Aim high! Send those photos!
New poult hatchling and his hen hiding on her nest, pictures from Miguel in Portugal (Thank you!)
Thanks for all the wonderful comments from "former" complete strangers and people who love their pet turkeys (and all poultry) & pets.
I have been collecting the comments to post, (no bad comments yet-but I'm always open to suggestions)
Also have some email strings on the "Long-tailed Bobcats" spotted in Canaveral Groves lately.
From John in Tennessee!
New Royal Palm family members!
I came across your website yesterday while researching turkeys. We recently purchased a male and two female Royal Palms to ad to our list of ducks and chickens. I live on 113 acres with my fiancé and we love having them around free ranging. Your website is wonderful and I appreciate all the information that you have spent time accruing and sharing. I hatched, raised and released 12 wild Eastern turkeys several years back, but you can always learn more. Your story of Bobbles brought tears to my eyes. I thought I'd share a pic of my fiancé with the 3 babies last night. I let them come in for a few minutes to get used to being around us. It didn't take long! Thanks for your work!
Thanks for the kind words!
Kuro & Wilma
I appreciated your help last summer with a wild tom turkey that I rescued (Kuro). Your website helped again just recently with the acquisition of a hen turkey.
Kuro interacts fairly regularly with other wild turkeys in the neighborhood, fighting with the toms and courting the hens. Recently, a solitary hen would fly into the back yard early every morning and the two would go foraging in the neighborhood. After two weeks, the hen just stopped showing up. Kuro’s demeanor changed remarkably after that. He wasn’t his usual playful self. So I bought a one-year-old hen turkey, a Golden Phoenix/Royal Palm mix, from a local family farm. The two hit it off well immediately. Kuro is back to his playful self again.
The first day the new hen, Wilma, was here, she walked up and down the yard all day making a distressed sounding noise. I thought she missed her familiar surroundings. Then I read about the “egg yelp” on your website. Sure enough, she laid an egg on the deck. Your website proved helpful again as I attempted to build a nest for Wilma. The yelping stopped and she has a nest with eight eggs.
I am very grateful for your website. Thank you for making this information available! Enclosed is a photo of Kuro and Wilma. I hope all is well with you and your turkeys.
From Janice, Turkey raising chicks!
Well, 'mystery solved'.
I pulled our turkey hen out and there were 7 healthy chicks. All chicken chicks. The remaining eggs in the nest were all turkey eggs... they have a light speckle to them. All these eggs were duds and were disposed of. Apparently, she wasn't the only gal laying eggs in that secluded nest!
From an enthusiastic Theresa in California
Helloooo fellow turkey fans! Omg, I must say first and foremost, I thought for sure I was the only sentimental person with "turkey cuddle" pictures!! I sent the second picture to all my friends extolling the virtues of turkeys as the newest lap dog! Lol
So on to the praise for your amazing website! I have had turkeys for a good many years and have learned things from trial and error. But your site is very informative, well written and well rounded-having facts and stories! I love it!
And lastly, pesky, diligent bobcats! out here managed to slide open the window on the old school, heavy duty horse trailer I have converted to a hen house and got 6 out of 8 of my hens in one night! Their rooster fought valiantly and literally lost his butt in the process but did survive. His name is Sprout as when people ask me "what type is that beautiful rooster?!" Araucana Splash doesn't roll off my tongue, but Sprout does! He is also a lap pet! So that darn cat got my to best egg laying, spunky, little Leghorn hen and my four, sweet friendly Plymouth Barred Rocks! Heart breaking!! So when I saw that you had a rescued barred rock I thought I would write to say "send her to me for all the TLC and free range chicken joy she can handle! Well, and not to mention the very handsome, strong and fearless Sprout bird!!"
I live in a tiny high desert town called Potrero, 60 miles east of San Diego CA. I live off grid, on 90 acres with a couple creeks and plenty of sunny dusting locations. Oh, and new thumb locks on the coop windows, for heaven's sake!!
So my first photo is a Rio Grande/Bourbon Red hen, hatched and raised here by Granny; she is the Bourbon Red on my lap and sharing my scarf in the third photo. The second picture is my teenage, Blue Slate tom, who is just the nicest boy, who is kind to the hens and is very curious and social. The fourth photo is poor Sprout showing his battle scares, ie, no butt. But with the suet I make with my own rendered lard, his beautiful plumage is growing back in lovely. Well, and with lap naps and local avocado treats thrown in! There's Sprout in all his feathered beauty!
