always tried to feed my show birds as closely as possible to the natural way they would feed in the wild.

In the wild birds are forced to eat whatever is available on the jungle floor. This is a restricted diet for sure, but the larger seeds, whole seeds, whole grains, whole insects, fibrous greens and roots they eat all serve to increase the size of the gizzard, and allow more nutrition to reach the system of the bird. it helps break down food into energy much faster than our processed feeds do.

it also converts feed into eggs and energy much faster.

if you were to cut open a wild jungle fowl you may see very large gizzards, for this purpose.

All domestic poultry originated from what is called the jungle fowl. These were wild birds found in the jungles of India, Sumatra, Indonesia, Sri Lanka,  among others. They are still found there today, and many a tourist has been startled when taking a quiet safari through national parks in India to hear a stentorian cockle doodle doo!

That would be a jungle cock.

They live on the jungle floor. They eat whatever they find on the jungle floor:

This includes:

Insects, caterpillars, worms, centipedes, ants, larvae etc. All these are packed with protein, fats, lactose, fructose, minerals and vitamins. The same found in soured milk and maas.

Roots, seeds, green grasses, dead leaves, old insect casings, nuts and berries. These are packed with Chlorophyll, iron and vitamins, moisture. The same is found in greens at home. The berries have plenty of vitamin C, so important to the birds. Please note they eat whole grain!

Jungle birds eat a lot of fruit and berries. They also consume large amounts of root vegetables, which form a natural dewormer. They scratch among the leaves on the jungle floor and dust bathe in the lime soil and dead leaves under the trees, and this rids them of parasites. They also eat foods with a high moisture content, and therefore do not need as much water to drink. This is helpful because excess water drinking in hot weather can lead to ascites, or water under the skin, or gut problems like diarrhea.

Having said this, make sure you have access to CLEAN drinking water at all times.

So, to mimic as close as possible what the birds would find in the jungle is common sense. Since implementing this plan, I have seen a marked difference in the condition of my domestic birds. Instead of keeping them inside, I let them run under trees and make sure there are plenty of fruit trees in their pens. They scratch under these trees all day. I give them plenty of greens, fruit, maas, whole grain, and some compound poultry feed. As I believe them to be jungle birds, I keep them under trees. It is not enough to let them have a green field in which to run, although obviously this is better than confinement to a cage. If you can, let them run among fruit trees, scratch in leaf litter under trees, and eat whatever insects and vegetable matter they find there.

Red_Junglefowl_Sundarbans_Tiger_Reserve_West_Bengal_India_07.03.2015              Red_Junglefowl_Sundarbans_West_Bengal_India_30.12.2014

Red Jungle Fowl (Wikipedia).

1024px-Flickr_-_Rainbirder_-_Ceylon_Junglefowl_(Gallus_lafayetii)_Male                Sri Lankan jungle fowl female

Courtesy of WIKEPEDIA. These are Sri Lankan jungle fowls. Male on the left, female on the right. There are several different types and colours still in the wild today: The Red Jungle Fowl being the most common, but there is also the Green Jungle Fowl, and the Grey Jungle Fowl.

All our common breeds today are descendants of these beautiful birds. Hard to imagine!

Some of these exquisite birds are bred domestically. They do not respond well to confinement, and cannot be fed solely on compound poultry feeds. They need fruit, whole grain and access to free range.

Please be aware not every one will agree to my feeding methods. They have served me well in the last 20 years and I have grown and shown many many champions on just this regimen. It does not mean it is perfect and may not be what you want or what you believe works for you. What I have written here is the result of many years of trial and error, watching and learning every day and mostly observation .



eye infections4picture courtesy of


Here are some ideas. I hope they help:


This is very common. It is a bacterial infection that birds contract mainly from wild birds and then from each other.

Coryza affects adult and half grown birds.It can be chronic, that is it can repeat again and again if the problem is not dealt with energetically. It is caused by a bacterium known as hemophilus gallinarum.

Symptoms are:

Swollen sinus. Discharge  from nose and eyes. Closed eyes, watery eyes, discharge sometimes yellow/green if the infection is bad. The discharge has a putrid smell, and birds rub their heads to clear the sinus, making a tell tale pattern of soiled feathering around the neck. Birds cough, sneeze, and can have a fever. they will be off their feed, and listless, pale. They will infect any bird that comes in contact with the discharge from the nose or eyes, those that drink from the same drinkers or eat from the same feeders.

