The aim of any health program is simply to keep
the birds healthy. Most fanciers don't want to waste time or money
on unnecessary or incorrect treatments yet at the same time don't
want to compromise the health of their birds by overlooking any beneficial
treatment. Programs need not be unnecessarily complex. Mistakes in
health management in the long term cause teams not to achieve their
full potential and so for a program to be successful it is important
that the fancier understands not only what he is doing but also why
he is doing it.
For practical purposes, the pigeon year is divided into various stages,
and so what should we as fanciers be doing at these various times
to manage our birds' health.
The same bird at hatching, and at 7
and 21 days of age
- 4 - 8 weeks of age
To allow a controlled exposure to disease organisms so that the youngsters
can develop a strong natural immunity to them. This is achieved by
providing a stress-free environment and by avoiding the use of medication
The routine use of medication during this time
should be avoided. During the first few weeks after weaning, the birds
are being exposed to a whole range of potentially harmful organisms.
A youngster in a well-managed loft, however, does not become sick
but rather through this exposure develops an immunity to the organism.
Provided the youngsters are well in themselves, a low level of diseases
such as wet canker, respiratory infection or Coccidia at this time
can be regarded as beneficial in that it reinforces the growing youngsters'
developing natural immunity. The use of medications at this time simply
interrupts this exposure with the result that the birds' level of
natural immunity is not as high. For this reason, a youngster is only
treated if a health problem progresses to the point where the bird
is sick in itself and individual bird treatments rather than flock
treatments should be given. Flock treatments are only given if there
is evidence of a spreading infectious disease or more than 5% of youngsters
are affected. Health problems that appear during this time are categorized
into one of four types. These are outlined in the chapter Weaning.
For a youngster to mount a good immune response and, in the process,
form a strong natural immunity following exposure to disease organisms,
it must be stress-free. Stress compromises the function of the immune
system. The avoidance of stress in the postweaning time is also covered
in the chapter but essentially it involves weaning batches of youngsters
together as groups, being hygienic, avoiding overcrowding and dampness
and ensuring that the birds' full nutritional needs are met.
During this time, pink minerals, grit and preferably a picking stone
should always be available. A water-soluble multivitamin, eg Multivite
Plus, can be placed in the water for 1 - 2 days per week, while a
probiotic, eg Probac, in the water for 1 - 2 days per week helps maintain
a full beneficial population of bowel organisms, ensuring full digestion
and assimilation of nutrients. Seed oil additives, eg Polyseed Oil,
can be used to advantage and increase the energy and calorie content
of the seed mix. They can be used either by themselves or with a yeast.
Garlic Oil is of particular benefit during this time because it is
not only nutritious but contains the compound Allicin, which is a
natural immune stimulant.
>>Back To Top
To have a good moult, resulting in the production of a lustrous set
of feathers, and to allow on-going development of a strong natural
immunity. This is achieved through the maintenance of a stress-free
environment, drug avoidance, parasite elimination and a complete diet.
Approximately 3 weeks after weaning, the youngsters will start to
moult. The process is accelerated in all birds, irrespective of age,
in February in Australia with the shortening daylength. As this total
replacement of feathers only occurs once a year, a new set of feathers
must last the bird for its entire first year of competition. Poor
feather quality compromises performance and so it is vital that everything
is done to ensure that the new feathers are good.
Healthy stress-free youngsters moult quickly and the feathers they
grow are of good quality. Conversely, birds that are sick for any
reason take longer to complete their moult and the feathers they produce
are not as lustrous. It is therefore important that the basic principles
of on-going good care already established in the postweaning time
and discussed in the chapter Weaning continue. During this time, medications
are still best avoided if possible, the aim being to further strengthen
the birds' developing natural immunity through low-grade on-going
exposure to various organisms. The parasites, however, must be eliminated
Internal parasites rob the birds of nutrition that would otherwise
be available to them and compromise the moult. It is therefore vital
that the birds are free of roundworm, hairworm and tapeworms and either
have a low level of Coccidia or none. A low level of Coccidia is still
permissible at this time because the youngsters' natural immunity
is still developing. Hairworm, roundworm and Coccidia are all detected
in a microscopic dropping analysis and this is often the best time
for the fancier to send in his first dropping sample for examination
for the season. Tapeworms are not a microscopic diagnosis because
they can be seen with the naked eye. The different types of tapeworm
vary in size. The small ones look like white pieces of cotton trailing
through the dropping, larger ones look like pieces of rice stuck on
the surface of the dropping, while the largest ones appear as whitish
squares up to 0.5 x 0.5 cm either singly or stuck together as ribbons
in or on the droppings. What we are actually seeing here are the tapeworm
egg packets and, though not continually, they are regularly intermittently
passed by infected birds.
