Sunday, 25 October 2015

Non Shelled Egg

Well we talked about a Soft-Shelled Egg the last time. I made mention of another abnormal type of egg called the Non-shelled egg or the membrane egg.

The egg does not have any shell at all. I had the  experience of picking one the last time. I decided to make a video and explain the concept.

OK here is the video

Drop your comments below

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

5 Common Diseases that Affect Turkeys

After doing the piece 5 Deadly Diseases that Affect Turkeys, I have been inundated with requests to do a follow up with more common diseases. I always love to hear from my readers! I encourage you to keep all comments and suggestions coming up because I love to read them!

Upon receipt of so many requests I decided to do this piece and highlight 5 of the commonest, yet deadly diseases, which affect turkeys. Every experienced turkey farmer can relate to the list in this piece.

1.       Blackhead Disease

                                i.            Description: More commonly known as blackhead, the disease is a form of condition collectively termed as histomoniasis.

Characteristically, an infected bird may develop dark red discoloration of the head and skin thus the name ‘blackhead’.

The disease is very dangerous with high mortality rate.

                              ii.            Causes: The disease is caused by a parasitic protozoan called Histomonas meleagridis. Another parasite Heterakis gallinarum, which is a worm, plays host to the protozoan. Matured Histomonas meleagridis is secreted in the eggs of the worm into the soil.

When the secreted egg or larvae is eaten by a turkey, the bird becomes infected. Infected birds in turn may pass the parasite onto others in the flock.

Chicken have improved immunity to the disease and are common carriers of the disease. They can also pass the infection through their droppings.

                            iii.            Incubation Period: Infected birds start showing symptoms of the disease 15 to 20 days after ingesting the egg.

                             iv.            Symptoms: Some of the symptoms of the disease include
1.  Listlessness
2. Cyanosis (dark-red discoloration) of head
3. Loss of appetite
4. Stunted growth
5.  Depression
6.  Diarrhea (Yellow-colored droppings)

                               v.            Diagnosis: Laboratory investigation is needed to confirm the disease. Several other diseases may mimic some of the symptoms and should not be relied on solely for diagnosis.

                             vi.            Prevention: Prevention is your sure best against blackhead. Good biosafety measures are needed to combat the condition. Wild birds and chickens should be kept away from the flock.

Worms and other nematodes should also be controlled around the brooder house. Feed and water should be kept clean and away from the droppings of the birds.

Free ranging should be restricted in areas of outbreak.

                           vii.            Treatment: The bad news is that there is no authorized medication to effectively treat the condition. The FDA’s approved arsenicals can be used to treat the condition but they are not known to be that effective against the condition.

Historically drugs were furazolidone, dimetridazole and nifursol were used to successfully treat the condition. Approval for those drugs has however been removed leaving farmers with very few options.

2.       Coccidiosis in turkeys

                                i.            Description: There are about five species of Eimeria that causes infection in turkeys. Three of the species E. meleagrimitis, E. gallopavonis and E. adenoides are known to cause the most serious damage to the birds.

                              ii.            Causes: Each of the three species of coccidia affects different part of the intestinal track of the bird. E. meleagrimitis affects the upper part of the small intestines causing it to thicken.

E. adenoides affects the caecae, small intestine and rectum of young poults. The parasite causes severe enteritis of the affected organs.

E. gallopavonis affects the lower part of the small intestine, caecae and the rectum.

                            iii.            Incubation Period: Incubation period for the infection is usually between 5 and 8 days.

                             iv.            Symptoms: Symptoms of coccidiosis in turkeys include
1.       Loss of weight
2.       Loss of appetite
3.       Occasional bloody droppings
4.       Diarrhea
5.       Ruffled feathers
6.       Occasionally sheds mucosa in droppings

                               v.            Diagnosis: Scientific vet analysis is required to positively confirm the condition.

                             vi.            Prevention: Vaccines against the condition are available. The use of lasalocid and monensin which are part of the medications called ionophore coccidiostats are used in the first few weeks of the poult.

                           vii.            Treatment: Treatment of the condition is by the use of drugs such as Sulphaquinoxaline(or other Sulphonamides ), Amprolium and Toltrazuril.

