The most important aspect in keeping poultry healthy is maintaining good hygiene. Healthy parents and hygienic hatchery conditions contribute greatly to disease-free chicks.
On poultry farms, an all-in, all-out system is the best management practice as it prevents the buildup of disease-causing organisms and disease outbreaks.
In cases where farmers want to keep flocks of different ages, then each must be housed on its own. These are the characteristics of a good poultry house; it should be constructed in an isolated area to decrease the risk of contamination;
It should be fenced to keep off stray animals and the wire mesh should be of a small gauge to prevent entry of animals.
Only staff should enter the flock house. When visitors are allowed access, ensure the following is recorded: name, address and telephone number; Where the visitor is from; purpose of visit and previous farm visited.
Poultry workers should always wear disinfected clothing and footwear. When visiting birds of different ages, start with the youngest and always visit sick flocks last, irrespective of their age.
Preparing for new birds
As soon as the previous flock has been depleted, the house and equipment must be thoroughly disinfected.
Allow the house to remain empty for two weeks before the next flock arrives to reduce build-up of disease-causing organisms.
After the birds have been removed from the house, remove all equipment and dampen the ceiling, wall and litter with water.
This minimises dust during litter removal. Remove all old litter and dispose it at least 1.5km from the farm.
All unused feeds should be disposed to minimise chances of disease transmission. Only feeds in bags stored separately from the house can be kept.
INSULATE THE FLOOR
Wash the house with water and soap. Start with the roof, the walls and then the floor. Allow the house to dry before spraying with disinfectant solution, again starting from the roof.
Wash and disinfect all equipment from the house. You can also apply effective broad-spectrum disinfectant through a pressure washer with a jet nozzle.
Thoroughly soak all the interior surfaces and equipment working from top to bottom. The most common disinfectants include oxidisers like hydrogen peroxide, alcohols (ethanol), halogens (iodine), phenolics (phenol) and aldehydes (formalin).
If a water storage or header tank is present, where possible, open it and scrub it clean with a detergent. Drain the drinking system and header tank completely before adding cleaning solution.
It is best, if possible, to circulate the sanitising solution in your drinking system. If not, leave it to stand in the drinking system for a minimum of 12 hours before completely flushing with clean water.
After disinfection, once the house is dry, place four inches of litter material like wood shavings, straws and coffee husks and put back all the clean and disinfected equipment.
Good litter should insulate the floor and absorb moisture from chicken droppings. Prepare the brooder area at least 24 hours before chicks arrive.
To monitor the effectiveness of the sanitation programme, a visual inspection and microbial culture are suggested. One can also use quantitative laboratory tests.
Sterilisation of the facilities is not realistic but microbiological monitoring can confirm that non desired organisms such as salmonella have been eliminated.
Dr Watson Messo, [email protected]