Many fliers prefer to routinely treat preventatively for worms and
Coccidia at this time of year and unless testing is done to confirm
that the birds are free of these parasites, this is a good idea.
As some wormers can affect feather quality (e.g. Panacur, Synanthic),
it is vital that the correct wormers are used. I recommend for roundworm
and hair worm Moxidectin 2 mg/ml (5 ml to 1 litre of water for 24
hours) and for tapeworms Prazivet Liquid (5 ml to 1 litre of water
for 24 hours). If Coccidia levels are too high (i.e. more than one
every second x100 microscope field), then they are best treated.
I recommend Toltrazuril Coccidiocide Solution(1 ml to 2 litres of water
for 48 hours). Remember after worming for hairworm and roundworm
that the loft must be thoroughly cleaned as any droppings passed
before treatment may contain worm eggs and therefore have the potential
to reinfect the birds. Hygiene is not as vital for tapeworm infection
because they do not transfer directly from pigeon to pigeon through
the droppings but are instead carried by insects, particularly slaters.
(I think this is because slaters, when disturbed, roll themselves
into balls, which the birds then mistake for peas.) To prevent reinfection
it is therefore best to spray out the loft with Permethrin Solution
(see section on parasitic diseases in The Common Diseases for correct
use) the following day.
External parasites must be eliminated before the commencement of the
moult, otherwise irreparable damage to the feathers is done. Moxidectin,
as well as eliminating roundworm and hairworm, also eliminates all
external parasites that suck blood. It therefore clears all mites
(including airsac mites) but has only limited action against lice.
To eliminate lice totally, the birds need to be dipped. The preferred
product here is Permethrin Solution. As all lice live on the bird,
a single treatment will eliminate all lice from the loft until they
are reintroduced with strays, deliberately introduced birds and late
returning race birds. However, only a percentage of mites infecting
the birds are actually found on the bird at any one time. Many live
in the cracks and crevices within the loft. To prevent reinfection,
it is therefore important that the loft is sprayed with Permethrin.
Many of the common drugs used during this time, including, as mentioned
earlier, some of the wormers, affect feather quality. Antibiotics
(particularly Baytril and Sulpha AVS, and to a lesser extent doxycycline,
Resfite and Doxy-T) if used during this time not only interfere with
the development of natural immunity by interrupting the on-going exposure
to organisms but also compromise feather quality and so their use
is best avoided. They compromise feather quality by killing many of
the beneficial bacteria in the bowel. These are necessary for digestion
and the assimilation of nutrients. Their disruption by antibiotics
interrupts the on-going delivery of nutrients to the growing feather
within the feather follicle. Turbosole and other anticanker drugs
do not disrupt the bowel bacteria and so can be safely used.
Any nutritional deficiency during this time also results in poor-quality
feathers and so suggestions made under Supplement Recommendation in
the Postweaning Program hold true here. In particular, the birds need
to have good levels of iodine (found in some pink minerals, e.g. PVM
Powder, and some vitamin/mineral supplements, e.g. Multivite Plus)
in their diet for the moult to proceed quickly. Supplementation with
unsaturated fatty acids (found in seed oils) aid in the production
of lustrous silky feathers in birds (and interestingly also a glossy
coat in mammals) and so their use is particularly recommended during
If disease appears during this time, the same basic principles are
followed as in the Postweaning Program. Flock treatments are avoided
unless at least 5% of birds become affected. Unwell birds are treated
individually. Those that do not respond within 4 days are usually
>>Back To Top
Principal aim: Having allowed as much
time as possible for the birds to form their natural immunity, it
is now a matter of assessing what health problems are persistent and
then using drugs if necessary to get the birds completely healthy
before the first race.
The veterinary attitude toward health management changes 6 - 8 weeks
before the first race. Up until this time, apart from parasite control,
medication is avoided unless the birds in themselves become unwell.
Low levels of various potential health problems, in particular wet
canker and respiratory infection are tolerated so that the birds,
through exposure to low-grade disease, can develop as strong a natural
immunity as possible to them.
