September 17, 2012

To Vaccinate Or Not?

One of the biggest concerns we had when we were ready to order our chicks was whether or not to have them vaccinated. The hatchery gave us the option of whether or not to have them vaccinated for Mareks Disease. My first thought was 'why wouldn't you want them vaccinated'?…so back to more research.

Mareks Disease is a common virus that causes internal lesions (tumors), and kills more birds than any other disease. It is an airborne virus and enters through the bird's respiratory tract. Mareks usually hits chicks between 5 and 25 weeks of age.

After reading the info we opted to have our chicks vaccinated at one dollar a chick.  A good investment, yes, I think. From a 'moms' point of view though I couldn't help but worry about what they were actually getting in their little systems. And I winced as I thought of 'my' baby chicks getting shots. Eeek…

Our chickens are 14 weeks old now. Growing like crazy and as far as I can tell very healthy - including their developing attitudes.  I can't scientifically attribute any of this to them getting vaccinated but it obviously did no harm.

Coccidiosis is another infection for which there is also a vaccine. It is a parasitic infection that causes droppings to be loose, watery and sometimes bloody. The chicks may become weak and have a loss of appetite and ultimately die.
The Coccidiosis vaccine was not an option at the hatchery and I'm not sure why. It may be offered by other hatcheries and have something to do with the number of chicks you order. I think the vaccine can be bought online but it is expensive for a small flock.  The timing of the chick being hatched has a lot to do with their risk of contracting it. Chicks raised in the cool weather of early spring are unlikely to get this disease unless they live in filthy conditions or are forced to drink dirty water. Coccidiosis occurs more often during warm humid weather, when the parasites naturally flourish. Absolute cleanliness is one of the better measures of prevention. Keep the drinking water free of droppings and scrub the waterer every time you refill it!! Clean, clean, clean! Keep the brooder lined with clean bedding and immediately replace dirty or wet bedding.

As an alternative to the vaccine there is also a medicated chick starter feed available...but that will have to be a completely separate post.... (coming soon)!

Keeping conditions as sanitary as possible is a given, but do we want to get them vaccinated for coccidiosis? This is another one of those 'six of one or half dozen of the other' situations.  And another reason to do your research!

Keeping chickens makes me feel like I've gone back to college. The research, the writing. And I am realizing that the more questions I get answered the more I have to learn.


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