And of course, the protector of us all, Dan!! Who is up and ever vigilant at night and naps frequently during the day, wink-wink!
Oh goodness, my name is Theresa!
And if you have any Bourbon Reds that need homes, I'll take them! They are my fav!!
From Amber in Canaveral Groves Fl.
I stumbled across your website today and it's amazing. It is refreshing to see that their are people who love and care for their pets as we do. I also live in Canaveral Groves and have turkeys. They were my husband's idea and I wasn't too excited for them. I love my chickens and thought Turkeys would be unfriendly, hard to keep in the yard and maybe even aggressive. I could not have been more wrong. Not that I love my chickens any less but these turks I have are full of personality and warm my heart on a regular basis. One of my males has just learned to gobble and I can't get enough! I will do anything to provoke it.
Your site is a great reference point for a turkey owner. After reading it I believe one of my toms had the pox virus when he was young. He has since fully recovered but it gave us a scare. I also really enjoyed your imprinting article. I have been saying since one of my females was 2 weeks old that I feel like she thinks I am her mom. I could not really explain why I felt that way other than the feeling I got when her and I would spend time together. She hops right up on my lap and makes the sweetest noise and always wants my attention right before she goes up for the night. To say the least my thoughts on turks being wild, aggressive or aloof could not be further from the truth. I also learned they are so brave. We have cameras on our property and I caught video of them attacking a hawk that was trying to scoop up one of my rooster. I heard a commotion in the yard and made it out there just in time to see a hawk flying away. When I checked the video all four of the turkeys ran to the roosters defense. They got there with out a second to spare. Just a few nights ago there panicked noises woke me up. When I got outside I saw an owl on top of our barn. I believe he was trying to get to our rabbits. They are safely in an enclosure so he was not successful. However the turks were down off their roost in what look like an army formation on the ground in front of our rabbit pen. They were in the same exact pose that you called the owl puff. I had never seen that pose from them. Until reading your site I did not even know an owl would bother a turkey. We left our dog in the yard for the next few nights and have not seen the owl since.
This will be our first year they will mate and lay eggs and we are looking forward to it. I am so glad I found your site before they did though. I now know what to look out for. Its great to know that you are my neighbor and if I ever need more turkeys I will definitely be contacting you.
Thank you for the kind words Amber! (and what a great hawk rescue story)
From Erika in Melbourne
We just wanted to check in and tell you how great the turkeys are doing. We took them to the elementary school for the day and they were a huge hit. Kids drew pictures, wrote stories and had a great time interacting with the turkeys.
We would love to hatch many more this spring. Please keep us in mind when you have fertile eggs and let me know what is best month to contact you.
We are hoping our hen lays this spring and we plan to show our Blue Slate tom at the poultry show in spring also.
Thank you again for this wonderful experience, the birds are so sweet, they like to be pet and are so curious.
Also we have many types of chickens and ducks and geese and would be happy to share those with you. Let me know if there are any breeds you are interested in. Also we are getting goats!
Sent in by Deborah "Her family"
From Deborah in Texas
I have had Bourbon Red turkeys for about 3 years now. I came across your website and I must tell you it has been the MOST informative. You raise turkeys like I raise turkeys. Pets. They love so sit with us on our porch or come to the barn to see what we are doing. Not another site has helped me like yours has. In fact I go there just to reread. I raise my little ones to sell and have done quite well with them. I have had my same tom "Neill" ( he is very handsome! ) and switch my hens out. I winter one tom and 2 hens. It is a trial and error. I learn something new every season. Thank you so much for your site. Very helpful. Keep it up!
Jasper, TX 75951
Thank you for the kind words Debra!
From Theresa & Udell in Ohio
Hi ...was looking for turkey fighting info and came across your website. Thank you so much. Our first year at raising turkeys. Heritage..royal palm. White midgets. 1 R.P. tom 2 W.M. toms... 2 W.M. hens...April hatchlings. My question.. fighting now among toms...so if they breed now, there could be a possibility of winter eggs ? and how often do they lay? They r free range but are locked up at night due to Ohio predators. and did not know how brutal till we watched and thank goodness I found your website. any info would be very useful. and we love your flint work !
