Dec 27, 2012

Quarantine of Backyard Chickens: When and How

When and How to properly quarantine new chickens
Given the inclination of backyard chicken keepers to add chickens to their existing flocks, also known as "chicken math," it is extremely important that proper quarantine procedures are followed when bringing new flock members home. Failure to quarantine new flock members can result in the death of an entire flock of chickens.
This flock was lost due to improper quarantine procedures when new chickens were brought into the backyard.
To illustrate the importance of quarantine, a long-time Facebook friend, Melissa Stalpers, has graciously offered to share her story. This timeline documents the events leading up to the loss of her entire flock recently:

November 9: Melissa bought 3, six month old, healthy-looking, Cinnamon Queen chickens from a breeder through Craigslist. Unknowingly, she did not properly quarantine the new chickens from her existing flock of 42 chickens. (they were in a crate near her flock)

November 19: the new birds develop bubbly, clear fluid in their eyes and nostrils, breathing sounds rattly and they begin falling over. Within hours, 2 of the 3 new birds died. Melissa wrote to me on Facebook & I recommended that she obtain a necropsy of the deceased birds.
The dangers of failing to quarantine mew chickens.
**Any time a sick chicken dies suspiciously, the USDA should be contacted to have their veterinarians assist in a FREE disease investigation, which includes a necropsy of the deceased bird(s). Always preserve the body for a necropsy by keeping it cold, never frozen, until further instruction is given by a vet. 866-536-7593.**
November 20th: third new bird died. First existing flock member developed the same symptoms the new birds exhibited. 
Ameraucana hen with matted feathers around the eyes due to the discharge from MG.
Ameraucana hen with matted feathers around the eyes due to the discharge from MG.

November 30th: Five existing flock members have died. Bird sent to have necropsy performed.
December 6th: Veterinarian confirms mycoplasma gallisepticum (aka: MG, chronic respiratory disease, stress disease). This highly contagious, respiratory disease was likely latent in the Cinnamon Queens and the stress of moving caused the disease to become active and spread. Remaining flock members were treated with Baytril, Cipro and eye drops to mitigate the symptoms, but would always remain carriers of MG. 
Melissa's daughter helps medicate the flock, a process that took 2 hours every day.
by December 11: the entire flock of 42 birds had died and the family was distraught.
Melissa's healthy flock members.
 Again, many thanks to Melissa for sharing her story so that we can benefit from her experience. 
WHAT IS QUARANTINE?
To quarantine means to completely isolate newly acquired birds from an existing flock for a significant period of time, during which they are observed for diseases and parasites.

WHY QUARANTINE?
A chicken can appear perfectly healthy while harboring problems (diseases and parasites) that may not be obvious initially.  Quarantining provides an opportunity to watch for health dangers without risking the health of an existing flock. Moving chickens from one home to another is a major stressor, which can cause latent diseases to become active posing a health threat to other birds.

HOW TO QUARANTINE:
Birds from different backyards, farms or facilities should be quarantined as long as possible in separate housing, away from the main flock; the bare minimum recommendation is two weeks, but 30-60 days is preferred.  During the quarantine period, testing can be performed if desired (eg: fecal float testing for worms, bloodwork for other communicable diseases) and a lice or mite infestation can be identified and treated. Once the quarantine period is over and all the new birds still appear healthy, they can be integrated gradually into the existing flock.

QUALITY QUARANTINE= 
D.I.T.O.: Distance, Isolation, Time, Observation

Distance
Keep new birds at least 12 yards away from existing flock. Some diseases, such as mycoplasma gallisepticum, can travel in the air.
These Silver Spangled Hamburg pullets were kept in my basement in January, far away from the main flock, for 6 weeks before they took up residence in our new coop.
These Silver Spangled Hamburg pullets were kept in my basement in January, far away from the main flock, for 6 weeks before they took up residence in our new coop.
Isolation  
Keep new birds confined and isolated in a dedicated pen or other suitable area. Don’t share equipment, clothes, shoes, feeders, waterers between the new birds & existing flock.  For example: do not wear the same boots to feed the new birds and then walk to the existing flock in the same boots as many pathogens can be carried on clothes, equipment and shoes.
New chickens should be confined to a dedicated pen away from the existing flock.
Time
The longer a bird is in quarantine, the greater the opportunity for diseases to manifest themselves and be detected. Two weeks is the bare minimum recommendation, but longer is better.