There are many different types of Coryza, and a vaccine will only tackle a few. There are at present two vaccines available, the one that is a basic Coryza inert vaccine, Talovac 101C. There may be other variations available from Nobilis. There is also a vaccine from Ondersterpoort called TONGAAT CORYZA vaccine, an oil based vaccine specifically targeting a nasty type of Coryza seen since 2006 in SA. If you intend to vaccinate against Coryza you need to do both,  seven days apart.

Once you have diagnosed that you have Coryza and not something else you need to:

Separate the sick birds from the healthy ones.

Take all feeders and drinkers away and remove water and feed. Clean drinkers, dispose of any feed. Give fresh water in a disinfected drinker, (VIRUKILL), and fresh feed in a different disinfected feeder. Dose the sick birds with FosbacT, one teaspoon per litre drinking water, for five days.

When birds have recovered you must use an electrolyte vitamin additive in your drinking water for at least five days to replace vitamins and minerals in the sick birds.

MENTOFIN is a herbal concoction which can be used in the drinking water, or that you can use to steam the birds. It helps them to breathe and clears the sinus. It is not an antibiotic so is a good alternative to use. You can use it  at the same time as the antibiotic FosbacT  in the drinking water.

Steam a kettle on a gas burner  in a closed room and add a teaspoon of MENTOFIN to the water. Close the room door and leave to steam a few minutes. Do this several times a day. It clears the air sacs very well, and relieves the snotty discomfort of the birds.

Birds have a very low pain threshold. They cannot in other words stand much pain or discomfort. You may find that they will die of a Coryza infection, not from the disease itself but because they cannot breathe owing to the mucus build up in their chests. This is why good nursing and steaming the birds, monitoring them closely will go a long way to curing them, more so than the antibiotic you are giving them.

Dose the healthy birds with the same medication, as they are probably compromised as well. Make sure you dose for three days, both flocks.

When the birds have recovered wait at least a week before you reintroduce them to their healthy siblings. Birds that have recovered remain carriers for a while. You can continue with a dose of MENTOFIN, half a ml per litre drinking water for a few days to make sure all the snot has gone. Mentofin does not depleat the system of the birds of vitamin or minerals.

When you handle sick birds, use gloves and dispose of these by burning. Remove shavings in your pen and replace with clean shavings. Burn the old shavings. Make sure you disinfect all water dispensers, water fonts, feeders. Discard any feed you may have used for the sick birds by burning. Do not throw it into the main feeding pen!


This is often mis diagnosed as it is often mixed in with other respiratory complaints and eventually you do not know what you are treating. MG is a low key bacterial disease that lurks in any poultry yard no matter how clean. It is often associated with the fungi and spores found in feeds, called aflatoxins,  especially feeds not stored in airtight containers or in climates that are very humid. Old feed left in feeders, and topped up every day is another source of the disease. MG tends to remain active in the system of birds, without symptoms for many months and even is transmitted from flock to flock so you may have the problem for years without being aware of it.

You will only pick up MG if you ask for a random blood test, or if your birds become stressed by heat, cold, vaccination, moving and transport, predators, parasites, lack of food or water.  You may also wonder why your flocks are not growing at the same pace, with some birds not thriving at all and always lagging behind. In times of stress from weather or predators, or stress from secondary infections like Coryza,  the disease which has actually been there all along will surface. The birds will display symptoms like:

Coughing, sneezing, eyes closed, discharge from eyes and mouth. Young birds will be listless, and your flock will not grow at even pace. Some will be bigger than others and the tell tale symptom is birds growing VERY long primary wing feathers while the rest of the body remains undersized and light in weight. Your flock will not gain weight. You will have unexplained deaths. This disease is transmitted vertically, from hen to egg to chick, so you need to be aware of it and vaccinate.

That is MG. The coughing and sneezing will probably be  a secondary Coryza infection jump started by the underlying MG problem.

Birds can test positive via blood tests for MG and be symptom free. You still need to vaccinate!

Vaccinate with AVIPRO 104 MG bacterin. This is an inert oil based vaccine. Vaccinate with half a ml per bird subcutaneously at eight weeks and again at 15 weeks. I say 8 weeks because before that you will be dosing for pox, IB/ND and Gumboro and all that needs to have gone through the system before you use the MG vaccine.