Thank you, Theresa & Udell ...Atwater, Ohio
Thank you for the kind words Theresa!
Rachel is looking for help with her rescue bird "Peep Peep" Any suggestions, shoot me an email and I will forward it to her!
Hello fellow turkey owners,
I am writing to you because I need some help. 10 weeks ago my boyfriend and I went for a walk in the woods on a cold rainy day. We found some turkey chicks who had gotten wet and were abandoned by their mother. When we found their limp little bodies on the bank of a river we thought we were too late to save any. As we were about to walk away some movement caught my eye. There was one little chick clinging to life!
My boyfriend scooped the chick up and held it to his chest inside his jacket as we hurried home. Once home we were desperate to save the little thing so we grabbed my blow dryer and turned it onto the lowest setting. The little one perked right up and we heard those first little peep peeps (the first of many). So we started calling it Little Peep Peep.
The past 10 weeks have been so fun watching Peep grow (and very educational). As first time turkey owners, I often refer to your site for information. Thank you so much for making it! You guys have been lifesavers!
However, right now I need some extra help. About a week ago I noticed some swelling on the side of Peep's face behind his eye. I have researched the heck out of possible causes and have come up empty. He has been acting completely normal. With no other signs or symptoms, I decided to just keep an eye on it. For the rest of the week things went unchanged. The swelling didn't grow and no other symptoms developed. I've been locking him up at night because we have a mountain lion in the area that has been snatching the doves out of the trees at night. So last night I put him to bed right before dark and headed to my sisters house to watch her kids for the night. When I got home today the swelling on his face had spread. So I figured I would try asking someone with more experience than us. I have attached a couple of pictures I took today. Could you please take a look and let me know what you think? He is still acting normal with no other symptoms. Have you ever seen anything like it?
"Kuro" from California (Rio Grande wild)
"Kuro" from California (Rio Grande wild)
From Larry in California
Here’s a few photos of Kuro. He likes to peck at the dog’s tail hair and steal the newspaper out of my hands. He also loves to dance with my wife, but I haven’t been able to get a picture of that yet.
Kuro is pretty healthy except for a bent tow on his right foot. Took him to the vet this weekend about that. The vet is supposed to get back to us after she consults a turkey expert.
Talked to a descendant of a pioneer family who owns property with turkeys. He said turkeys were indigenous to the area until 100 years ago when they were all killed off. He said Fish and Game brought the current ones in from Texas about 25 – 30 years ago.
From Wendy in Chuluota Florida,
Hi Bruce ! Hope you are having a great weekend ! Just wanted to tell you how much we love having the turkeys here ! Our male turkey - the old guy -basically has not left their side , nor the little ones leaving him ! We now feel bad we didn't get another turkey for the time between when his brother had to be put to sleep and now. The first day we had them in our laps Then they flew to roost and so much for their " confined area ". Since then we have been able to coax them into the coop at night with bread. Which they do take from our hands. But sadly don't want to be Lao turkeys. So until or if they decide to sleep outside ( hopefully they won't ) they are safe and secure. They aren't making as much chirping noises as when first came. If one splits from the group they will. You mentioned you come to snow hill road for kayaking. Let me know next time you're in chuluota and if I'm around I would love for you to stop by and see the turkeys ! Wendy
From Hillary (west side of Florida)
Hi Bruce, it's Hillary thank you so much for our turkeys. We
absolutely love them. The handicapped one is doing just fine and the egg hatched
and it's a beautiful little yellow turkey chick!
I will send you some pictures soon, thanks again,
sincerely Hillary, Ronnie and Alexis. Ps I will send you the
info on blackhead disease when I send you the pictures
Sent from my iPhone
From Pam, west coast of Florida
Hi, I just wanted to say I seen your post on Craigslist and enjoyed the link for pet turkeys website. I did not expect to see anyone, anywhere who enjoyed a turkey as a pet! I personally do not enjoy eating turkeys, but do enjoy having them wandering around my yard. I have one 1.5month old poult and have several eggs in a incubator, hoping to add to my little turkey flock (all mixed breed heritage). I had a pair of bronzes years and years ago and have wanted more turkeys since then. Now I live in the “country” and have a fenced yard I’ve decided to indulge in my turkey love, which my husband finds very confusing.. but I love turkeys
Loved the link for pet turkeys, it was very informative.