Observation
Observe new birds for signs of illness including: coughing, sneezing, gurgling, red, swollen or watery eyes, eye or nasal discharge, paralysis of legs and/or wings, discolored combs/wattles, drowsiness, depression, uncoordinated movements, lack of appetite, failure to drink and/or unusual droppings (bloody, worms, diarrhea).

**Any time a chicken dies unexpectedly, a veterinarian, poultry pathology lab, state extension office or the USDA should be consulted for a disease investigation that includes a necropsy of the deceased bird(s). Always preserve the body for a necropsy by keeping it cold, never frozen, until further instruction is given by a vet. The USDA veterinarians can be consulted, free of charge at: 866-536-7593.**
Any time a chicken dies unexpectedly, a veterinarian, poultry pathology lab, state extension office or the USDA should be consulted for a disease investigation
Disclaimer The-Chicken-Chick.com
Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®


76 comments :

  1. i went rounds and rounds treating an outbreak of round worms this year after not quarantining new birds. NEVER again... never again. i will hatch them myself or do without.
    even the dog got roundworms from eating their poo! ug...
    -the wandering chicken and mini-farm.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh my gosh, Melissa's story is so sad! I'm so glad she allowed you to share it so hopefully others won't have to go through the same thing. This post is timely for me as we are thinking of adding some pullets to our flock. If we do, I will be sure to keep them far away from our existing flock for at least a month! 

    ReplyDelete
  3. Question: if you hatch your own eggs, will they be okay?

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a sad sorry. I feel so sad for Melissa and her family, to lose such a large flock so quickly. Thank you for sharing the story, it's a good reminder.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Such a sad story!! I feel so sorry for that family! This article is so important it should also have a link to your article on coccidiosis.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is such important advice!  As a novice chicken owner this is one of the reasons I shy away from adopting grown chickens.  I plan to incubate eggs for new flock babies later this month....hopefully this cuts down infecting the whole flock with a disease.  Am I right?????  
    Jo

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wendy McKenzie12/27/12, 10:19 PM

    We also found this out the hard way, I believe we also got CRD, but we treated with Tylan for 5 days and did not loose any birds, but we added 6 new birds after that and 3 of them also had to be treated.  Even though we didn't have any chickens die from this, it is still tough because we wanted to raise some chicks to sell and I don't think we can/should, since they will all be introduced to the CRD.  Frustrating that, for us, it was one bird that brought this all in, all we had were chicks until we brought in the first adult - I have a much better appreciation for raising up chicks and waiting for them to grow up under your care rather than getting an older bird.

    ReplyDelete
  8. TheChickenChick12/27/12, 11:00 PM

    Thank you for sharing your story and experience with us, Wendy.

    ReplyDelete
  9. TheChickenChick12/27/12, 11:01 PM

    You are absolutely right, Joanne.

    ReplyDelete
  10. TheChickenChick12/27/12, 11:03 PM

    Chicks that you hatch yourself will not be carriers of any pre-existing condition or disease, therefore, any existing flock members would not be at risk of contracting anything from the chicks.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Melissa's story is so sad.  It is great that you are getting the word out for others and providing this wonderful information.  Wishing you all the best Kathy in 2013.  

    ReplyDelete
  12. JoAnn Hutcheson12/28/12, 7:27 AM

    Wow, I had no idea some diseases travel thru air. So sorry for your friends loss. And thank you for sharing all this info. Hubby has been thinking about raising a small herd of chickens, as we did many many years ago, when our children were kids. 