Mycoplasmosis is actually a combination of diseases, mainly MG which is a common denominator to all, and MS Mycoplasma Synoviae. It is also known as infectious synovitis and is common in turkeys as well as chickens.

CRD was first recognised as a chronic respiratory disease that was mild enough to be ignored in 1956. It did reduce egg production, but caused little mortality. And so it was never treated. Later on, a problem known as “air sac disease” affected young flocks and did cause high mortality. Many birds were stunted, feed efficiency was very bad, and many carcasses were considered unfit for slaughter. Of course as soon as the bottom line was compromised, people began to take notice and scientists started to investigate. They found that CRD, air sac syndrome and sinusitis were all traced back to…MG.

It was discovered that air sac syndrome was the only complaint that combined E coli with MG, a nasty combination, but MG was always present!

MS affects the joints and you may see swollen and inflamed hocks on the birds. Birds are lame and it is painful for them to walk or move.

It was also discovered that not only did MG feature prominently in all these scenarios, but that the weakened immune system of the birds allowed other infections and viruses to compromise the birds: Newcastle, Infectious Bronchitis being the main two.

To their horror, scientists also discovered that birds that had MG in low concentrations were not affected by it, but were carriers, and that the disease was transmitted via the egg to the next generation.

The true CRD produces slight respiratory symptoms, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge. Air sac syndrome involves the air sacs as well, birds cannot breathe, gasp and seem to drown in snot.

A bird does not have very efficient lungs, but a series of air sacs that are prone to infection, and quickly become over burdened with mucus.

To recap, if you treat MG you will probably dodge the rest of this family of horrors.

Good nursing and close monitoring of your flock, handling problems before they become insurmountable, all helps towards a healthy flock.


This is more rare in South Africa but it does occur.

It is a viral infection that is derived from a Herpes type virus. It infects the larynx region of the throat, the nasal passages and the upper respiratory tract.

Symptoms are very distinctive:

Frequent sneezing and shaking of the head, producing BLOODY discharge from nose and mouth.

Distinctive cough that sounds more like a child with whooping cough. These are called “callers” because of the distinctive wheezing in the throat.

Birds cannot breathe and often die mouth open, gasping. In serious infections you will find blood on the walls of the poultry cages, where birds have shaken their heads and blood and mucus has flown everywhere. Highly contagious!

On post mortem lesions are found inside the trachea.

Birds are infected by being in contact with infected dead birds, or the discharge from the eyes and nasal passages of their siblings. Water troughs and feeders are also a source of infection much as in Coryza. Unlike Coryza, vaccinating the birds actually makes them carriers for life of this virus and in some states of the US it is illegal to vaccinate against ILT.

This virus does not die a natural death. It remains in your flock for generations unless you actually cull all carriers and start again.

There is a vaccine available now called MLT (Modified Laryngotracheitis) which does give immunity without making the birds perpetual carriers.

The vaccine has been modified to target only the barest form of the disease. Needless to say in a case of serious field challenge it will not be effective.

I would suggest that unless you have PROVED via post mortem that you have ILT in your flock, do not touch the vaccine.


124-2447_IMG_2 Plymouth rock White cockerel. Note the clear eyes, no discharge, the red comb, the white feathers unsoiled by mucus.


This is a virulent viral disease that is endemic in Africa. This means you need to vaccinate because it is present wherever you are.

Unfortunately with Newcastle, by the time you realise you have the disease it is probably too late to do anything about it. death is sometimes the first clue you have that Newcastle is the problem.

There are several types of Newcastle and you will not know what is going on unless you do a post mortem examination. Some types of Newcastle affect the nervous system and birds will end up with the neck twisted around facing backwards, or the head between the legs, and they die in that position. It can affect turkeys as well, and rarely, waterfowl.

The most severe strain of Newcastle is  visceroptic velogenic Newcastle Disease (VVND) and is a serious threat to broiler industries in the US, where strict border control is practised. It is sometimes known as Exotic Newcastle Disease.

The milder form is known as mesogenic Newcastle Disease. This is transmitted via airborne route, but does not travel long distances and will run itself out in 30 days. Birds that recover are not carriers nor are they carriers if they are vaccinated.

Respiratory distress is often accompanied by nervous tremors and paralysis. Egg production drops. Eggs that are laid are mishappen and soft shelled.

