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Salmonella and your backyard flock

By Dr. Kayla Price

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Salmonella is the cause of an estimated 1 million food-borne illnesses in the United States every yearincluding 19,000 hospitalizations and more than 300 deaths. The most common symptoms of a Salmonella infection are diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. Serious Salmonella infections are more likely to manifest in those who are under 5 years old or are over 65 years old, or in those with weakened immune systems (e.g., diabetics or cancer patients). Although illness from Salmonella is often the result of improper food preparation or several other factors, poultry producers and backyard flock owners can help reduce consumer risk through good management practices.


Potential sources of bacterial contamination include:

  • Wild birds/pests (e.g., beetles, flies or rodents)

  • Water

  • Visitors

  • Hygiene

In poultry production, there are eight key areas that must be given attention in order to reduce bad bacterial contamination on-farm and aid in the prevention of Salmonella.


1. Clean facilities and dedication to biosecurity

Residual contamination from previous flocks is a common cause of Salmonella in birds. Cleaning areas that birds often touch (e.g., drinking and feed containers) or frequent (e.g., the coop) before the birds arrive and after they leave can help reduce the prevalence of Salmonella. Effective biosecurity and pest control are also key to avoiding contamination in the coop.


2. Feed

Contaminated grains and feed ingredients can increase the risk of Salmonella in the final feed. Use heat-pelleted feed, and source feed from mills that maintain stringent quality standards.


3. Water management

Water management is a crucial part of any Salmonella control program for poultry, since water can serve as a medium for the organism to spread from bird to bird. Chlorination, as well as the use of organic acids in drinking watercan help to reduce Salmonella levels in the flock.


4. Dust

Like water, dust can also foster the spread of SalmonellaTry to keep dust levels in and around the coop below 3 milligrams per cubic meter.


5. Litter and manure management

Poultry litter and manure with high moisture and pH levels allow Salmonella to thrive. Managing the moisture and pH of the litter and manure can be effective ways to prevent it from spreading.


6. Managing gut flora

Establishing and maintaining proper gut flora soon after hatching is critical for mitigating Salmonella contamination. Programs that include the use of probiotics, organic acids, enzymes and yeast technologies have proven effective at maintaining optimal gut health. Several Alltech products that can support gut health — including Sel-Plex®Bioplex®Allzyme® SSFBio-Mos®Yea-Sacc® and Integral® A+ — are incorporated into all Hubbard Premium Quality poultry feeds.


7. Coccidiosis

Intestinal challenges caused by poor gastrointestinal integrity can have a major impact on Salmonella levels in broilers. As such, strong coccidiosis management should be part of every Salmonella control program.


8. Vaccination

Especially at the breeder level, the use of vaccines has the potential to reduce the prevalence of Salmonella among day-old chicks. You should only purchase chicks from a reputable source. While vaccines can be applied to backyard poultry, a poultry veterinarian should be consulted to design a suitable program for your birds.


10. Cleaning and personal hygiene for your safety

People can get sick from eating Salmonella-infected meat or eggs or by touching infected poultry or housing. Birds can carry Salmonella but show no symptoms or signs of illness. Fortunately, however, there are several factors that can boost protection:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water (or use hand sanitizer) immediately after touching birds, their housing, eggs or meat. Require visitors to do the same.

  • Do not allow backyard poultry inside your home, especially where food or drink is prepared, served or stored.

  • Wear a specific pair of shoes when taking care of or visiting birds that you do not wear elsewhere. Leave this footwear outside and request that visitors to do the same. Rubber boots are a popular option.

  • Do not eat or drink where poultry live or roam.

  • Do not kiss or snuggle backyard poultry and then touch your face or mouth.

  • When cleaning the equipment or materials you use to raise or care for your birds, do so outdoors, not inside.

  • Any individuals with potentially weakened immune systems should not touch the birds.

  • Source young birds from government-inspected hatcheries or reputable sources that have a bird health plan.

  • Maintain a clean coop and collect eggs often.

  • Clean dirty eggs with fine sandpaper, a brush or cloth — but DO NOT wash eggs with cold water, as this can pull Salmonella into the egg.

  • Refrigerate eggs after collecting them and cook them thoroughly before serving.

To expand on the CDC statements regarding Salmonella in backyard flocks, many of these precautions should also be applied when going to a feed or retail store that offers baby chickens, turkeys and/or ducks for purchase. Many stores are now enclosing the birds in an effort to discourage handling, but it is still a good idea to wash and/or sanitize your hands prior to leaving the store.


Additionally, take extra precautions when cooking or handling raw chicken. Try to limit the exposure of raw chicken to temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit (e.g., leaving raw chicken out on the kitchen counter). Always cook poultry thoroughly — use a meat thermometer to ensure that the proper temperature is met — and disinfect surfaces where meat was stored or prepared.  The safe internal temperature for cooked chicken is 165° Fahrenheit (75° Celsius).   


For more information, please refer to the following articles from the CDC:


Posted on 8/14/2019 by Guest Bloggers  |  Category: Poultry
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4-H and FFA: Where 1 + 1 equals a lot more

I have had the great fortune of working with local 4-H clubs in my county and FFA groups close to the Botkins, OH plant for many years.  It is wonderful to see these bright, eager minds and bodies ready to tackle almost anything, from learning how to handle animals that outweigh them by 10-fold or to step in front of a group of people and speak. 