    ReplyDelete
  13. Amy Stafford12/28/12, 8:29 AM

    What a terrible story, but thank you for sharing Kathy.  It reminds us to be vigilant with our flocks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. What about day-old chicks, shipped directly or purchased from the feed store?  Can they be safely raised in the same coop, in their own fenced-off area?

    ReplyDelete
  15. Wow, this is so informative! I would have never thought to do this, but I'm so glad that I stumbled upon this particular post. 
    Is it true that when you introduce new chickens into a flock, the old flock members will pick on the new members? And if so how can we prevent that from happening? I don't know if this is normal or if our hens are just bullies..

    ReplyDelete
  16. That was interesting. Do you know anything about ducks? we have some ducks that have bumps on their feet. In October we put a wooden floor on their cage and since then we noticed their foot problem. Thanks for any help. Linda

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Kathy,
    What a sad story :( But also very informative, especially for newbies...good info! I would love to have you share this next week on Wildcrafting Wednesdays! Please stop by to vote for your favorite post on our People's Choice Awards at:http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2012/12/peoples-choice-award-for-wildcrafting-wednesday.html

    ReplyDelete
  18. TheChickenChick12/29/12, 12:55 PM

    Some rearranging of the pecking order is to be expected, Terra, however, measures should be taken to carefully integrate the new members into the existing flock so as to minimize the squabbling.
    This is what I recommend: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/06/integrating-new-flock-members-playpen.html

    ReplyDelete
  19. TheChickenChick12/29/12, 1:10 PM

    New chicks that have never been exposed to other chickens or facilities do not require quarantine.

    ReplyDelete
  20. TheChickenChick12/29/12, 1:11 PM

    Do it, JoAnn, they are so much fun!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Heather Jackson1/7/13, 2:38 PM

    This is such useful information!  Thank you !  I'm on the lookout for a small coop that I can use for quarantine space!

    ReplyDelete
  22. TheChickenChick1/9/13, 12:01 AM

    My pleasure, Heather. I hope it helps. :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi Kathy.  I dialed the # you have listed above for the USDA I think.  Anyway, it says the # dialed is not in service. 
    Great article though.  I think not quarantining cost me 4 or 5 chickens this past chickens.  I'm always in too much of a hurry to see if they will get along!  I've learned my lesson and will do the full quarantine from now on.  Thanks very much

    ReplyDelete
  24.  Great Information and very important RULE!!! I watch yard sales for Kid's Plastic Playhouses. They work great for Chicken coops and look cute around the yard for the various stages of Chicks to chickens that I have separated from my main coop of laying hens.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Mets Salazar1/30/13, 7:21 AM

    Great reminder on the importance of quarantining. I have a new hen in quarantine (it's been 2 weeks), and have been so tempted to "cut the quarantine short" since she has appeared healthy since the day brought home. Re-reading your post today (have read it before), it reminded me to do the best thing for my existing flock, and not act out of a desire to "get back to normal" having all my chickens in the one run/coop. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  26. I learned a lot from this blog post. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I did not quarantine new birds that I brought home, nor did I know how important their vaccines are. I lost 3( most likely the carriers) and when the 4th got sick(our very first chick from last year) I called our local co-op. They thought Newcastle and I had to have the 4th put down and tested. It turned out to be Marek's Disease. It was sad to watch the birds die that way. The 8 we have left are doing well, 3 out of them were vaccinated so hopefully everyone stays healthy!

    ReplyDelete
  28. TheChickenChick3/27/13, 11:48 PM

    Very sad, Lisa. Sorry to hear it. You know better now and I'm sure it won't happen again.

    ReplyDelete
  29. The Cipro may have been a factor in the demise of the flock. It is a very potent drug which has not been approved for use in aviary settings.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've seen a number of references to vaccinations. Is that done by injection? If there is no avian vet available in your area can you do it at home? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  31. So what do I do if we didn't quarantine and have lost 2 of 5 original birds. We still have 3 original birds, how can I treat the rest of the flock?