There is as with all viruses, no cure and the disease can only be treated by treating secondary infections and symptoms that may arise. Vaccination is cheap and effective. (See section on vaccination).

The spread of this disease is rampant and you can lose a thousand birds a day in a broiler operation.

Some types of Newcastle are not as vicious and you will get coughing, sneezing, rales, snicking, discharge from nose and mouth, closed eyes and weepy eyes. Birds may survive. You might say the symptoms are identical to those of Coryza or even Infectious Bronchitis. Yes, they are, and only a careful examination of the birds will tell you different. The main difference between Newcastle and other infections is the rapid spread of the disease. You may have a healthy flock of a thousand at six am in the morning and be down to two hundred by nightfall of the same day, it is that quick. Nothing else moves that quickly. Only a post mortem will certify Newcaslte.

Fortunately, there are some very good vaccines available to be used as live vaccines via the water from as early as day one. Usually a mild form of ND called Hitchner B1 is given first, and then followed seven days later by the La Sota strain of ND also in water. The first vaccine sensitizes the system to the vaccine, the second provides good immunity. YOU NEED BOTH. (See section on vaccines)

If you suspect that you may have Newcasle in your yard, you need to consult a vet, and declare the epidemic. You also need to ask for a necropsy, post mortem, to certify that it is indeed Newcastle, because many a time there have been scares about this and it has turned out to be Coryza, or avian flu.


This is a more slow acting virus that seems to linger in the flock. You will see respiratory distress, a lot of sneezing and weakness of the affected birds.  There may be slight watery nasal discharge. IB is caused by a virus that affects only chickens, birds may survive and do not become carriers if vaccinated. The infection is confined to the respiratory tract and does not affect the nervous system. Duration is ten to fourteen days. Birds in lay will lay soft shelled or shell less eggs. In chicks of six to eight weeks, mortality may be as high as 40%. Growth is retarded, feed consumption is virtually nil. Four weeks is required to get the flock back on track and some birds never recover the full potential of their breed but remain stunted.

There are several strains of this virus, and when it occurs all susceptible birds on the farm will be infected no matter what quarantine precautions you have in place. The virus is spread by air and can “jump” considerable distances. It can be spread via equipment, clothing, mechanical devices like crates. It is not egg transmitted and will only survive one week in a house that has been cleaned and emptied.


This virus is known as Gumboro because it is reputedly transmitted via the boots of poultry farmers and staff.

It is an acute and rapidly transmitted virus, very contagious found among young chicks especially in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. There is usually a high morbidity.

The virus causes loss of immunity to other viruses and infections and may compromise the ability of the vaccines to do their job.

On post mortem the bursa is seen to be swollen to twice its size, and colour may be affected from yellow, red or even black. It will be slimy to the touch. In cases where the bird has survived longer, the bursa will shrink to half the normal size.

Young chicks affected typically are cold to the touch, huddle together, feathers will be ruffled, and the birds exhibit tremors. They will huddle with eyes closed and cry continuously. If forced to move they move unsteadily. A sudden rise in temperature is followed by this typical drop in temperature that remains until death, usually within two days. There may be whitish diarrhea. Birds do not eat but drink more.

There is no cure. Vaccinate!

You can avoid problems such as described above by:

  1. Always having a hands on attitude to your birds. Do not let some one else do the work, check the birds every day for soiled vents, coughing, huddled birds, birds not moving or listless, closed eyes, birds not eating, or too quiet.
  2. Check last thing at night. When all the birds are roosting, and it is quiet, that is the time you will hear the odd one coughing or sneezing. You can then isolate the victim and treat it.
  3. Make sure your feeders and drinkers are always clean. Clean water every day is a must as warm water left in the sun, or dirty water contaminated by faeces and dirt is a recipe for disaster. The water must be of a quality you would drink. If you expect the birds to drink it that is only fair!
  4. Make sure all feed is kept in a dry and water proof container so as to avoid rats, moisture or fungal growths and pathogens. This way you may avoid MG as well.
  5. Keep houses well aired, well cleaned every day so as to avoid moist wet bedding which leads to coccidiosis and respiratory problems. make sure bedding is dry and clean.
  6. Never overcrowd your houses, and make sure there are enough feeders and drinkers for all. One feeder for ten birds one drinker for six more or less. Overcrowding stresses the respiratory system of chickens.
  7. Use antibiotics sparingly. Feed well and with the correct balanced feed.