In many well-managed lofts, the birds' natural immunity will be such
that, when screened for disease in the last weeks before racing, none
is apparent. However, as racing approaches, it is important that any
identified health problem be eliminated. I recommend that before fanciers
embark on their final long tosses before the first race, and preferably
several weeks earlier, droppings and birds be brought to the clinic
for a health profile. Any persistent health problem is then cleared
with medication so that the birds can be completely healthy at the
For fanciers who are at a distance from the clinic and not able to
bring birds to the clinic, droppings can be mailed in. Dropping analysis
enables a check for worms (hairworm and roundworm and sometimes tapeworm),
Coccidia, E. coli, thrush and fungi. Dropping analysis also gives
an indication as to the general health of the birds,. in particular
whether they are likely to have wet canker or respiratory infection.
Presentation of a live bird enables a more accurate assessment of
not only wet canker and respiratory infection but also of less common
problems such as Hexamita (a canker-like organism that lives in the
Before the start of racing it is essential that the birds are parasite-free.
To this end, if parasites are detected in the droppings, or a dropping
analysis is not possible, the following protocol is adopted:
For hairworm and roundworm, external
mites and airsac mites: Moxidectin, 5 ml to 1 litre for 24 hours
For tapeworms: Prazivet Liquid,
5 ml to 1 litre for 24 hours
For Coccidia: Toltrazuril Coccidiocide
Solution, 1 ml to 2 litres of water for 48 hours
For lice: dipping in Permethrin
If wet canker is detected on testing, has been a loft problem in earlier
years or a test is not possible, all birds are given a 2 - 3 day course
of Turbosole. If this is extended to a 7-day course, it will kill
any Hexamita that may be present.
If respiratory infection (including mycoplasmal airsac infection)
has been a problem in earlier years, then a 5 - 15-day course of Doxy-T
is given. If respiratory infection purely due to Chlamydia has been
a problem, Doxy-T can be replaced by doxycycline 12%. The course of
Doxy-T or doxycycline 12% should be completed 2 - 3 weeks before the
first race and should be followed by a 2 -3 -day course of Probac.
It is best, though not essential, to remove the grit, sand or other
minerals during Doxy-T treatment.
In addition to actual medication, other preparations can be used to
not only maintain health (which is really just the bottom line) but
actually promote fitness. Multivitamins, mineral supplements and conditioning
oils can be used to build fitness as race day approaches.
>>Back To Top
The 5,000 entrants in the VHA 500
Mile Race from Bourke to Melbourne in 1993, head for home.
Principal aim: To maintain winning
form through the entire season by good management and the maintenance
During competition, medication is used to maintain health. It is vital
that the birds are completely free of any health problems to give
their best. Winning birds are always not only fit but also healthy.
If the natural immunity they have formed is not strong enough to keep
them healthy during the inherent stress of racing, then medication
is used to ensure that health is maintained, so that success can be
on-going and unnecessary losses avoided.
Unless the genetic base of the birds kept has changed, or the way
they are managed has altered, then it is very likely that any health
problems that occurred in previous years will predictably reappear
in a particular loft. This is why successful preventative programs
can be reapplied to particular lofts year after year. Some health
problems are more likely to occur in particular types of loft and
in lofts in particular locations. This explains why a program that
works well in one loft is inappropriate in another.
Medication serves another purpose. Out of the race season, exposure
of loft members to birds from other lofts is minimal, while once racing
starts there is sudden and immediate high exposure to many birds from
many different lofts. In this way, birds become exposed to different
strains of disease-causing organisms, in particular strains of wet
canker and respiratory infection. Because these strains may not be
resident in their own loft, they cannot possibly have developed an
immunity to them. For this reason, disease can flare ups, even in
well-managed lofts, with resultant sudden loss of form and variable
losses. Medication is used to minimize the impact of this exposure.
When to treat
Veterinary attitude has changed since 1990 as to how to treat birds
on race return. Before 1990, many lofts did not contain the wet canker
and respiratory strains that are common today. Treatment was aimed
at preventing or delaying the entry of these organisms into lofts
that were still free of them. To this end, it was recommended that
medications such as Turbosole and Resfite were placed in the water
of returning race birds usually at slightly higher doses. The medication
that the birds took in with the single big drink that they had upon
return, although not enough to treat an active infection, was often
adequate to prevent infection establishing following a recent exposure.