New poult hatchling, picture from Miguel in Portugal (Thank you!)
From Miguel, (across the pond in Portugal!)
I have news! The turkey hen started sitting the eggs on day 19, i've candled them tonight and they are all fertile and everything is fine inside.
Also i put other 3 eggs
under a broody bantam on day 8 and they will hatch in 3 days! i've candled them
tonight too and they'r fine! I can see them moving inside.
When the first poults hatch i send a picture!
The turkey hen is very protective of the nest, tonight when i candled the eggs she pecked my hand a lot, i have bloody scratches all over my hand! And when she goes away from the nest to eat and drink, if she see me near the nest she comes running and start hissing at me and shows that agressive lateral position.
I will keep in touch.
From Gabri, (across the river from the Space Center)
Hello, not sure if you remember me or not. You gave us a blue slate pair back in Feb. We have fallen in LOVE, the tom "Thom" will gobble back to me whenever I whistle and if I don't chat to him when I am out in the pen he gets upset, lol. Tina is a doll, too, she sings back to me whenever I pet her. If you happen to have anymore babies left over we wouldn't mind adding them to our little flock. Just let me know, lol, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to get to know these wonderful goofballs.
~ Gabri and/or Steve
From Erika, (south Brevard County)
Your birds are beautiful! What an amazing project you have going.
Our 4-H club does have mainly purebred heritage birds, but we have a few mixed and it just means that we can not show those at the fair. We would love fertile eggs from you, even if they are mixed. We can teach the kids about the different types of turkeys you have and perhaps they will be able to identify what the mixes are. And perhaps some will turn out to be purebred Blue Slate.
Please let me know when is the best time to get fertile eggs, I believe I read they lay mainly in the spring? We can take the eggs anytime.
We will make sure we have a secure coop and large run for them. My Uncle runs a small family farm in Michigan with Bourbon Reds and they are so beautiful to watch.
The children and teachers will be so excited. We have raised ducks, geese, chickens and quail but never turkeys. Please let us know if there is anything you would like in trade - we are always hatching chicks and ducklings.
Thank you for your help,
Erika's poult, (Royal Palm)
Kim from (the Orlando area)
Hello my name is Kim. Went to your website and got a lot of great information so thank you I wanted to see if you had any turkeys and possibly chickens available young ones babies even or close to it. If not I would like to be put on the waiting list. I would like to get more information about your organization and the things that you do there if you can please contact me anytime at ------------ I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time and have a great day.
David from (South Brevard, way south)
This is David --------, Stacy’s husband. It’s storming pretty bad here now. Would it be possible for me to come by your place early Saturday morning? I work until 630 AM and would already be close by. I could be there ~ 0700 hours, if that would work for you. I could bring them home on my way to Malabar. Please let me know.
From Glynda (in Daytona)
Thank you once again for
the Turkeys. we are so happy with them. We do have one little problem, they
don't want to be separated. My neighbors birds have left home 4 times to
come to my house across the street to be with my birds and my birds have all
left home to cross the street to be with my neighbors birds. So I decided to
give my neighbor my Turkeys so they could stay together. We are fortunate to be
on a dead end street with no traffic. My neighbor's husband is building a 10'x
10' pen to keep them in. I may ask you for some more bird later if you think it
would be different if it was a different set of birds.
What do you suggest? I
have a metal shed with a concrete floor under a hug oak tree but I don't want
to keep them shut up in there all the time. My plan was to let them free range
during the day and close them up at night. However they are determine to go to
my neighbor's home so they can be with her birds.
My neighbors are so happy with the Turkeys, thank you both once again.
From Jonathan (in Mims) (We try to match requsts!)
Do you have any turkeys that are bourbon red heritage? I would like some as "guard dogs" from pestering hawks. Would have a nice fenced in yard to roam with chickens and goats. Plus plenty of leftovers and extras from the garden.
From Mitch (in Oak Hlil)
I am happy to hear you also raise your turkeys as pets. I have one, my girlfriend named him Turkelton we are looking to get him some friends. I also have 2 goats and several chicken of all breeds. We enjoy raising them on our land. I would love to come look at your turkeys. You can reach me at ----------- or through email!
