Biosecurity: How to Protect Your Poultry Farm from Pests and Diseases

Biosecurity has to do with measures you take to prevent entry of pests and diseases into your farm. A lot of farmers ignore these measures – including me! But from my bad experiences in the past, I no longer take biosecurity for granted. Observing these measures will help minimize disease incidence in your farm. Teach your workers also (very important). Don’t have the mentality that animals are animals and so anything goes. Ignoring the following biosecurity measures can be catastrophic – even if you spend tons of antibiotics on them.

1. Ventilation: Lack of free air movement can cause ammonia gas from droppings to accumulate. It also lead to wet bedding and a host of other problems. All these will eventually lead to pest and disease infestation. So, locate your farm in a well-ventilated area. It should not be box-in by several tall buildings.

2. Closeness to Other Farms: If you can help it, it is best to locate your farm far away from other existing farms. Some diseases like Infectious Bronchitis, Newcastle disease etc can be transmitted from farm to farm through air. Doing this may be impossible in farm settlements or where land acquisition is a problem.

3. Flood: Some areas are prone to flooding during the rainy season. It is either you locate your farm away from such areas or you elevate your pens above the maximum flood level. Not only that. You should also prepare for the flood by making sure that throughout the flood period you have feed, clean water, medication etc in sufficient quantity. But if you can help it, locate your farm away from such places.

4. Houses for Dissimilar Birds: Poultry farming includes rearing of birds like pullets, broilers, quails, turkeys, goose, ducks, guinea fowls etc. Houses for different bird type must not be close to each other because one bird type can be a vector of diseases that afflict another bird type. For example, the blackhead disease have little or no effect on chickens but it is deadly to turkeys. Give at least 150ft between them. Workers that tends one bird type should not be allowed to tend another bird type. As for the farm manager, he must thoroughly disinfect himself with the appropriate disinfectants as he visits the various pens – whether or not the pens contains similar or dissimilar birds.

In large farms, chicks should be brooded in a brooding house before transferring them to a second house (growing house) where they would grow to maturity. Laying birds may have a third house where they’ll spend the rest of their life. They should be transferred to this house several weeks before they start laying. Sectioning the house in this way will save chicks from high disease pressure. The houses can also be constructed to specifically suit them.

Maintain a minimum distance of 150 feet between the different type of houses (i.e. between brooding and laying house, brooding and growing house etc). Distance between houses within the same sector should be at least 50 feet (i.e. distance between 2 layer houses, or between 2 brooding houses or between 2 growing houses).

5. The width of the house (end walls) should face the east-west direction. This will minimize direct sunlight entering the house through the sides. Heat stress can predispose them to diseases.

6. Dip: A dip is a depression on the ground that contains a disinfectant solution. Provide wheel dip at the main gate where vehicles entering the farm will get their wheels disinfected. Vehicles should also be sprayed with disinfectant solution. Foot dips should be at every doorstep. Change the disinfectant solution daily or when too dirty.

7. Maximum House Width: The maximum width of the sheds for deep litter house should not exceed 30 feet (9.14m) if it depends on natural ventilation. Exceeding this will have negative effect on ventilation.

8. Roof Overhang: The roof should have a minimum overhang of 3 feet (0.9m) so that rain splashes and sunlight won’t have access into the house.

Roof overhang

Roof overhang

9. Waste Disposal: Provide closed disposal pit or incinerator about 500 feet away from the poultry house. This is where dead birds and other wastes can be safely disposed. Rats and other wild animals must not have access to disposal pit else they’ll spread more diseases. In case of dead birds, it is better and more economical to process and feed them to guard dogs, pigs or ruminants.

Manure should be sold as soon as possible or stored outside or far away from the houses. Manure can also be fed to ruminants or used to generate biogas in a biogas digester.

10. Store House: Provide store houses for proper storage of fresh litter material, feed, medication, eggs etc. Wild animals must not have access to them.

11. If you formulate your own feed, build the feed mill about 150 feet away from the poultry houses and preferably near the gate. The same applies to feed & egg stores. This minimizes the number of people that can get close to the birds.

12. All houses should be rat/vermin proof to avoid spread of diseases.

13. Vets: Seek the services of a vet and follow a vaccination schedule that is specific to your location.  Seek for vets with practical experience, otherwise inexperienced vets will use your farm to learn – and possibly making costly mistakes along the way. A Vet will also help you to routinely check the immune status of the birds. This test can detect diseases before they break out, making disease control easier. He’ll also help when there is outbreak of pest and diseases.

14· Source of Chicks or Pullets: Buy your day old chicks or pullets from a reputable source. Find out where some successful farmers buy from and do the same.

15. If possible, automate feed and water handling to prevent too much contact with the birds and minimize spread of diseases.

16. Houses having sick birds should be attained to last. Avoid contact with healthy birds after handling sick birds.

17. Give your flock clean water. If water quality is questionable, treat with a water treatment chemical like chlorine. All watering equipment should be kept clean.

18. Have zero tolerance for rodents. Control them with mechanical traps and through chemical means.

19. After selling all the birds in a flock, the house & all equipment should be cleaned and disinfected properly. Clean and disinfect roof and walls. Damaged parts of the building such as roof, cracks on the floor and walls etc., should be repaired. They can serve as breeding ground for diseases. After disinfecting the house, allow about 2 weeks to pass before restocking (i.e. before bringing in new set of birds).

20. Workers in the laying sectors should not be allowed into brooding/growing sector or feed manufacturing sector and vice versa.

Observing all these rules may not be easy at first. In fact it is not easy. But you’ll succeed if you persevere and put up structures that will make it easier. Some large poultry farms go as far as making sure their workers own no birds. That is understandable when you know how disease transmission works, how fast microorganisms multiply and how much you’ll need to treat thousands of birds. Even if you don’t own thousands of birds, make biosecurity a habit so that when you eventually expand it has become part of you.

I hope these tips help you. Now I’ll like you to tell me the area of biosecurity are you finding difficult. I appreciate your comments. Thanks.

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2 comments to Biosecurity: How to Protect Your Poultry Farm from Pests and Diseases

  • Olumayowa

    I’m sure you must have heard of Elevated or High rise pen, what are the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of pen house sire

    • FarmersJoint

      If the birds are not in contact with their droppings, then certain diseases like coccidiosis will not affect them. It is not good for broilers though because it will affect their foot pads badly.

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