3.       Escherichia coli(Colibacilliosis)

                                i.            Description: This may come as a surprise to many people but the much dreaded E. coli is actually kept harmless in the gut of poultries for most of the time! The bacterium is mostly regarded as an opportunistic pathogen due to the fact that it strikes when the host’s immunity is down.

                              ii.            Causes: As indicated earlier, E. coli is an opportunistic pathogen. It is not a disease unto itself. However when the immune system is suppressed in any way, the bacterium will strike and leading to serious consequences.

                            iii.            Incubation Period: Incubation period for the bacterium is between one and three days.

                             iv.            Symptoms:  Birds infected with the bacterium will show the following symptoms

1.  Decreased appetite
2. Soiled vent region
3. Ruffled feathers
4. Listlessness
5. Sudden death

                               v.            Diagnosis: Scientific vet analysis is required to positively confirm the condition.

                             vi.            Prevention: Wet litter creates the right environment for the development of the E. coli bacterium. Ensure dry litter and keep the brooder clean at all times. Dead birds should be quickly removed from the house.

As much as possible the birds should be kept away from wild and other stray birds. All foreign materials and visitors should be properly disinfected before entry into the brooder house.

                           vii.            Treatment: Wide range of antibacterial are used to treat the condition. The FDA has however banned the use of Fluoroquinolone. Available treatment includes the use of streptomycin, tetracycline and sulfa drugs.

4.       Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection

                                i.            Description: This respiratory condition affects the upper respiratory track of the bird.  The infection is caused by Mycoplasma gallisepticum and has low mortality rate but recovered birds are carriers for life. The disease can re-occur in recovered birds if stress conditions returns.

                              ii.            Causes: Infection can occur through contaminated feed or water. Transmission can occur through the air which can greatly speed up the rate of infection.

                            iii.            Incubation Period: Incubation period is from 6 to 10 days.

                             iv.            Symptoms: Symptoms of the infection includes

1. Nasal and ocular discharge
2. Stunted growth
3. Coughing
4. Loss of appetite
5. Swollen sinuses

                               v.            Diagnosis: Scientific vet analysis is required to positively confirm the condition.

                             vi.            Prevention:  To prevent the outbreak of the disease in your farm it is important to obtain your poults from farms where biosafety standards are high.

                           vii.            Treatment: Treatment is by the use of broad spectrum antibiotics. Tetracyclines are effective against the infection.

5.       Necrotic enteritis

                                i.            Description:  Caused by the anaerobic bacteria Clostridium perfringens, Necrotic enteritis affects birds between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks. The disease can cause lesions on the liver, damage the small intestine and eventually kill the bird. The disease has a mortality rate range of 2% to 50%.

                              ii.            Causes: Infection is by the ingestion of feed and water contaminated with infected droppings.

                            iii.            Incubation Period: Incubation period for the disease is 5 to 10 days.

                             iv.            Symptoms: Symptoms of the infection includes

1. Ruffled feathers
2. Darkened diarrhea
3. Loss of appetite
4. Depression
5. Listlessness
6. Closed eyes
7. Sudden death

                               v.            Diagnosis: Smear observation of the affected tissues is required to make conclusive diagnosis.

                             vi.            Prevention:  Probiotics, Penicillin and normal levels of ionophore anticoccidials help to prevent the multiplication of the bacteria and acts as preventive measure in the flock.

                           vii.            Treatment: Use of Penicillins such as amoxicillin and phenoxymethyl administered in water effectively treats the condition. An alternative treatment is the use of Bacitracin in feed.

Treatment should be continued for 3-5 days when used in water. The treatment days should be 5-7 days when administered in feed.

Raising Poults for First Six Weeks

Every baby is delicate. Whether humans, plants, insects, pets or wild animals – you name them! Special care is needed for the young of any kind! The statement cannot be any truer for turkey poults. Domesticated turkeys remain one of the strongest birds. However the young remains very fragile and needs virtually constant care to survive. Their nutritional requirement is very high during the growing stage of the bird.

Caring for young turkeys requires proper planning. There are four stages involved in raising a day-old poult until the sixth week. Each stage, as stated earlier, requires proper plan and execution.

Note of caution- raising turkey poults is a FULL-TIME JOB!

·         Pre-Order Preparation

This is the first stage. Okay you have decided to raise turkeys. You have Googled your way around and decided to raise your own poults rather than buying an older turkey. Now what is next?