21052012707                       03112012746

When do you use antibiotics and when do you not?

That is a question that poultry farmers all over the world are asking themselves, right across the board, the broiler industry, the egg laying industry, and the show poultry breeders.

The word  BIOSECURITY  is a buzz word you hear all over the place. What does it mean and why is it important?

BIOSECURITY  is the security you have in your poultry yard as regards health hazards.

It includes everything :

Vaccination programmes

Rodent control

Feed control

Fly control

Parasite control

Cleaning and disinfecting

Disposal of manure

The handling of disease outbreaks.

Nothing in a poultry yard works alone. Everything depends on everything else. For example: If you vaccinate your flock religiously against everything that the vet has told you but do no cleaning and leave the birds in their own faeces, you are wasting time and money, because those vaccines are only as good as the environment within which they operate. The field challenge of those diseases you are trying to beat will be so strong that the vaccinated bird’s immune system will be overrun before the vaccine takes effect. See the section on vaccines on this site: ( Vaccinations pro and con)

So basically you need to have a clean and safe environment: Clean properly (see the chapter on cleaning and disinfecting agents).

What if you have done all this, cleaned until your hands are raw, worked hard to tick all the boxes and you still have birds that look poorly, or do not thrive?

Do you immediately seek out the strongest antibiotic on the market? Do you use it on all the birds or only those affected? Do you haphazardly dose without knowing what you are dosing for or do you consult a vet?

Unfortunately you cannot consult a vet every time you have a sick bird because it will bankrupt you!

The first thing you do is carefully inspect the sick birds, isolate them from the others and do a once over. (See the chapter on diagnosing a sick bird).

Before you think of dosing, there are several options open to you:

  1. Use a half disprin down the gullet. It is anti inflammatory as well as relieves fever and pain.
  2. Give the bird a vitamin booster: Kyrophos Metatbolic V.
  3. Put the bird in a sterile cage and feed on soft food only.


There are several common ailments that affect chickens and for these you can use broad spectrum antibiotics like ESB3, or FOSBAC T or even KYROTRIM injectable.

Common ailments:

respiratory rales. This is when the bird sounds like it is gargling. It indicates there is a lot of mucus in the throat and maybe the lungs. There may be discharge from the nose and eyes and ears may be gummed up or even swollen. Eyes may be swollen, face hot, bird may be coughing or sneezing.

All these symptoms or any of them individually indicate either a dose of bacterial CORYZA, a simple respiratory infection, or something more serious like flu or bronchitis or Newcastle. It may also be ILT.

Either way you need to act quickly. The antibiotics I list below are quite adequate to deal with a simple infection like Coryza, but if you suspect something more serious, consult a vet. Dosing for a virus is useless as a virus does not react to an antibiotic. You may however treat the symptoms of a virus and hope that as it runs its course the bird will survive with the support of your meds. This is why it is important to vaccinate. Sometimes a simple dose of disprin is all that is needed.

Diarrhea and soiled vent:

This is also common but could be the symptom of something worse. Either way you need to address it. Clean the vent area and isolate the bird. Dose with any of the three antibiotics I list and give the bird soft food, brown bread and maas, no grain.

If the symptoms do not improve within three days consult a vet.

Eye infections and swollen eyes.

This is also common. Wash out the eyes with 3CP and water, one capful in a litre warm water. Dose with antibiotics and keep washing eyes until all is well. If necessary remove the hard pussy substance under the eye lids.

Lameness, bumble foot

This does not require antibiotics unless there is a serious infection. Clean feet and look for bumble foot. Remove the pussy substance from the foot. Clean thoroughly with Dettol and hot water.

ESB3 is a sulfa based medication and not an antibiotic. Triple Sulfa is also a good alternative, as it is a sulphamide not an antibiotic, also SULPHAMETHAZINE, all of which can be used on young birds even day olds. Sulfa based medications provided they are used only for the duration recommended  and at the recommended dosage, do not drain the system of vitamin and minerals.

Please remember not to mix these sulfamide drugs, use one at a time and according to directions, do not exceed dosage or duration of treatment. Give the correct dosage and wait three days. If there is no improvement or the birds are getting worse it may be time to consult a vet.