From Dave (in Mims)
I saw your posting at the Tractor Supply in Mims. Do you still have some Turkeys? I also keep chickens which I don't harvest, only eggs. My wife and I live in Oak Hill on 10 acres, we board horses (21 on property), have three dogs and a cat and I think a Turkey would be cool. Dave
Received this picture with request for help. Part of the Tom's beak broke away & he would not eat. Luckily, after about 5 days it healed up and he ate normal.
From Shand in (Titusville)
Saw you're ad on the side of the Silverado and I've always been really interested in a turkey but have trouble getting an Osceola or even an Eastern if it's possible! I want one that can free range in my yard I live in fox lake road in Titusville. Do you guys sell any? I appreciate any info!
Sent from my iPhone
Note: I had to tell Shand that Osceola Turkeys (Florida wild turkey) require a special permit from the State of Florida and so we only have heritage domesticated turkeys and a few Eastern Wild Turkeys (that are legally sold in Hatcheries)
Also explained that we almost never give away 'one bird'----that would be a lonely turkey.
This is "Perry" in Upstate New York. Perry is an Eastern Wild, living the good life!
From Tina in Up state New York:
Thanks so much for taking the time to get back to me! your answers prompted another question.
If I am able to get another turkey poult is there any way for me to know what sex this turkey is and what the new one would be?
If I have two of the same gender will they fight?
If it seems he/she will be staying around I was thinking about copying this idea:
Thanks for letting me ask all these questions. I appreciate it, and so does Perry! :-)
Offered Tina my opinion that that sooner or later, they will fight, perhaps a little, perhaps a lot....
"Missy" rescued in West Melbourne
From Edith in West Melbourne:
I just discovered your petturkey website, love it! And you are local to me in Florida! I'm in West Melbourne.
I have a Narragansett hen, we found her running around loose in our neighborhood a couple months back. She is so sweet and is my girl "Missy".
I've been feeding her the Dumor laying mesh and she likes it. What do you feed your hens?
I live close to Tractor Supply and will be needing to get more feed soon.
Are you on FB?
I've attached a picture of Missy.
From Lisa in SE Georgia
My husband and I have a number of chickens and heritage turkeys, all pets. Yesterday one of my husband's co-workers brought us a very large (35+ lb ?) Broad Breasted Bronze tom. He was the a pet of the co-worker's family, and was being kept in a very small pen, laying on the ground so his chest and belly area are bald of feathers.. They think he may be a year old. He's not in the best of shape, but is very sweet.
He is a big, big boy and already seems to be having a little trouble getting around. Do you have any advice for helping him to have a more comfortable life? Can you put such a big tom on a "diet" ? We live in SE Georgia and the heat is already bothering him.
We realize he may not live long due to his genetics, but want to give him a happy life in the meantime. He's currently in a separate run from all of our other birds, but we are going to build him a more permanent set up. He will not be a "meal."
I would appreciate any advice you might be able to share.
Sent Lisa my comments about the Broad Breasted birds. Great Pets but suffer from human selective breeding for obesity.
Note! Do not do what I did: felt sorry for the motherless BB hen and gave her a poult to raise. The hen accidently squashed the little baby because she was heavy. Truly felt remorse for my action. I warned a neighbor who was going to do the same thing. The results were the same.
Hernan and Cholula in the back & Bianca the Royal Palm up front. Seven poults on the hunt in SW Missouri
From Cheryl in SW Missouri (The most beautiful state in America)
Good morning my name is Cheryl Gianino,
I wondered if you still have any turkeys you need homed? I have 3 rescue turkeys 1 Bronze tom (I think that is what he is), one Bronze hen and one Royal Palm hen. They were given to me by a friend that bought them at the local feed store without even knowing what they were. She wanted chickens and apparently didn't even ask what they were when she bought them. When they got bigger she said they were ugly and she didn't want them. I am so glad I took them because the next week her dogs killed all of the chickens she had purchased with them.
I love to watch my turkeys mingle with my sheep and my Guardian dog Louise. To my great surprise Cholula has managed to raise 7 poults they are 7 weeks old today!!! I am sure Louise had a lot to do with their survival she loves them. My poor little Royal Palm wasn't so lucky. Bianca lost all of her eggs to I am guessing a sneaky raccoon.
