DIARY OF A POULTRY FARMER: Vaccinating day-old chicks at the hatchery

Friday July 13 2018

Mr Samuel Kariuki feeds his 200 layers at Turi farm in Nakuru County. After vaccination of day-old chicks, leave them inside the box for at least 20 minutes to optimise the effect of spreening. PHOTO|JOHN NJOROGE | NATION


Last week, I recounted my agony as I waited earnestly for the eggs I had incubated to hatch.

This was because two years ago, the agent who sold me the 528-egg capacity incubator had declared it dead and as such, I wasn’t sure it would hatch eggs.
The good news is that I accomplished the mission and Irene collected her order of one-week-old chicks as we had agreed.

Now for the disappointing part. After incubating the eggs, I sought advice from Ochieng’, an animal specialist at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation in Naivasha, on vaccinations to be administered to day-old chicks at the hatchery.

New Castle diseases

“The chicks should be vaccinated against Marek’s, infectious bronchitis and New Castle diseases,” Ochieng’ told me categorically.

I didn’t want to take any chances and started searching around for the vaccines.


I had promised Irene that I would vaccinate her chicks against the three diseases and didn’t want to disappoint her.

I have learnt over the years that if I want to gain customers for life, I need to treat them in the same way I’d wish to be treated and that means I don’t short-change them.

“A customer who trusts you isn’t one customer; he or she is a potential source of enthusiastic recommendations to friends, family and colleagues,” I once read that.
The other thing was that that Irene wanted her chicks after one week, meaning I would have to brood them for her.


Sometime in June last year, I lost 29 chicks in the first week of brooding because of poor temperature regulation inside the box and I did not want it to happen to me again (Seeds of Gold, July 1, 2017).

I made a few phone calls. The first supplier told me that he did not stock the vaccines and only imported them by order, something that takes time.

He also mentioned that his firm mostly imports for large hatcheries that order huge quantities.

For Marek’s disease, the minimum is 1,000 doses for an equivalent number of young birds.

I was, therefore, delighted to find that the second supplier had the vaccines, but God was in the details.

Ochieng’ had told me that the last two vaccines are given in form of a spray while Marek’s is an injection.

“Spray vaccination is the preferred method for administering respiratory vaccines for Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis, especially when vaccinating birds for the first time,” he explained.

Vaccinated chicks

If truth be told, I had never administered the three vaccines before because I always sourced already vaccinated chicks from Kalro.

“Spray vaccination can be undertaken either in the hatchery or immediately after reception on the farm while the chicks are still in boxes,” he said.

“Vaccinating in the hatchery is generally considered more effective as the process is automated and more controlled although one can also use an ordinary hand-spray.”

Ochieng’ emphasised that the spraying must be done inside the chick box.

He also said when administering vaccines using this method, it is important that the spray is ‘coarse’, meaning that the droplets must be at least 100 to 150 microns in size (100 microns equals 0.1 millimetres).

“If the droplets are smaller, the vaccine will be inhaled too deeply into the respiratory tract and this can cause a mild disease in the flock three to five days post-vaccination which can, in turn, affect production negatively,” the specialist told me.

“Leave young birds inside the boxes for at least 20 minutes after spraying, to optimise the effect of preening”.

Here’s the twist to the story. The retailer confessed that he’d never stocked the aerosolised (spray-type) New Castle-infectious bronchitis vaccine.

In short, you can’t get it in the local market.

Bronchitis vaccine

However, she assured me that I could get a similar one but it needed to be mixed with water.

Another thing she said was that the earliest it can be given is after the third day.

That’s exactly what I did and paid Sh400 for 200 doses of the combined New Castle-infectious bronchitis vaccine.

If you recall, there are certain precautions when administering vaccines in drinking water (see my 10-point guide for administering vaccines in water titled Understanding Booster Vaccines and how they Work available online).

I also informed Irene about the vaccine I had administered so that she could tick on the vaccination schedule I had given her earlier. I did the same in my records.
Next week, I’ll talk about Marek’s disease, another illness you should vaccinate your chicks against on the first day at the hatchery.