Saturday, 19 May 2012

Culled All Our Poultry ~ Mycoplasma

It is my belief that I contacted this disease this spring when I brought in a bunch of chicks from else where.  After I had the chicks for about 10 days, I noticed a very sick little cochin chick who had very puffy gummy eyes.  I thought it was an eye infection so, I tried to clear it up with antibiotic eye drops.  Well, the eye drops did nothing to clear it up.  Soon I noticed the same symptoms in some of my other chicks.  Then chicks started dying.  I lost 11 of the shipped cochins first to this, and it also spread to my own chicks that I hatched which were very active and healthy until the shipped birds were added.  It also spread to my meat birds and to my turkey poults.

Their symptoms were:

Eye and Nasal Discharge
Wet gurgly sounding breathing
Lack of appetite
Swelling of the sinuses and around the eyes.
And tissue swelling and red in the corners of the eyes.

I thought I would include some pictures to show what some of the chicks looked like.

In this chick you can see how the face is swollen.  It's all puffy about the eyes and sinuses.  In some cases the eyes are sticky and glued shut so that they can not see.

The chick stands all hunched up and ill looking.  Eyes only partially open.  Not showing much interest in eating or drinking.  Chicks cough and sneeze.

You can see this chick has been rubbing it's eyes on it's shoulders.  You could also see nasal discharge.

I'd been medicating this chick, but even so you can see that the corners of it's eyes are inflamed, red and visible.

The Turkeys had lots of swelling around the eyes and sinuses.  They eyes also were gummy with discharge around them.

In some of the eyes you can see how watery they are.  Also bubbles are present in the eyes.

You can see just how much they eyes are swollen under them.  Some of them had swelling in one or both eyes.  Because of the shine, wet looking discharge the turkeys pecked at it hence the wound above the beak. (probably spreading it further...)

After loosing several of the cochins, some of my own hatched and some turkeys, I sent in 2 turkeys and 3 chicks to be tested.  These birds had to be freshly culled and sent with icepacks to the Animal Health in Abottsford to have a postmortem and tests done on them.  To cull them I used the cervical dislocation method, which is fairly quick and bloodless, since they want the bodies intact.  So I culled, packed and sent off the birds.

A day or two after they received the birds I received a message that there was Mycoplasma present.  I spoke with the vet over the phone and he confirmed that Mycoplasma was indeed present in our Turkeys.  He hadn't gotten the test results back from my chicks that I sent in yet.  I had been medicating the chicks so he said that it would be hard to detect it in them since the symptoms had been cleared up.  It was agreed that since my turkeys had it for sure, and they had been in contact with my entire flock older chickens, chicks and guinea fowl that everything was exposed to it and it would be best to cull it all, clean house and start over in about a month or so (I decided to wait a year before starting again.)

Mycoplasma is a contagious respiratory disease that poultry can get.  It's a chronic' disease, and even though the birds can and most times do survive this, they remain carriers and can pass it on to other birds.  They can pass this on through coughing, sneezing, dust, eggs and semen.  Incubation period for it is 10 - 21.  This disease is fairly common apperently.  But as someone who breeds and sells poultry, I felt that it would be unfair of me to keep my birds and risk infecting anyone elses.  

You can read about Mycoplasma here:  

So last week I culled all my poultry.  This was an awful thing to do.  I still feel horrible when I think on it.  It's one thing to cull a badly injured or dying bird that you know is suffering horribly.  But it's an entirely differnt thing top pick up a bird bird that looks perfectly healthy and end it's life.  I know that even though they look healthy they could be carrying mycoplasma and pass it on to anyother poultry that I bring here.  But it doesn't make it any easier.  Many of these birds are ones I have raised since they were either eggs or day old chicks.  Most of the older ones were pets.  I was very attached.  

I also used Cervical dislocation to do this.  How I did it was to take the bird,  Hold it to calm it.  Grasp the feet in one hand, support the body in the other and lower the bird so that it is upside down with it's chest and neck laying on the ground before you.  Place a broom handle across the back of the neck behind the head, step on the broom handle quickly one foot on either side of the head and quickly and smoothy pull up on the feet.  Pull up until you feel the neck give.  This dislocates the neck, and ruptures the blood vessels in the neck.  It is supposed to be painless since it also severs the spinal cord (but who's to say just what the bird feels).  I couldn't bear to see the birds flop around so I held them as they passed.  After all these were my pets and it broke my heart to do each one.  (See, I still tear up when I think of it.)

After I finished culling, I made a big  pile of brush and dry fire wood and got the fire going good and hot, then burnt almost all of the chickens, except for my daughters 2 favorites.  My daughter wanted to bury them, so I felt that this would be a good way to perhaps bring her some closure too.  We dug a hole by a cedar tree, lined the grave in ferns, placed the little hen and rooster in and covered them in more ferns.  RIP little Millie and Little Peep.

After I thought I was pretty much done culling and burning, I was going to go into the house, but thought I would do one last egg check to see if any were missed earlier (and I guess just to go into the empty hen house and say a silent good bye).  While I was standing in there, I heard a cluck.  Yes, a cluck coming from outside in the pen.  I couldn't believe it and almost thought I was hearing things.  I went out to the pen, and out from behind some glass windows leaned up comes one last Blue Laced Red Wyandotte hen.  It was almost like one of those bad dreams when you think that it can't get any worse, and then it does.  She comes running over to me.  Oh my!  Here I was thinking that I was finished killing and the worst was done and over with and out comes this last bird.  So I picked her up. Sat on a bucket.  Held her and had a serious cry.  I never imagined in my life that I would have to kill anything.  Let alone chickens which I love.  It was so tempting to keep her, sitting there with my face buried in her soft feathers.   But it needed to be done.  I did it, and probably that one last one is what stands out most in my mind now.

Anyways, all of my birds are gone.  Chickens, Turkeys and Guinea Fowl.  The yard is strangely quiet when you go out side.  We've had a few neighbors stop by and comment on the lack of birds about.  When offered condolences, I really don't know what to say.  

I have shoveled out the coops and am working on scrapping them down, then I will disinfect them.  I need to pick up one those car wash brushes that you can attach to a garden hose to help me scrub down things, and garden sprayer to spay disinfectant.  And so now the clean up begins.

When I do start over, I will try and just bring in hatching eggs and treat them with an egg dip of Tylan, which is supposed to kill any mycoplasma present in the eggs.  I will  be very careful with any new chicks brought in, keeping them separate  for at least 4 weeks to be sure they are healthy.

I have also bought a copy of The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow so I can look things up if anything shows it's self.

If nothing else this spring I have done a lot of research and learned quite a bit about this disease and about bio-security.  

Millie pigging out on cookies 


  1. So sorry you had to do that. What an awful thing to happen. It must have been hard to do - I can't imagine having the courage to do it but I guess you do it if you have to. My thoughts and hugs with you. :(

  2. Thanks Joan. It was something I thought long and hard about before I did it. Not an easy decision to make, but I couldn't see any other way. There's no way I could bring my self to carry on as if nothing was wrong and go on selling eggs and chickens to other people. And I couldn't risk having any of my friends over and tracking it home to their own poultry. I hope to never have to go through something like this again and would never wish it on anyone else.

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  4. Tears are running down my face reading about what happened to you, i know time has passed since you wrote this but i am now going through the same. It has just been over 12 days since our girls started with mycoplasma g. My vet has been prescribing baytril but up to now only one seems to have improved and i lost one of my little silkies a week ago. I too see all the same problems you had to face as as all 18 have names and are our family pets i am struggling with which to turn. But thankyou for posting this.