There are other options such as TYLOSINE TARTRATE, or FOSBAC PLUS T. These work well. TYLO200 injectable also works well. Fosbac is Fosphomycin and is an antibiotic, so use sparingly. Tylosin is a natural antibiotic and preferable to other more chemical alternatives. If you do go this route, give the bird a vitamin compound to replace what the antibiotic has destroyed. Fosbac  T does have a vitamin additive.


FOSBAC PLUS T: This is worked out by weight but if you are dosing only one bird use a heaped teaspoon in one litre drinking water for three days. It is important to let it run for three days even if the bird seems well, as antibiotics work only if the full timeline is respected.

TYLO 200  INJECTIBLE: Use a half ml per adult bird and 0,2ml for a bantam subcutaneous.

TYLOSIN TARTRATE or TYLAN: Use as directed on the pack. Usually 5ml per litre of drinking water. Again for three days.

These are the lesser evils if you like.

There are other options available which use herbal remedies and these are also very effective if used properly. I have cured birds before by making COMFREY TEA out of comfrey leaves. There are herbs on the market for veterinary use.


If you do not get results after 3 days you can use KYROTRIM injectable or TERRAMYCIN LA injectable. Wait three days before changing your meds. Use as directed, and do not exceed the dose.These are broad spectrum antibiotics but fairly safe to use.

Only when you have exhausted all these options should you resort to stronger antibiotics such as BAYTRIL. The active ingredient here is an antibiotic called enrofloxacin, very strong. There are sound reasons for this. If you use strong antibiotics to resolve a minor issue like the sniffles or a mild dose of Coryza, the day you need to cope with an outbreak of ILT or a really bad dose of a strain of Coryza you have not seen before, that antibiotic will not work as the bacteria will have become immune to your medication.

When using any antibiotic PLEASE make sure you continue the treatment for the full timeline usually three or five days as directed on the pack. If you do not, the infection will begin again and this time will not respond to the antibiotic you used before. Even if the bird seems well, do not stop treatment.

You may have read about multiple drug resistant TB known as MD tuberculosis in humans. It is a real problem in South Africa and in other rural areas where TB drugs are given out at hospitals and the patients sent home. As soon as they begin to feel better, they stop taking the tablets, or sell them to someone else or give them to family members. They do NOT complete the treatment, and the TB begins again, only this time it is resistant to the drugs used before. Hospitals cannot possibly monitor every patient taking every tablet at the same time every day. Antibiotics in humans work the same as in livestock, if you are given antibiotics for whatever ails you, you must complete the course.


There is a movement world wide to rather use PROBIOTICS as a deterrent before there is a problem. Probiotics work as the word suggests as a vitamin supplement does, to boost the immune system of the bird so that when challenged by disease the bird’s immunity kicks it out.

PROTEXIN is a good probiotic, but I have found that good old fashioned MAAS works just as well and is cheaper too.

The ingredients of PROTEXIN are lactose, fructose, fats and additives. Most of this you can get in maas, or yoghurt.

There are vitamin additives that you can give to your birds that may give you another alternative to antibiotics.

AVE TOTAL is a very good product produced by BEDSON which gives all the vitamins and minerals necessary for a good start in life and a booster for sick or moulting birds.

Try giving your birds a varied DIET OF FRUIT, PAWPAWS, BANANAS, BANANA PLANTS, MANGOES, GUAVAS, TOMATOES, GREENS OF ALL KINDS, ORANGES, NUTS. All these are items they will find in the wild.

If you feed the birds natural foods that they would find in the wild you are in fact giving it a basic all round diet. Our pelletised feeds and commercial rations for poultry do not give a balanced rounded diet, and pelletisation kills off most of the minerals, fats,  and all vitamins in the grains they use.  Most of the health problems we have with our birds can be solved simply by going back to basics:

Good quality grain and good quality greens and fruit. You can give commercial feeds as well but do not rely solely on these.

Try growing your owns mealworms, as this provides a good source of protein and fats, and meal worms are clean, they eat only veggies! Earthworms can carry tape worm.

You can also try using what is now being used overseas, IONOPHORES, which are not classified as antibiotics but do the same job. Ionophores are drugs that cannot be passed onto humans through a carcass they may eat. Several drugs are classified as safe in this way and information is available on the net.