Since this time, through sales, transfers of birds, etc., wet canker
and mycoplasmal airsac infection have become steadily more and more
common so that now most lofts do in fact contain some strain(s) of
these organisms. Treatment protocols have moved away from treating
returning race birds (although this is still worthwhile in some lofts)
to periodic short courses of medication to keep resident wet canker
and respiratory strains in check during the stress of racing. These
short courses also serve to lessen the impact of exposure to a new
strain on loft health. Regular short courses keep a new strain under
control while the birds establish a natural immunity to it.
There are other practical considerations. To be effective in preventing
the entry of disease, medication for returning race birds must be
given after their return but before these birds mix with other birds
in the loft. This usually means treating them as soon as they return.
This makes it impossible to use other useful postrace treatments such
as electrolytes and probiotics. If returning race birds are treated
the next day, i.e. Sunday, this means they must be kept apart from
other birds in the loft until this time. If returning race birds have
mixed with other non-race birds, there is no point in treating just
them on Sunday. Under most management systems, it is important from
the birds' motivation point of view that they be allowed access to
their perch, box or mate as soon as possible after return. This can
be difficult if medication is delayed until Sunday. In addition, some
postrace drugs are bitter, which can deter returning race birds from
drinking fully, while in fact it is very important that returning
birds drink well in order to rehydrate.
These days, the usual recommendation is to focus on recovery from
the race on Saturday and then to use either Sunday and Monday or Monday
and Tuesday as the days to give any medication that may be necessary.
Usually all birds in the loft, i.e. those that have raced that weekend
and those that haven't, are treated. If a fancier tosses non-race
birds on Sunday or there are stragglers from Saturday's race, then
usually Monday and Tuesday are used.
To speed race recovery on Saturday, I recommend either electrolytes,
multivitamins or probiotics be given. If the race has been hot, or
especially hard, or if the birds look distressed upon return, I think
it is best to give electrolytes. Alternatively, if the race has not
been especially taxing, multivitamins or probiotics are preferred.
I find that the droppings from returned race birds the following morning
are more likely to be brown and tight and that the birds will maintain
a feather down drop if probiotics are given as they return
All disease problems that can affect form, except wet canker and respiratory
infection, can be detected from the droppings. Birds that have wet
canker or respiratory infection because they are sick are not able
to mount a good immune response and so opportunists in the bowel,
particularly E. coli and thrush, sometimes take advantage of the birds'
run-down condition and multiply. The presence of elevated numbers
of these organisms alerts the fancier to the possibility of these
problems. However, their presence is by no means specific, and also,
to confuse things, not all birds with wet canker or respiratory infection
will have these changes. I recommend that droppings be regularly examined
microscopically during racing, usually every 1 - 3 weeks. This detects
all other problems and not only enables effective treatment for them
but also avoids treatments that may be unnecessary.
Wet canker and respiratory infection are the two most serious and
common causes of poor race performance and yet are the two most difficult
to detect by the fancier in the loft. Both problems are now so common
that I feel that it is not possible to achieve consistent success
without vigilant monitoring or regular treatment for them. Wet canker
and respiratory infection sooner or later will catch up with the lax
fancier. Wet canker can be definitively diagnosed and accurately monitored
with crop flushing because the causative agent, the living trichomonad,
is seen. Respiratory infection can sometimes be diagnosed with a crop
flush. In a respiratory infection, inflammatory material drains from
the sinuses through the slot in the roof of the mouth into the throat
or alternatively is coughed up from the inflamed windpipe lining into
the throat. A crop flush gathers this material, which can be detected
Wet canker and respiratory infection are very common problems during
racing. The fancier who does not control these well, and sometimes
this will mean the use of medication, can expect to lose more birds
and not clock as many prizewinners as the fancier who does.
It is important to remember that antibiotics should not be given closer
than 2 days before basketing. All cause some disruption to the normal
bowel bacteria (more so with Baytril and Sulpha AVS, less so with
Doxy-T, Resfite and doxycycline), which then take several days to
re-establish. An antibiotic course even of only 1 - 2 days during
racing should always be followed by 1 day on Probac in order to replace
the normal bacteria as quickly as possible. Turbosole is not an antibiotic,
only killing canker organisms, and so therefore can be given any day
of the week. However, when wet canker is a problem, Turbosole is best
given early in the week so that the birds have a chance to 'lift'
after having the trichomonads cleared.