My turkeys range over a 7 acre area usually, right now they are confined to the 2 acre backyard until the poults get bigger. I really didn't know what to do about Bianca's nest being in the middle of a brier patch, but next time she starts laying I will put her in the shed like you said and have her start laying there. I have an 8 x 16 shed right behind the house with a 5 ft. tall gate that she couldn't get through. I learned so much from your website and thank you.
If you have any Blue Slate turkeys I would be interested in adding that color to my flock. I live in Southwest Missouri and I didn't know if you would ship this far. Probably not this time of year either. Please let me know. I would love to add to our 19 sheep, 9 turkey, 21 hen, 4 dog, 4 cat and finally 200 grapevine farm. I think the turkeys will be a God send in the vineyard for bug control.
I explained to Cheryl that we do not ship eggs or turkeys.
From Sarah in Australia! I will put up a better picture, (this is a temp)
Shelly's turkeys in Lutz Florida
From Robin in Richlands NC
Hi, my name is Robin and I have 3 Turkey pets. For some reason my sweet Pearl has fought with both my tom and the other hen. Her face is all bloody and her nostrils are swollen shut. I did look up pain reliever for her and found that I could give her low dose aspirin. It did help but she's still wounded. What else can I do? I'm worried about my baby girl and we don't have a vet that can look at her.
From what we have seen, after doctoring many turkeys, from broken bones to fox attacks to fighting (most common), what we learned is that turkeys have a stunning recover system. I would hazard a guess -that is because in the wild, the slow healers perish and the fast healers live to reproduce. I think Pearl will recover quite handily
Thank you so much!!!! She is doing better but now Houdini the hen is frantically trying to get back to Pearl. I did separate them so that Pearl could heal a bit. I'm revamping their pen too! I want to make it more comfortable for them. My Blues can roost but Pearl can't because she is one of the white Turkeys that you see in the big turkey houses. Her beak is weird. It was snipped or something when she was little and they also cut her toes.
Should I give the girls babies to take care of? My TomBoy hasn't mated with either of the girls. He does strut and show off pretty much to everyone though lol. I will definitely take pictures of my 3 "kids" . I'm really grateful that you have the website! I've learned a lot from you guys :) thank you sooooo much !!!
(part of my response that I thought was very important)
Also, I learned the hard way, never give the broadbreasted birds (Pearl) any babies. As much as they wish to be "Moms" they are too heavy and accidently crush the babies. (I felt bad)
Kim's wild visitors in Georgia
Hi, i live in n Ga and have wild turkeys visit several times a day. From fall to spring, there can be up To 18 in my yard. Since April, there have been 3 Toms, and just in the last 10 days, a hen joins them occasionally. 1 of the Toms (Chester) has lost half his beard and limps. So, I put the food in 4 different areas since the other males wont let him eat in the same place.
These guys seem to co-exist with the wild birds and deer.
I find great joy in seeing these turkeys come by, drink from the bird feeder and eat. They love to cone onto my patio and look at themselves in the doors.
"I'm waiting for the next turkey photo to add!
From Vera Bundy's Bird Bordello (in Melbourne)
THE MOST LEARNED PERSON IN CENTRAL FLORIDA ON POULTY AND POULTRY DISEASES.
321 - 723 - 2986 OR : 321 - 984 - 8114
Vera sent the following information on Mycoplasma Gallisepticum
Mycoplasma Gallisepticum - A Continuing Problem in Commercial Poultry
Gary D. Butcher, DVM, Ph.D.2
Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) infection in the commercial poultry industry is common in many parts of the world. Despite success in eliminating the disease in grand parent (GP) stock and turkeys, it persists in broiler breeders and broilers in many areas. There also continues to be a high incidence of the disease in commercial layers worldwide. The continued presence of MG in commercial poultry suggests that efforts at eradication were not highly successful. MG infection in the commercial poultry industry will likely continue and limiting losses will be the primary objective
M. gallisepticum infection is caused by an organism classified as a mycoplasma. This organism is similar to bacteria, but lacks a cell wall. This characteristic makes MG extremely fragile. They are easily killed by disinfectants, heat, sunlight, and other factors. They only remain viable in the environment, outside the chicken, for typically up to 3 days. For this reason, MG is fairly easy to eliminate on single-age, all-in all-out poultry farms. If a laying flock is infected, complete depopulation of the farm at the end of the laying cycle and providing down-time prior to reintroducing chickens will be successful in eliminating MG. However, complete depopulation must be performed to break the cycle and prevent re-infection in subsequent flocks on the premises.