Before making that call to order for your poults, there are several decisions and preparations you need to make. The preparations can be the difference between a failed venture and a delightful farming experience.

ü  Choosing breed of poult: Currently there are about eight recognized breeds of domestic turkeys, according to the American Poultry Association. Each breed has its strengths and weaknesses. Choosing a poult breed should not only be based on the popularity of the breed.

Factors that need to be considered include survival rate, immunity, adaptation to your local weather and nutritional requirements of the breed. Choose the breed that scores highest on these marks.

ü  Choosing your poult supplier: Deciding on where to buy your poult is very important. Poults from a farm with poor biosafety measures are more likely to develop infections and diseases later on. These poults may also be carriers of deadly diseases that may later affect healthy flock from other farms.

Request for biosafety data from the farm and satisfy yourself before deciding on your poults’ farm source.

ü  Choosing your brooder: The choice of a brooding house to a large extent depends on the number of poults. Overcrowding should be avoided at any cost. If the number of poults is fewer than 10, a cardboard is normally recommended. This choice is cheaper and easy to clean and maintain. It is also reusable, meaning a new batch can take over after the current ones vacate.
However if the number is higher, a metal or wooden brooder house should be the option. The brooder house should be kept warm, well ventilated, dry and spacious and kept free from pests and insects. Cleaner brooder house is ideal to raising healthy poults.

Each poult should have about one square feet of floor space in the brooder.

ü  Choosing heater: Until the poults are all well feathered, the brooder house should be kept warm at all times. The heat source is usually an electric bulb. In some countries, other sources of heat such as a kerosene lantern, a coalpot and heated kettle are used to keep the brooder warm.

There is always the risk of fire outbreak with the use of naked flames. The use of electric bulb reduces that risk. It should however be noted that the heating bulbs should be kept at least 20 inches away from flammable materials.

In a small brooder house, a 100 to 150 watt bulb is enough to keep the house warm. However when the brooder house is bigger, infra-red bulbs can be used to keep the inside warm.

The bulbs should be spaced well enough to allow the poults escape the heat source when the temperature gets too high.

ü  Preparing the brooder house: The brooder house needs to be ready before the poults arrive. Thoroughly clean the brooder house ensuring that there is no dirt, dust, cobwebs and insects inside. Wash down all the washable areas of the brooder house and disinfect. Afterwards, leave the brooder house to dry.

Once the brooder house is dry, you can start fixing the bedding.

ü  Choosing bedding material: The floor must be littered to keep the brooder house clean and dry. The litter material should be able to serve its core purpose of keeping the floor dry and providing bedding for the birds. A good litter material therefore is the one that can absorb all the wet materials that will be thrown to it. Several options are available when it comes to the choice of a good litter material.

Some common ones are straw shavings, wood shavings, saw dust, dead leaves and peat moss. Newspaper as a litter should be avoided because it can cause the poults to slip and break leg.

ü  Choosing water container: The choice of water container should be influenced by visibility and accessibility. The design of the container should protect against spill.
o   Visibility: Choosing bright-colored water containers aid the poults to easily take note of where the water is. This in turn encourages the poults to drink.
o   Accessibility: The water container should be accessible to the poults. The height should be such that the shortest poult should be able to reach it. However it should be tall enough to prevent the poults from drowning in it.

ü  Choosing feeder: Consideration for the feeder should be the same as that for the water container. The poults should be able to easily access the feeder and distinguish it from the water container.

·         Arrival of Poults
On arrival of the poults, the brooder house should be ready to receive them immediately. However before taking the poults into the brooder house, make sure to carry out the following checks.
ü  Weak poults: Physically inspect each poult to ensure there is no weak poult in the lot. Poor packaging during transport can stress the poults out. Make sure to reject all weak poults.
ü  Diseased poults: There is a difference between a diseased and a weak poult. However they should both be rejected. Inspect each poult looking out for signs of infection and disease. Any sign of bumps, colored face, listlessness, diarrhea and ruffled feathers indicate sickness and that particular poult should be rejected.
ü  Deformed poults: Look out for crooked legs, strange-looking feet, closed or swollen eyes and odd-shaped beak are some of the signs of a deformed poult. Deformities cannot be healed so such poults should be rejected.
ü  Dead poults: Obviously any bird that does not show sign of life should be rejected.