E. coli and thrush during racing are usually treated with Probac.
This can be given any day of the week and indeed more and more successful
lofts are not only using it for this purpose but are also using it
to advantage to maintain a healthy beneficial population of bowel
bacteria at all times during racing. I usually recommend Wednesday
and Sunday (for Thursday night basketing) as the best treatment days
for Probac because the first dose sets the birds up for the race and
the second helps them recover. However, Probac should always be the
first line treatment when the droppings become green or mushy during
It is worth mentioning here the mixing of drugs. The two most commonly
mixed drugs are anticanker drugs such as Turbosole and antibiotics
such as Doxy-T. Many fliers do this with success, however, recent
evidence shows that mixing any antibiotic with Turbosole does slightly
decrease the potency of both. Also, I am concerned that putting several
things in the water makes the water less palatable for the birds.
This means the birds drink less and may not receive an adequate dose
of either medication. However, there are some instances when these
disadvantages have to be weighed against the number of days available.
With a limited number of days, we sometimes need to mix medications
so that the birds receive all medications that they need.
A range of conditioning agents and multivitamins can be used during
the season and, although not directly treating disease, do help the
birds resist disease by promoting their health generally. I feel that
it is good to incorporate a good-quality multivitamin, such as Multivite
Plus, in the loft health protocol once or twice weekly. During racing,
birds can miss meals through being late and sometimes eat irregularly
through being away from the loft racing. The use of a multivitamin
helps ensure that they are not lacking something in their diet. Seed
oils together with yeasts when added to the grain increase the energy
and calorie content of the seed mix and are a way of making an especially
nutritious meal for the birds. Some fliers use such agents always
on a particular day of the week; however, I feel this to be a mistake.
Such products put condition or weight on the birds, which obviously
at particular times is advantageous but at other times is not. An
astute fancier can use such products as needed to bring his birds
into race condition. Just how often they are used should be based
on the birds' condition (assessed by handling and observation of loft
flying). As a general rule, however, they are of benefit during cold
weather, following hard tossing or hard racing, if the birds are underweight
and during disease recovery.
In most lofts, 2 days on Turbosole every 3 weeks will keep wet canker
under control while 2 or sometimes 3 days on Doxy-T every 3 weeks
will keep respiratory (including air sac) disease under control.
If necessary, the week without treatment is eliminated changing the
program from a 3-week rotation into a 2-week one. This means that
Turbosole and Doxy-T are given on alternate Mondays and Tuesdays.
With severe flare-ups of respiratory infection, a longer course of
Doxy-T needs to be given, usually 4 - 5 days before reverting to 2
day courses every 2 - 3 weeks until the problem is fully resolved.
These shorter follow-up courses keep the problem under control while
the birds' natural immunity rises and race fitness re-establishes.
The onset, however, of respiratory infection during the race season
is always a blow because not only do the birds need to throw off infection
and become fully healthy, but they then must re-establish their race
fitness. Meanwhile, the races are getting longer and longer, which
can make it very hard to catch up. Often a loss of form lasting 4
- 6 weeks is experienced.
Drug resistance is always a possibility. I have not seen this with
Doxy-T, as yet, probably because Doxy-T already contains two very
effective drugs and so an organism would need to develop a multiple
resistance for it not to work. If a flyer feels that Turbosole is
not giving quick clearance of trichomonads he has three options:
1. Use Turbosole for longer, ie 3 - 4
days - This is quite reasonable because Turbosole can be given right
up to the day of basketing, birds can safely be sent to the race with
it in their crop.
2. Substitute every third or fourth treatment
with another anticanker drug - All birds can be picked up for 2 days
in a row and given 1 Spartrix or ¹ Flagyl tablet each day, or alternatively
a 2-day course of Emtryl can be given in the water. Extreme care,
however, must be taken using Emtryl during racing because of its narrow
safety margin, particularly in hot weather.
3. Turbosole can be combined with other
drugs - Turbosole can be placed in the water and at the same time
all birds are given a ¹ Flagyl or 1 Spartix each daily for 2 days
in a row.
Of the three alternatives, I usually recommend option 2.
