Improving Poultry Flock Management Simon , M. 1 , Jacob, J. L. 2 1 Scott County Extension Agent, University of Kentucky, Georgetown, KY 40324 2 Univeristy of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, UK Extension Specialist, Lexington, KY 40564. Response:
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Improving Poultry Flock Management
Simon, M.1,Jacob, J. L.21 Scott County Extension Agent, University of Kentucky, Georgetown, KY 40324
2Univeristy of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, UK Extension Specialist, Lexington, KY 40564
Upon receiving numerous questions and diagnostic samples of chickens that had died from respiratory illness, Extension Agent, Michelle Simon, coordinated a workshop on “Improving Management of Poultry Flocks”. This session responded to the producers experiencing these problems on a more in depth basis by starting from the beginning with the basics. The majority of the respiratory and eye illness that was causing a decrease in production or death in the flock were caused by a lack of knowledge in basic management and nutrition. Farm visits to a farm experiencing issues with their chickens not laying eggs before and after the program showed a positive response to the workshop. After adjusting the diet from wheat to a feed mixture of corn, soybean meal (protein sources), and minerals the hens began laying eggs and the overall health of the flock greatly improved.
Scott County has experienced a significant increase in poultry production over the last four years in a wide array of operations ranging from commercial flocks of 700 birds to small backyard flocks for pleasure and enjoyment, to farms working towards a goal of sustainability and providing eggs and meat for their own consumption. In response to the growing popularity of this commodity the Scott County Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources coordinated programming to increase the knowledge base of these farmers on basic topics like nutritional requirements, disease prevention, and management tips to increase egg production and increase the overall successfulness in their flock.
The primary objective of this program in Scott County was to educate farmers and poultry enthusiasts about the importance of proper nutrition and flock management techniques to reduce disease and infection to lead to healthier flocks producing more eggs and meat.
These chickens were infected with the viral disease Infectious Bronchitis. This disease will cause chickens to have “watery” eyes and the eggs will have rough shells and watery albumens.
Newcastle Disease: respiratory disease caused by virus typically transmitted in situations with no biosecurity.
“Improving Management of Poultry Flocks” was offered to all sizes of operations and amounts of experience. Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky Poultry Extension Specialist, delivered basic nutrition fundamentals that could prevent the majority of illness and disease that producers had experienced. Dr. Jacob also presented information to attendants regarding optimal breeds to use depending on whether they were raising chickens for eggs or meat, disease identification, prevention, and treatment, and utilized time for a helpful question and answer session. Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Michelle Simon, followed up with program attendants on their farms to examine the management changes and give recommendations that could potentially improve the operations further.
Barred Rock chickens, a dual purpose breed, are recommended for small flocks. Once the hens egg production decreases and the hens are ready to be processed, there is more meat than typical laying breeds. Using dual purpose breeds are more economical for this reason.
Doug & Renee Corrigan, Scott County farmers, built a mobile chicken coop that can be drug between their rows of berries to provide fertilization and reduce weed growth. Waterers were built so they can be filled from the outside of coop. 5 gallon buckets were cut in half for nesting boxes.
Since 2010, the Scott County Cooperative Extension Service has received numerous questions and diagnostic samples from local poultry producers regarding health issues with their poultry flocks. The majority of the chickens experiencing these health issues did not survive the illness and the majority of the producers fighting these problems with their flocks were new to the business. With the growing popularity of sustainability, farmer’s markets, and interest in small hobby farms- interest in raising poultry has grown tremendously in Scott County. Many of these producers have little to no experience with raising and managing poultry. There was a need for these producers to learn more about nutritional, vitamin, and mineral requirements before expanding their flocks to reduce disease, illness, and loss of chickens. Once this knowledge was gained, producers could manage their flocks better and improve the economics of their operation.
Triple J Farm raises 600 free range chickens and repurposed barn material and silage wagons for chickens to roost at night. They also use 5 gallon buckets for nesting boxes and pieces of hay rings inside of these mobile coops.
In conclusion, Extension educators need to continue teaching the fundamentals of raising different species of livestock. By stressing the fundamental importance of nutrition and management, reproduction, weight gain, and overall health will be achieved. It is also important to teach producers new to the industry the economics of decisions for their flocks. Many of the flock health management decisions producers are faced with are very costly for small flocks and not always the best use of finances. Since the audience of the workshop varied from backyard flocks to commercial flocks of approximately seven hundred chickens, economics were discussed at length. The workshop participants were surveyed following the session and all reflected the workshop was beneficial to them as individuals, especially the time dedicated for a question and answer session to delve deeper into individual topics.
Figure 3. Northern Fowl Mite
Figure 2. Scaly Leg Mite
Figure 1. Sticktight Fleas
External Parasites of Poultry: Sticktight fleas, Scaly leg mites, Fowl mites, and Chicken body lice are common parasites that Scott County producers were experiencing.
Treatment of Parasites: Extensive discussion was held regarding treatment. The use of Sevin dust, Linseed oil, and Vaseline are recommended for control of these parasites.
Special thanks to Dr. Jacquie Jacob for teaching the workshop, and participants: Triple J Farm and Doug & Renee Corrigan, for allowing us to utilize their flocks for picture descriptions.
Figure 4. Chicken Body Lice