When a chicken is infected with MG, the infection is of long duration. In the period after infection, the organism is present in the respiratory tissues in high levels and is shed into the environment and eggs. After several weeks, the level of infection and shed of the organism decreases. However, the infection persists in the flock indefinitely and the chickens may shed the organism intermittently, especially following a period of stress. This characteristic makes elimination of MG extremely difficult in multi-age breeder and laying complexes. As MG-clean pullets, raised in single-age farms and in isolation, are brought onto the complex, they are often exposed to the organism at probably the worst possible time-- at the onset of production. This cycle of spread continues in a complex with new flock introductions.
Efforts to reduce the adverse affects of the disease on breeders and egg-type layers in complexes have included use of antibiotics, killed vaccines, and live vaccines. These efforts have been successful in reducing drops in egg production following infection, maintaining levels of egg production throughout the cycle, reducing severity of concurrent respiratory diseases, controlling excess vaccine reactions, reducing sensitivity to air quality, limiting shed level and duration into the poultry house environment, and reducing egg transmission to broiler progeny. These efforts have not been successful, however, in eliminating infection and shed. More recently, live vaccines have become commercially available that do not spread from bird to bird, do not cause disease in turkeys, and cause a very mild and predictable reaction in pullets. These offer many advantages over the live vaccines used in the past. Most MG-positive breeder and egg-type layer complex managers administer these products to pullets prior to moving the MG-clean pullets onto infected complexes. Use of killed vaccines is common in some farms, especially broiler breeder complexes. While live vaccines are more commonly used in egg-type commercial layers. However, combinations of live and killed vaccines and antibiotics are used depending on local conditions. Use of antibiotics is most practical in broilers for controlling respiratory reaction.
M. gallisepticum is spread only short distances by the air-borne route. Where excellent biosecurity is practiced, there have been many instances where infection has not spread to adjacent houses within a complex. The disease is spread from farm to farm predominantly by movement of contaminated people, equipment and vehicles. Thus, basic biosecurity is the best means of preventing introduction of MG into layer and breeder complexes. Egg transmission to broiler progeny occurs at a low level from infected breeders, however, horizontal infection then readily occurs in broiler houses. Another potential means of transmission of MG that has not often been given much attention is the spread by wild birds and pet birds. Data have demonstrated that wild birds may become infected and shed MG. Likewise, the author in 1990 conducted a series of experiments and was able to infect, produce clinical disease, and isolate a classical MG field strain from budgerigars (parakeets). These findings further demonstrate the need to wild-bird-proof poultry houses when possible and to discourage company employees from ownership and/or contact with pet birds.
The decision to vaccinate or simply accept performance losses in commercial layers will depend on several factors. The strain of MG in a farm must be considered as some strains of MG are mild while others are highly virulent. House construction is a major factor in determining the severity of clinical disease. Open-sided houses and closed houses with excellent ventilation do not experience recognizable losses in performance, while the same layers in a closed-type house with poor ventilation will experience considerable performance losses. Thus, vaccination programs for MG must take into account the air quality where layers will be housed. Concurrent diseases such as coryza and infectious laryngotracheitis and the intensity of the live virus vaccination program, especially against IBV, NDV, ILT, are also variables to take into consideration.
MG infection in heavy breeders, almost without exception, requires intervention with vaccines and antibiotics. These breeders suffer significant loses and shed the organism to the progeny.
M. gallisepticum vaccination has been shown to reduce shed level and duration. Thus, if efforts are being made to eradicate MG on a commercial layer or breeder farm or reduce potential spread to neighboring non-infected farms, vaccination is suggested.
Affected broiler breeder flocks should be vaccinated prior to onset of infection and broilers managed and treated to reduce adverse of affects of MG.
It is unlikely MG will be eradicated from the commercial poultry industry in the coming years. However, through biosecurity programs and effective use of vaccines, losses can be reduced.
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