Turbosole for 2 days every 2 -
3 weeks, usually Monday and Tuesday
Doxy-T for 2 - 3 days every 3 weeks,
usually Sunday, Monday and sometimes Tuesday
for 24 hours after Doxy-T;
when droppings become green or
watery; if there is no response, droppings will need microscopic analysis;
considered for use on Wednesday
and Sunday as a conditioning agent
Seed oils and yeasts added to food
on any day of week, based on birds' condition
Water-soluble multivitamin in water
is best given by itself and can be given 1 day per week on spare days,
Dropping analysis every 1 - 3 weeks.
Other treatments, if needed, e.g. for Coccidia and worms, can be given
on the third blank week.
This is a good basic program and in most lofts will keep the birds
healthy and competitive through the entire season. It must be appreciated,
however, that there are many variables affecting health through the
season and so modifications to this are sometimes necessary depending
on events arising. It is a long season and health varies with time
and the change of weather that occurs from the start to the end of
the season. Problems that may be present early in the season often
disappear as the birds get older, their immunity rises and the weather
gets warmer so that the need for certain medications falls away. This
occurs with such problems as E. coli. At other times, there can be
a sudden drastic change in the loft's health status necessitating
a change in health management, eg the introduction of a new Mycoplasma
>>Back To Top
Principal aim: To start the breeding
season with healthy stock birds.
Health control in the stock loft is very different from in the racing
loft. This is because there is not the continuous potential exposure
to disease through strays and returning race birds in the stock loft
as there is in the race loft. It should be possible to eradicate many
problems, in particular parasites, from the stock loft and then by
treating any new birds before introduction to maintain the stock loft
as a miniquarantine station. This is not possible, however, if there
is exposure to the droppings of wild birds and so, for this reason,
any flights should have suspended or grid floors.
The level of worms in the stock loft should be absolutely zero. Hairworms
and roundworms are cleared by giving a 24-hour course of Moxidectin.
It is vital that the loft is thoroughly cleaned afterwards to ensure
that the birds are not reinfected from droppings containing worm eggs
passed before medication. If in doubt, it is best to repeat the worming
3 weeks later and again thoroughly clean the loft. The eggs of these
parasites can survive for up to 6 months in the environment, If there
are aviaries with dirt floors that cannot be thoroughly cleaned, then
to achieve control, Moxidectin can be given for 1 day every 3 - 4
weeks spanning this time. The longer-term answer, however, is to insert
a suspended or grid floor or a floor that Can be thoroughly cleaned.
Tapeworms are treated with Prazivet for 24 hours and reinfection prevented
by spraying simultaneously with Permethrin Solution.
In lofts with a Coccidia problem, the Coccidia level can be decreased
by giving a 2 day course of Toltrazuril Coccidiocide
Solution in the 2 weeks before pairing.
Repeat 2-day courses in these lofts would need to be given approximately
every 4 weeks once the birds are paired to ensure on-going control
of this problem. However, on-going coccidial problems are usually
associated with environmental or management flaws and often the
longer-term answer to controlling this disease is to review these
Moxidectin will kill all mites on the birds and most lice. To eliminate
all lice completely, the birds are dipped in Permethrin Solution.
This is a good idea anyway as it has a 4-month residual effect and
provides good-long term protection against the insects causing problems
during breeding. It is also a good idea to spray out the nest boxes
with Permethrin before pairing. Mosquitoes carry pigeon pox, pigeon
flies cause irritation, anaemia and are associated with wet nests,
mites breed in the warm conditions of the nest box and all other insects,
particularly slaters, carry tapeworm. Therefore, before pairing I
always spray with Permethrin.
Various Chlamydia strains are carried latently in some lofts. This
means that they are found within the birds' system and flare up, causing
problems when the birds come under stress. The outbreaks usually occur
during breeding (when the stock birds are under stress) and during
racing (when the race birds are under stress). In the stock loft,
signs range from infertility, weakened youngsters that die during
incubation, during hatching or in the nest, poor babies and excessively
run-down parents. In the race loft, we see variable signs of respiratory
infection (eg eye colds, dirty ceres), poor performance, occasional
sneezing, mushy green droppings and failure to come into condition.
In lofts that have experienced problems with Chlamydia in previous
breeding seasons, the birds are treated with doxycycline 12%, not
to clear the Chlamydia, but rather to reduce it to a level at which
it is less likely to cause problems. The usual treatment course is
7 - 30 days. The actual length of treatment for a loft is dependent
on problems experienced in earlier years. In lofts without these problems,
it is best not to treat. Because of the long treatment required in
some lofts, ensure that preventative programs are started in sufficient
time. Doxycycline does interfere with calcium and vitamin metabolism
and does disrupt the normal beneficial population of bowel bacteria.