After the selection, the poults should be moved to the brooder house as soon as possible. However before putting each poult inside, dip the beak into the water. This is a way to teach the pouls where the water can be located.

·         Caring for the Poults

Water and food should be changed daily. Diseases and infections can be kept at bay if the food and water are properly kept cleaned. Feed spill should be cleaned as quickly as possible.

ü  Feeding: There is an ongoing debate on whether young poults should be put on medicated feed or not. I have a personal opinion on that subject. I believe that as much as possible, all kinds of medications should be kept away from the turkeys. That is why every care should be taken to protect the flock from infections and diseases. Raising the birds free from medicine should be the ideal standard. In fact most regulatory authorities require the minimal use of medicine when raising turkeys.

For optimal performance, the poults should be fed on a well balanced diet. The poults require a lot of nutrients due to their rapid growth rate. For the first six weeks, the poults should be fed on well balanced feed containing about 28 percent of protein. The high protein level will compensate for the relatively low feed intake during that period. However from 8 weeks upwards, the protein percentage should be reduced but it should never be below 14 percent at anytime in the bird’s life.

The poults should not be fed on feed high on calcium as it can have fatal consequence.

ü  Water: Fresh water should be available to the poults at all times. As stated earlier, the water should be changed each day or whenever it is dirty. The water container should be placed on a leveler to prevent spillage. However the birds should have access to the drink.

Raising the water container level will prevent the droppings of the poults from contaminating it.

ü  Disease prevention: Prevention should be a priority. Many diseases that affect turkeys can be prevented. However the danger is that most of those preventable diseases have no cure. Recovered birds may continue to be carriers of deadly parasites. As a result it is important to prevent disease.

Keeping the brooder house clean in itself can prevent many diseases.

If you live in an area which has been hit by a recent poultry disease, it is necessary to vaccinate the poults against that particular disease.

All other poultry should be kept away from the poults for the first 8 weeks. The period is crucial because the immune system is not yet fully developed.

ü  Early detection of diseases: Disease is the nightmare of any turkey farmer. An entire flock can be wiped away in a few hours by disease. Good biosafety measures prevent outbreak of diseases.

However when disease does occur, there is no need to panic. There have been extensive researches into the poultry industry over the years. Early detection of diseases can help stop its spread.

Detecting diseases and infections involve
§  Know the regular activity level of the poults
§  Look out for behavior and signs which are out of the ordinary
§  Quickly isolate the affected bird/birds
§  Keep the affected birds in quarantine until proper diagnosis is made.
§  If diagnosis is made and treatment is possible, start with treatment.
§  If diagnosis is unclear or treatment is not possible, quickly contact your vet.
§  Keep treated birds in quarantine until all symptoms of the sickness are gone.

ü  Heating: Until the birds are fully feathered, the brooder house should be kept warm. Properly position the heat source so that birds can escape it when the temperature is too hot.

The heat source should be raised every week until it will not be necessary to keep it there again.

ü  Disposing off dead birds: It is normal to lose few birds especially in the first few weeks. Quickly remove dead poults from the brooder house. Investigate every death before disposal to ensure that you don’t miss the onset of a major problem.

If in doubt as to the cause of death of the poult, you will have to take the dead carcass to the vet for necroscopy.

·         Moving poults to main flock

The last stage is introducing the poults to the main flock. If you already have adult poults, this stage can be very challenging. New turkeys are not easily accepted into the flock. It is therefore important to manage the stage to prevent possible attacks on the young ones.

I normally choose to introduce the young turkeys to the flock at night. In the morning, I allow all of them out of the brooder house. It is important to stay around and observe any aggression towards the poults. Only intervene when the assault is excessive, otherwise, leave them and let them get to know each other in any way that they choose.

So that is how you raise a poult!

Leave your comments below

Monday, 19 October 2015

Candling Turkey Eggs - Day 9

Things are beginning to shape up. In the day 9 video, the air sac can clearly be seen as the dark area increases.

Take a look at the video

Day 9

Let's hear your views!

5 Deadly Diseases that Affect Turkeys

A sick turkey

Each year several millions of turkeys are lost through diseases and infections. Young turkeys are especially susceptible to diseases because their immune systems are not well developed. This makes mortality in poults quite higher than in adult turkeys.  Diseases remain one of the critical topics in the poultry industry at large. Some diseases are non-fatal while others are deadly and can even be transmitted to humans.