I just finished working on an FFA project where the kids did not want to perform an old “feed them/weigh them” experiment, but wanted to expand their knowledge.  They wanted to learn more about how new ingredients, like yeast, would affect the gut morphology when added to the animal’s diet. They observed it affected production and more importantly, taste.  They took their research project a step further by visiting our Botkins feed mill to see how their feed was made, and then went to the facility where the birds were processed.     

As I opened my email this morning, I noticed an article from the Pork Network by JoAnn Alumbaugh about 10 Reasons Why your Child Should Join 4-H or FFA.  I was in 4-H for 10+ years, as a youth, and those experiences, and great people I met, help me even still today.  I thought I would share the 10 reasons I believe youth should join 4-H or FFA:

  1. Leadership skills:  I started as a recreation officer and worked to president of many organizations.
  2. Knowledge of agriculture:  I had a step ahead of many of my fellow students when I went to college.
  3. Healthy living:  Life skills on feeding animals correctly and knowing what is in my Cheerios in the morning.
  4. Confidence:  In many of my first Junior Leadership meetings, I did not say a word.  But the experience helped me learn to make friends and work together.
  5. Good Sportsmanship:  Taught me to be a good winner, but most importantly a good loser as well.
  6. Work ethic:  My parents helped, but I learned early that it was up to me to get projects completed or to find an answer.
  7. Community service:  Showed me how great it feels to help someone else.
  8. Lifelong friendships:  I currently live four hours away from my hometown and still exchange Christmas cards with many of my old 4-H friends.
  9. Scholarship and education opportunities:  One of my daughters is a senior in college and the other is in grad school, anything to help save money is HUGE!
  10. And so much more:  Mentors, friends, education, etc.  The list goes on and on.

I am so glad that my sisters, myself, and now my children had the chance to develop and become better people, thanks to great organizations like 4-H and FFA.  

Posted on 1/9/2017 by Dr. Ed Bonnette  |  Category: Equine, Poultry, Cat, Dog, Rabbit, Sheep, Goat, Specialty
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Chickens Are Cool! Help Them Stay That Way

Not sure about where you live but here it has been HOT!!  Not only with temperatures in the high 90’s but the winds have made it feel like you’re in a convection oven.  Heat exhaustion is something that all animals struggle with and our role as good stewards is to do what is needed to insure our animals are kept within a comfortable and safe temperature zone. Birds are unique in the way they control heat since they do not have sweat glands like us.

Chickens remove heat from the core of their body by exhaling warm, moist air from their lungs.  The lungs serve like a radiator with circulating body liquids collecting heat that is expelled with rapid breaths out of their mouth. Thus releasing a portion of their body heat while inhaling cool air. Bird lungs are actually quite different from the human respiratory organ. Air can travel through in a single direction without disturbing air already contained within the organ, which allows them to cool off quickly without sacrificing oxygen absorption. Some tropical bird species can also flex their throat or mouth to increase the surface area of artery-laden tissue, lowering their body temperature even more. Knowing this we need to provide them a source of air that is at least 10 to 15 degrees cooler than their body temperature.  The normal range of a chicken’s body temperature is 104 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit; almost 10 degrees warmer than our body temperature. With this in mind it is difficult for us to compare our comfort zone with theirs. So having a thermometer inside the chicken house and in a shaded area outside will help you know what you’re dealing with.

Poultry producers can take a number of measures to help their chickens survive the effects of heat stress. Here are some management tips:

  • Chickens need clean, cool, water at all times.
  • Chickens are less inclined to eat during the heat of the day.
    • Feed housed birds within an hour of sunrise or the coolest part of the day. This allows the digestion process which naturally produces heat to occur during the cooler part of the day.
    • Free ranging birds should be released shortly after sunrise.  Insure water locations are shaded. Keep the water cooler with continuous flow systems on the hottest days.
  • Chickens should be kept in well-ventilated areas with adequate air flow. Move heat away from them by placing circulation fans to blow with prevailing winds. Continue moving the air as temperatures drop through the day and into the night. An ongoing cooling breeze makes a big difference in how chickens manage the heat.
  • When ambient temperatures exceed 100 degrees use misters or foggers inside the chicken house or outside in shaded areas. Water on the chickens' bodies helps to cool them.
  • Housed chickens need more room during periods of excessive heat; avoid overcrowding. It reduces body heat, as well as the corresponding amount of heat the ventilation system must move out of the poultry house.
  • Range chickens need shady areas with water.
  • During the heat of the day, don't disturb the birds. Let them rest.
  • Regularly remove any accumulated litter from the chicken house, as decomposition produces heat. Removal also keeps pests to a minimum.
  • Insulated poultry houses are easier to cool as radiant heat is minimized.
  • Keep areas around the chicken house free of tall grass and weeds which restrict air flow.  Low cut grass is best as it helps to absorb the sun and heat while bare ground can reflect heat into the house.

Your local Hubbard Life dealer can help with accessories for keeping your chickens cool and safe this summer and provide you with the best poultry feeds for your flock

Posted on 8/10/2016 by Dr. Dave Whittington  |  Category: Poultry
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