    ReplyDelete
  32. TheChickenChick7/14/13, 1:07 PM

    You need to know what they died of in order to know whether it is treatable or not. Clearly the three remaining birds are not safe to integrate into your existing flock at this point and they may never be, but the only way to know is to have them tested either post mortem or by a vet.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Heather O'Keefe7/14/13, 2:48 PM

    We always keep any new birds/fledglings we get for our flock, inside the house with us for about 2 months. This not only allows us to observe if they're sick or not, but allows time for us to bond with them, and them with us. And then when we get ready to introduce them to the flock afterwards, it's only for a few hours at a time that's supervised for a couple of weeks, leaving them longer and longer with the established flock till they're ready to be left in the coop at night without too much fuss and fighting as the new pecking order is figured out among them.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Cassandra Wolfe7/14/13, 4:33 PM

    how hard is it to vaccinate for mareks? what is symptoms?

    ReplyDelete
  35. Sharron Johnson7/14/13, 4:39 PM

    From reading your posts I knew the importance of quarantine, but didn't realize the need for the separation and timing. My heart just ached when I read of Melissa's loss, devastating... We were thinking of getting more chicks this Sept, but I think we'll wait till Spring now as the quarantine will be easier. I'm thankful to Melissa, as nothing illustrates the importance of something as a shared experience.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Cherish Leppert Holland7/14/13, 5:26 PM

    I do rescues and always quarantine my new rescues for 2 months before I even think about introducing them to the existing flock. Great article thank you for the reminder of the importance of this.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Is the quarantine for older chickens or does it pertain to bringing new chicks home from, say, Tractor Supply or the like?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Does the same rule apply if you get the birds from the same breeder a few months apart?

    ReplyDelete
  39. susan ladner7/14/13, 10:58 PM

    Good info. I didn't know the USDA would do that. We have tried to raise baby guineas and most of them always get something and die when they get a little older and can free range. I would love to know what is going on and what they have that is doing this to them. I'll be sure to call them the next time we try to raise some again and they die.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I read this today, 16 days after buying and introducing the flock to four young pullets we purchased from a local farm. We only quarantined them for about 24 hours, and then slowly began introducing them to the rest of the flock. I was nervous about introducing them so early since I'd read a long time ago about quarantining them, but my husband was assured by several local farmers that it wasn't necessary. Now what? Should we quarantine them now, or are we out of the danger zone? At least I know what to do in the future. Thanks for your help.

    ReplyDelete
  41. TheChickenChick7/16/13, 7:21 PM

    The main concern is for birds from non-hatchery environments. Baby chicks are ordinarily brooded in the house away from the flock anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  42. TheChickenChick7/16/13, 7:22 PM

    Absolutely, same rules apply, Jeff.

    ReplyDelete
  43. TheChickenChick7/16/13, 8:26 PM

    I'd say it's too late now. MOST of the time there isn't a problem, but to be in the minority and lose you're entire flock is devastating.

    ReplyDelete
  44. As a newbie, I sure wish I had known about this prior. You can never do enough research. Thank you for spending your time to educate others.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Denise Allison Magil9/28/13, 1:23 AM

    found it thank you!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  46. This past spring I purchased 6 chickens from Rural King, I already had a couple of Houdans, Silkies and Polish. I was brand new to chickens and didn't know to quarantine. All were about the same age so I put them in a stock tank in my garage and grew them up until they could go out to their coop under a heat lamp. They did great together and once they were full grown I began to lose the Rural King hens, I lost all but 2 of them. I was told that it was Mareks disease but never had them tested. The two are still alive and healthy and laying pretty blue eggs. Yesterday I got 3, 3 mo old chicks that appear very healthy. I do have them quarantined, but I've been told that I can never put them in with the ones with the suspected Mereks. What is your advice?