Early detection of disease and proper diagnosis can make a lot of difference. It must however be stressed that an absolute diagnosis can only be made after a visit to the vet. Using only symptoms may confuse you because of the similarities in the symptomatic signs of several of the diseases.

Having mentioned that, let us examine five of the deadliest diseases that affect turkeys. The list is however not in any particular order.


i)        Description: Caused by a protozoan, the Leucocytozoon Infection is a dreaded disease with very high mortality rate in poults. Adult turkeys with matured immune system may recover from the infection. The disease attacks the internal organs of the animal and may lead to internal bleeding. Affected organs may have lesions on them which may cause other serious infections. The disease may also affect the blood of the infected bird. Leucocytozoon Infection may lead to sudden death in the infected bird.

ii)       Causes: The disease is caused by the bite of the black fly. Infection is a cycle which starts with a bite of an infected turkey by a black fly. Leucocytozoon smithi, which is the host specific to turkeys, is sucked up by the black fly after biting the infected turkey. The parasite later develops and when the fly bites another turkey, new infection takes place. The infection is only possible when the parasite matures in the black fly.

iii)     Incubation Period: The incubation period for the parasite is approximately 1 week. Mortality may occur between 7 and 20 days after the incubation period.

iv)     Symptoms: Some of the symptoms of the disease include
(1)    Listlessness
(2)    Loss of appetite
(3)    Excessive intake of water
(4)    Stunted growth
(5)    Coughing
(6)    Tracheal sound
(7)    Signs of depression
(8)    Lack of coordination
(9)    Tiredness
(10)Decreased egg production
(11)Decreased egg hatchability

v)      Diagnosis: The vet may screen the blood of the entire flock to detect the presence of Leucocytozoon smithi.

vi)     Prevention: Currently, only the black fly is known to transmit the disease through its bite.  Controlling the population of the insect may reduce the risk of infection. Black flies are common at locations with running water. Steps should be taken to prevent the invasion of the insect when the farm is located near such a place.

 In places where the population of the black fly cannot be controlled, preventive medication can be used to protect the flock.  Drug manufacturer, Merck, recommends that pyrimethamine (1 ppm) and sulfadimethoxine (10 ppm) added to the feed may be effective.

vii)   Treatment: There is no known effective treatment for the disease currently.


i)        Description: Caused by the flagellate protozoan Hexamita meleagridis,  Hexamitiais affects poults and is very rare in adult turkeys. Mortality is very high in poults between the ages of 3 and 8 weeks. Recovered birds build resistance to the disease but they may continue to be carriers of the parasite for the rest of their lives.

ii)      Causes: Chicken remains the number one carrier of the parasite. The protozoan is passed to other flocks through the droppings of the infected bird which may come in contact with the food or water of the flock.

iii)    Incubation Period: The animal begins to show symptoms of the disease 4 to 5 days after getting infected by the parasite.  

iv)    Symptoms: Some of the symptoms of the disease include
(1)    Ruffled feathers
(2)    Chilled
(3)    Prolonged chirping,
(4)    Listlessness
(5)    Huddling
(6)    Nervousness
(7)    Convulsion
(8)    Comatose
(9)    Loss of appetite
(10)Extreme thirst

v)      Diagnosis: Scientific analysis of intestinal mucosa may confirm the presence of the protozoa.

vi)    Prevention: Separate poults from the adult flock. This may reduce the transmission of the disease from carrier adults to the poults. Feed and water should be placed at a higher level to prevent droppings getting into them. Chicken should be isolated from the flock. Medication like histomonastats also helps to prevent infection.

vii)  Treatment: Mixing 0.22% Oxytetracycline in a feed for two weeks helps to prevent secondary infection. Alternatively, 0.022–0.044% of chlortetracycline in feed for two weeks also serves the same purpose.