Technically, ionophores are antibiotics because they are produced as a by-product of bacterial fermentation.  An important distinction, however, is that ionophores are unrelated to the antibiotics used to increase the rate of weight gain and improve feed efficiency.  Ionophores are not used in human medicine and, therefore, cannot contribute to perceived issues relating to drug resistance in man.

Ironically, ionophores are actually drugs used to treat parasitic infections such as coccidiosis.


You can buy chicken feed that is free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Most layer feeds are free of these drugs. Broiler feeds are a risk. Many of them have coccidiostats such as Amprol, though I think now they are obliged by law to declare any additives in the feed. It should be clearly written on the label. Putting antibiotics such as Amprol in the feed is dangerous. The bird ingests small doses every day and becomes immune to it. Any other antibiotic you use or sulphamide will immediately be cancelled by the Amprol. So be aware. Amprol also depleats the system of vitamins and minerals and you are not even aware this is going on.

Until your birds come out stunted and not thriving.


There have been many articles and many lectures lately on the effect that antibiotics given to poultry, cattle and sheep have on the humans that consume that meat. I strongly believe that antibiotics should not be used on livestock if that livestock is meant for human consumption. The same rule on immunity applies to the meat we eat: If there has been an exhorbitant abuse of strong antibiotics in the poultry we eat, those meds go straight into us, with the result that we are ingesting antibiotics ourselves. if we have an illness that needs medication the chances are the bacteria making us ill will not respond to the antibiotic prescribed because it will have become immune already before the bird was slaughtered for human consumption.

There is a call world wide for doctors to be more circumspect when prescribing antibiotics because of this.

As I said, nothing happens in a vacuum. What goes into the meat, does not die with the carcass. We ingest it, we accumulate it in our system, and we suffer from it.


So, to recap:

1. Read the label of the feed you buy, always, and do not be afraid to query what you do not understand.

2.Try alternative measures before antibiotics.

3. If you use antibiotics, use the milder ones first, and always give vitamin additive at the same time. Complete the three or five day course always.

4.Clean your runs and disinfect incubators and utensils thoroughly to avoid having to use medication in the first place. Dispose of all waste in a responsible manner.

5. Have a good vaccination programme in place and stick to the timelines on your programme. Do not use more than one vaccine at a time, unless specifically approved such as IB/ND, and always wait seven days before using the next one. Never vaccinate a bird already showing signs of illness.

Have a look at the chapter on this site on poultry diagnosis.




chicks 1                  4weeks old


When brooding chicks, it is vital to have the correct environmental conditions to ensure the best start for the little beings.

Temperature, air circulation and humidity are crucial. Failure to provide optimum conditions for chicks from birth to eight weeks is the major contributor to stunted birds, deaths mostly unexplained, failure to thrive, poor feed conversion, increased risk of disease and lastly cost.

It never ceases to amaze me how people will happily spend a fortune on buying day old chicks without first doing the homework and having the right conditions for them when they arrive. Considering the information available freely on the internet this is quite remarkable.


The chick at this stage is still in incubator mode. He is relying on the yolk sac and on the conditions inside the incubator for his first breath. If you have done things correctly here, he will be fat and healthy. If not, you have a long road ahead!


Temperature is the most vital at this stage. Overheating or chilling can damage the young chick . It  may not actually kill him but you will not be able to reach the full potential of your bird. Temperatures of 40C or higher can cause a significant drop in cardiac output and blood pressure. Temperatures below  18C will slow metabolism and if this temperature continues or drops even further, you will not be able to undo the damage done, and you will have mortality of many chicks. Chicks that are continually too hot or too cold will not grow and will not thrive.

Let me say at this point that although the “experts” give you this scale of temperature it is not cast in stone, and the chicks themselves will tell you if they are cold or uncomfortable. Your brooder lamp should be placed at one end of the brooder or if in a ring centrally so as to allow the chicks to move away from the heat source. They will decide how warm they want to be and let me tell you sometimes 35C is what they want! If all the chicks are moving around the brooder and chirping they are warm and comfortable. if they are strident and huddling under the lamp they are cold, and if there is a big space under the lamp with chicks all on the outer areas they are too warm.

Scientists will tell you that after 6 hours exposure to 43C plus the chicks will drink more water and grow at a slower rate. Adults ( still according to Georgia university) can survive exposure to 40.6C for up to seven hours but will not survive 43C for that long. Young chicks can withstand higher temperatures than adults.