    ReplyDelete
  47. My chicks hatched may 27th. It's starting to get cold where I live and less light. I don't want to put a light on a timer in the coop because I think they should lay naturally with the seasons. I'm wondering I should expect an egg in the middle of winter or if I shoul plan on it being spring before I get my first egg?

    ReplyDelete
  48. Thanks for the info. Very enlightening.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Maria Badgett1/18/14, 9:35 PM

    Thank you Kathy. This is great information, as we are planning on re-homing our Rhode Island Red rooster and obtaining another rooster later this spring. We don't have a basement but have a barn where I can modify part of it for quarantine. There are no other animals in it (like horses or cattle). I presume quarantine is also vital to chicks.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Oh man! Free necropsy? We paid the University of MN a small fortune for our chicken's analysis. Wish we had known....

    ReplyDelete
  51. Melissa Wittner1/18/14, 11:57 PM

    I had four Blue splash Marans arrive this summer. Within two months, two were dead from the same disease that brought down Melissa's entire flock. Tgank goodness I kept them seperate. I've got nine new birds coming next weekend and a quarantine area set up on the other side of the property. Its such a good practice, thank you for spreading the word.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Melissa Wittner1/18/14, 11:58 PM

    Would you mind fixing my spelling mistake? New phone... :)

    ReplyDelete
  53. Carol Lawson1/19/14, 11:30 AM

    Thank you so much for having this Blog ! I think it is very informative ! Please continue the Good Work! Its Very much Appreciated not only by me , I'm sure ! From a Chicken Lover

    ReplyDelete
  54. TheChickenChick1/21/14, 9:18 PM

    Thank you Carol. :)

    ReplyDelete
  55. Now I understand the quarantine process, I did not know this. Now after the quarantine how do I introduce the new birds, I have baby chicks coming in a month, do they have to have their own coop until fully grown?? Thank you for all your informative info, I am a new chicken keeper and just seem to want more and more chickens!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  56. TheChickenChick2/16/14, 1:55 PM

    These two articles should help you: http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/04/when-to-move-chicks-from-brooder-to.html

    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/06/integrating-new-flock-members-playpen.html

    ReplyDelete
  57. This is the reason we bought eggs to incubate to add to our flock, rather than buy chickens.

    ReplyDelete
  58. I have a question, I have my first small flock on order I am getting special breads from a reputable place. I am getting 8 bantam types of chicks they do not vaccinate before shipping because of the small size of the babies. It is something that has worried me since placing my order. I live in NV what do I need to do on my part to keep them healthy besides medicated feed? I have been reading so much and learned so much this is one thing I haven't found munch info on.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Thanks for your article, I learned the hard way. As a youth & into my 20's, I was passionate about showing chickens, it was my life!! I used to show at just two poultry shows every year, and I never quarantined when I got home because I didn't take it seriously. Once my flock picked up scaley leg mites from a show which I was able to eliminate with a -lot- of work, it could have been prevented if I had vaselined all of my birds legs when I got home. Still I kept showing without quarantining.

    The worst was about 6 years ago and it completely changed my life and what I was able to do with my chickens. I showed a few birds at a local show, and during that show I noticed a bird cooped right next to my bird who was obviously sick - plugged nose, watery eyes, puffed feathers. I got upset at the owner of the bird and asked him to take it out of the show but he was in denial about it being sick and put up a stink about it. Over the next year I lost half of my flock to infectious laryingotrachaeitis. Most asphyxiated and suffocated due to cankers that are symptoms of the virus. I killed so many birds who showed symptoms and it was emotionally heartwrenching. I had so much love, experimentation in genetics and time invested into my flock I opted to let the flock die out naturally instead of wiping them all out myself, but it was this moral question that weighed on my mind every day - do I kill them all and be done with it? Or do I see if they are able to recover from it and live somewhat normal lives? It has been 5 years now and I lose four or five birds a year out of 45. They are all potential carriers even if they look healthy so I have not let birds off the property since the outbreak, and showing is completely out of the question because I would never wish this upon another persons flock. All of the remaining birds appear and act completely healthy but I know they are carriers so I am letting the flock die out naturally. It has hugely curbed the numbers of what I am able to raise, since I no longer have an outlet for my extra birds, and I have to kill them instead of rehoming them, so I have stopped hatching for the most part. It's a really sad situation that could have been prevented had I quarantined, and now I know. Good luck out there, please quarantine your birds and take health at poultry shows seriously!