For this reason, treatment courses should cease at least 2 - 3 weeks
before pairing and courses should always be followed with multivitamins,
calcium and probiotic supplements. If you are unsure about the need
for medication, please seek veterinary advice before breeding as the
problem is difficult to control once the birds are paired. Once the
birds are paired, the best we can do is 'band aid' the problem, i.e.
patch up the problem after it has arisen through strategic short courses
of medication to minimize the effect of the disease.
Control of this problem before breeding has been dealt with extensively
in the chapter Canker. In lofts with a canker problem in last year's
breeding season, it is usual to decrease the trichomonad burden of
the stock birds by giving a 5 - 7-day course of Turbosole 4 weeks
before pairing. This means that it will take more stress before the
birds shed sufficient numbers of the organism to give their nestlings
the disease. In lofts without a canker problem, it is best to give
Special Note on Calcium Supplementation
Feeding stock birds have high requirements for calcium. It is therefore
vital that they are supplemented with calcium once paired. No matter
how much they take in (particularly the hens) once paired, they cannot
assimilate as much as they are losing from their system in the production
of crop milk and egg shells. The difference is made up by mobilizing
calcium stored in the skeleton before pairing. It is important that
stock birds have access to calcium all year and particularly once
mated. Low levels of calcium lead to soft-shelled eggs, egg binding,
postlaying paralysis in hens, poor-quality crop milk, slow-growing
babies and babies with undermineralized soft bones (the best way to
assess this is by gently pushing the lower beak to the side). I recommend
that stock birds have pink minerals, shell grit and a mineral block
in front of them all year and that, once paired, in addition have
calcium solution in the water 1 - 2 days per week.
Hairworm and round worm: Moxidectin
Tape worm: Prazivet 24 hours
Coccidia: Toltrazuril Coccidiocide
Solution 48 hours
Dip all birds and spray loft (in
particular nest boxes) with Permethrin Solution
Doxycycline 12% for 7 - 30 days
in lofts with Chlamydia problem
Turbosole for 5 - 7 days in lofts
that had canker last breeding season
Finish program 1 - 2 weeks before
Upgrade calcium intake once paired.
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Stock hen with her
recently hatched youngsters
Breeding Season Program
Principal aim: To
produce healthy, robust young ready for weaning at 28 days and to
maintain the health and condition of the stock birds
During breeding it is best to focus on good management (no overcrowding
and good hygiene), good feeding and providing the correct supplements.
If health problems appear during breeding, it usually reflects a flaw
in the prebreeding management of the stock birds. Water-based medications
are hard to administer accurately during breeding because of the variable
water intake of stock birds feeding youngsters of different ages.
Drugs, in particular antibiotics, should be avoided now as many have
adverse affects on the youngsters or parents. For example, Baytril
has been associated with embryonic deaths and abnormal joints in growing
Most health problems in breeding relate to canker. In lofts where
this is a problem it is managed as discussed in the chapter Canker.
In summary, decrease the number of babies that develop canker by decreasing
the number of trichomonads shed by the parents with periodic 2-day
courses of Turbosole given every 1 - 3 weeks as the need dictates.
Monitor the youngsters daily and treat those with canker with a daily
dose of Spartrix until well. Feeding stock birds that suddenly become
unwell and lose weight almost invariably have an internal canker nodule.
Separate these and give 4 drops Baytril, twice daily and ¹ Flagyl
or 1 Spartrix daily. Disappointingly, many of these, by the time we
realize they are unwell, have passed the stage where they will respond
Stock birds that desert nests and pale slow-growing youngsters are
often associated with red mite. These move on to the birds during
the night to drink blood. Look for the tell-tale crusty 'pin pricks'
under the babies' wings where the mites were attached and feeding
during the night. This problem can be avoided by dipping the birds
and spraying the boxes with Permethrin Solution before breeding. These
measures can still be implemented, although not as easily, if mites
appear after the birds are paired. Further problems are discussed
in the chapter Problems of the Breeding Season.
Once stock birds are feeding, the physical and nutritional demands
drastically increase. Supplementing with seed oils and yeasts will
help them maintain their condition and help them produce robust babies.
Pink minerals, grits and pick stones should always be available.