The body temperature of a day old is about 1.7C below that of an adult, but this stabilises at five days where body temperature is 41.1C, same as the adults.

I think as this has been worked out for broilers one needs to take into consideration that all breeds are not the same. Large breed birds like Australorps are always a little lower in body temperature than broilers. Leghorns are a little above average in body temperature. This is why it is vital to watch the birds and make a decision based on observation. It is more important to watch the chicks themselves, than to watch the thermometer.

You also need to remember it depends a lot on the infrastructure you have around the brooder, whether you have a thousand birds or twenty, draughts and ventilation. It also depends on the bedding you have on the floor of the brooder, the feed and the drinkers. Have sufficient feeders for all chicks, have sufficient drinkers for all chicks and make sure they all know where the food is. The optimum is one drinker to ten birds and one feeder to fifteen to twenty birds. You can get away with more birds per feeder and more birds per drinker in the first week while they are small, but be aware that this changes from day to day and you must adapt accordingly.

Optimum temperature for DAY ONE should be about 32C but as I say this is open to variable factors. This decreases to 21.1C at six weeks, again open to variable factors.

Day old chicks cannot regulate their own body temperatures. On average a day old has a body temperature of 39.7C, and this increases to about 41.4C at ten days.



If you have successfully navigated day one with your little ones intact well done.

You must leave the chicks in the brooder section for at least 3 weeks. After that, if you are lucky to have outside access you can herd them all outside into a run for a few hours to scratch. They will be tired after the first day and you will see they will lie down and sleep on returning to the brooder. This will change and they will soon ask to go out. Once you see that the brooder is becoming crowded, remove the chicks into a larger house.

Conventional houses in the broiler industry have gravity flow ventilation. They also have curtains on both sides of the house. Curtains can be opened or closed for ventilation depending on weather. Some houses may have fans to control ventilation. Whatever system you have, be it a broiler house or a converted room or stable, there must be two optimum conditions present:

1. Good ventilation to remove the build up of C02. This must never be at the level of your chicks but above their heads so as not to cause them to chill. This is important for layers as well, because if they are fully in the draughts you will get no eggs.

2. Temperature control. Temperature needs to be constant, without peaks or dips. This of course is difficult if you are using a natural brooding or raising system but bear in mind some fluctuation providing it is gradual will be fine.What needs to be avoided at all costs is a house where the temperature at midday is 30C and at night -4C.

How does one achieve this in a normal backyard operation?

FANS: These work well, distribute air all around the house especially if strategically placed. The fan will control temperature too as it makes sure the air is circulated and will never remain static. This helps to moderate peaks and dips in temperature.

ORIENTATION: Make sure your house is orientated to suit your climate. Birds should get morning sun but not be sweltering at midday. If you are in a cold climate, orientate so you get more sun.

Openings in the houses should be such as to provide circulation ABOVE the heads of the birds, preferably below the eaves of the building. Flow should go right through the house so your openings must face each other across the house. How big you make them depends on your climate. In my area where humidity and heat are constant we have huge openings under the eaves to halfway down the wall, meshed in, and facing each other. Houses are 20metres by 10 metres. The meshed openings are higher on one side to allow for roof slope and window height on the other side. I also have fans, two per house. Houses have gated openings to allow birds outside, two per house.

107-0721_IMG            new house flock

On the left, you see a brooder box which is one of the simplest ones. A cardboard box about 60cm high, I found this one at the windscreen manufacturers. It needs to be a long box so that you can put food and water where the tile is, your heat lamp on the other end. This way the water and feed does not get warm, and the chicks have the option to move away from the heat source if they are too warm. Very important.

On the right is a rearing house where birds will move once they reach the age when they can go in and out and scratch by themselves. I move them into this house at 6 to 8 weeks, and they remain here until adult.

You will see there are fans above for good ventilation. The house opens onto a large outside area, fenced and shade cloth above for hawks. Birds come inside for food and water. When it is very hot the water is placed inside, otherwise it will be outside as there is less likelihood of moisture in the shavings. Floor is concrete, with wood shavings as bedding. Feeders are suspended. You will note the openings are wired in above the heads of the birds to prevent draughts.

The air circulation is through and through the house, a high ventilation window is out of picture on the right hand side of the house.

brooder box2

The heat lamp can be lowered or raised as needs be.