    ReplyDelete
  60. Erin Bryan Finney3/10/14, 9:53 AM

    I sure wish I would have read this a week ago. Long story short. We had a Hen (She never laid an egg?!?!) and a Rooster for almost 2 months. Brought in a new hen and 4- 1 month old chicks. (Did not quarantine b/c I had NO idea!) A few days later our old hen died. Didn't notice any breathing problems. bugs. etc. but she wasn't eating/ drinking much. And sleeping A LOT. Today I notice that Mr. Rooster is sleeping A LOT, haven't notice eating/ drinking changes.. What do you think could be wrong?! What should I do? Is it too late to isolate the newbies?! Please email me if possible! I'd hate to lose all of our ladies.. erb282@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  61. TheChickenChick3/10/14, 8:25 PM

    Clean water and a clean brooder. That's it!

    ReplyDelete
  62. TheChickenChick3/13/14, 1:05 AM

    Very sad. Thank you for sharing Allison.

    ReplyDelete
  63. TheChickenChick3/13/14, 1:11 AM

    Oh no. Please have a necropsy performed if any others pass, Erin. I don't know why they are dying, but you need to find out.

    ReplyDelete
  64. Ok that is what my plan is so that is great news! Thank you for responding! I <3 your blog and follow you on Facebook that when I know when to come over here to read your newest! Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  65. Melissa Hudson4/1/14, 3:40 AM

    Wish I read this a few weeks ago. I to am going through the same process as Melissa. I find out tomorrow what my new hens have brought with them. I separated for a week, more for introducing than for quarantine. I have added chickens many times over the yeRs and never have I seen what is wrong with them now. One died with in three days but showed no signs but just put it down as being moved. I also had one with a cough but because it ate and drank I didn't think it was anything serious. I certainly know now that it is. One dying and another showing symptoms. Just praying it is treatable and I don't lose all my new and old flock.

    ReplyDelete
  66. Juli Morris4/2/14, 12:00 PM

    How heartbreaking...

    ReplyDelete
  67. Juli Morris4/2/14, 12:04 PM

    I had read about quarantining and did so. However, the importance was driven home when I stopped at a hatchery and got into a discussion with the lady at the front desk. A friend had picked up a couple of new chickens at a swap and brought them over to show her. Within days she lost her entire laying flock... Lesson driven home. All of my newbies get a nice long quarantine in the "quarantine run".

    ReplyDelete
  68. TheChickenChick4/4/14, 1:22 AM

    What did you find out, Melissa?

    ReplyDelete
  69. TheChickenChick4/4/14, 1:30 AM

    Atta girl, Juli!

    ReplyDelete
  70. TheChickenChick4/4/14, 1:33 AM

    OMG, how horrific. Call and speak with a vet at the USDA STAT- it's a free service. 866-536-7593 They will be able to give you answers I cannot.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Melissa Sager4/4/14, 10:32 AM

    Would the same quarantine procedure be needed if I'm getting ducks, instead of chickens?

    ReplyDelete
  72. TheChickenChick4/4/14, 11:34 PM

    Yes.

    ReplyDelete
  73. I recently got 3 2 week old chicks from a friend who got them from Tractor Supply, so obviously they're still inside and will be for quite a while. Do I follow the same protocol with these chicks as you've outlined above?

    ReplyDelete
  74. TheChickenChick4/19/14, 1:05 PM

    No, baby chicks do not need to be quarantined.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Awesome, thank you! I just wanted to double check since I got them from a friend and they were about 2 weeks old when I got them.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...