3)      Fowl Cholera

i)        Description: Fowl cholera is caused by the bacteria Pasteurella multocida. The parasite is mainly found in the soil and affects turkey birds aged 6 weeks and older. Death is sudden and recovered birds may be carriers of the bacteria for life.

ii)      Causes: The parasite can survive in several hosts including domestic cats, rodents and wild birds. Turkeys may become infected when they eat infected feces in water or feed.

iii)    Incubation Period: Symptoms of the disease will manifest 5 to 8 days after infection.

iv)    Symptoms: Some of the symptoms of the disease include
(1)    Mucus discharge from mouth
(2)    Diarrhea
(3)    Anorexia
(4)    Pneumonia
(5)    Depression
(6)    Ruffled feather
(7)    Fever
(8)    Lethargy
(9)    Dark blue skin
(10)Excessive thirst
(11)Nasal cleft

v)      Diagnosis: Vets may test for the presence of Pasteurella multocida in infected tissues.

vi)    Prevention: Infected birds should be culled and the brooding place thoroughly disinfected. The parasite cannot survive disinfectants and direct sunlight.  

Carriers like rats, cats, dogs and wild birds should be controlled. In healthy flocks, live vaccines can induce immunity against the bacteria.

vii)   Treatment: 0.04% tetracycline in water or feed is effective against fowl cholera. Norfloxacin effectively treat symptoms of the disease.

Sulfonamides such as sulfaquinoxaline sodium can also be used to treat the infection. However when treatment is discontinued, mortality returns. This is an indication that treatment does not effectively eliminate the parasite.

4)      Turkey Coronavirus

i)        Description: Turkey Coronavirus is a gastrointestinal tract disease. The disease is highly contagious affecting the bird at all ages. Mortality however is higher in poults than in adult turkeys.  Mortality rate can be as high as 90% in poults. Recovered birds remain immune for the rest of their lives.

ii)      Causes: Carrier birds may pass the virus in their droppings. When the infected dropping is eaten by a bird, the animal will become infected. In about 72 hours, the infected turkey can also pass it through its droppings.

iii)    Incubation Period: The disease has very short incubation period. After ingesting an infected dropping, the bird may start showing symptoms between 18 and 24 hours.

iv)    Symptoms: Some of the symptoms of the disease include
(1)    Low body temperature
(2)    Diarrhea
(3)    Weight loss
(4)    Loss of appetite
(5)    Dehydration
(6)    Depression
(7)    Stunted growth

v)       Diagnosis: Scientific analysis of the intestine will determine the presence of the virus. The virus needs to be isolated and accurately identified from other enteric causing parasites.

vi)    Prevention: There is no known vaccine for the infection. Droppings of recovered birds may still contain the virus. It is therefore important to properly keep the feed and water to prevent transmission of the virus. The brooding place should be kept clean and overpopulation should be avoided.

Contaminated brooding places should be emptied and thoroughly disinfected. The place should remain empty for up to 4 weeks to ensure total viral elimination.

vii)  Treatment: There is no known cure for the disease. However alternative therapies include the administration of antibiotics, milk suspension mixed with potassium chloride and copper sulphate.

5)      Avian Influenza

i)        Description:  Turkeys are very susceptible to this viral infection. Avian Influenza is caused by a highly mutated virus with 256 variations. The deadliest of the strain is the HPH5N1 which can also affect humans. Another strain of the virus, H1N1, is more famous for the 2009 world flu pandemic that resulted in the deaths of about 17,000 people worldwide(World Health Organization).

ii)      Causes: Wild birds carry the virus and transmission is through oral and respiration. The virus can survive in viable environment for several months. Recovered birds can still excrete the virus in their droppings several weeks later.

iii)    Incubation Period: Incubation period for the disease is between 2 and 17 days.

iv)    Symptoms:
(1)    Diarrhea
(2)    Facial swelling
(3)    Dehydration
(4)    Lesions
(5)    Respiratory problems
(6)    Hemorrhages throughout the body
(7)    Listlessness

v)      Diagnosis: Diagnosis is by the examination of a dead bird for the presence of the virus.

vi)     Prevention: Wild birds are the major carrier of the virus. The brooder should be kept securely from wild birds. Roaming birds should be protected from coming into direct contact with wild birds.

Infected birds should be depopulated from the flock and a report should be made to the regulatory authority in your country. Infected broody houses should be thoroughly disinfected before new birds can be moved back in.

Vaccines are available but require approval from regulatory authorities before use.

vii)   Treatment: Current laws in several countries require outbreaks to be reported. Infected birds are usually culled.