Vaccinating Chickens: Is It Worth It For Backyard Chicken Owners

For many backyard flock owners, the decision of vaccinating chickens or not vaccinating chickens can sometimes be a tough one. There are several arguments both for and against vaccination in small flocks.

There are several reasons that flock owners say that they do not vaccinate:

  • They rarely have any problems with disease
  • They are unaware that diseases may be present in their flock
  • They do not know where to obtain vaccinations
  • They are discouraged by the fact that the vaccinations come in large dose vials and that they will waste most of it
  • These are all possible problems, especially the fact that most vaccines do come in very large vials. It doesn't seem worth the cost when you only have ten or twelve birds to vaccinate.

    If you order chicks or get them from a hatchery, chances are that you can get them vaccinated, as many vaccinations should occur early in the chicks life. Marek's Disease is one of the diseases that is commonly vaccinated early in the chicks life. You can order birds that already have been vaccinated for Marek's in many cases.

    Why would I not vaccinate my chickens?

    If you practice pristine management with a small flock there would really be no use for vaccinating chickens. What defines pristine management? It means that your birds would not be exposed to disease.

    It means you:

  • Keep a closed flock. You don't introduce new birds, especially birds bought from auctions and other places that could have been exposed to disease.
  • Keep a clean chicken coop. The fact that you don't let waste sit around and birds to peck at their waste prevents many sicknesses and diseases from infecting your flock.
  • Haven't had disease problems in the past. If you have, there is probably still a good chance that it could happen again.
  • Take measures such as, having guests that own their own flocks to disinfect their shoes. That you disinfect your own shoes if you have been around other flocks of birds. That you take cleaning precautions for any used equipment that you buy.
  • If you do decide to vaccinate:

    Vaccinations are going to come in large vials. That is just part of it. Producers of vaccines mainly sell to large farms and commercial operations that prefer these.

    Don't let this discourage you. As stated before, Marek's Disease and some others are best done at the hatcheries.

    If you hatch your own birds, then they should be done in the first couple of days of the chicks life. The Marek's vaccination is done by an injection on the back of the neck.

    You follow the recommended dosage and then swab the back of the chick's neck with alcohol, and then inject just under the skin.

    Marek's vaccinations are highly effective when done correctly. The vaccine is not nearly as effective if the bird has already been exposed to the disease, so it is important that it is done as early as possible.

    Other diseases that you may consider vaccinating chickens for include:

  • Infectious Laryngotracheitis
  • Pox
  • Newcastle's Disease
  • Infectious Bronchitis
  • Mycoplasmosis
  • Avian Flu
  • You will have to weigh the potential of these diseases in your area and other factors before you decide to go to the expense and trouble of the vaccinations.

    As always, a good place to start in the U.S. would be to contact your local extension agent and find out what is commonly vaccinated for in your area.

    Also, talk to other farmers and backyard chicken owners. Do they vaccinate?

    If they do, what do they vaccinate for? Have there been outbreaks of certain diseases in your area? These are all important questions to ask.

    Many diseases can be easily prevented through vaccinating chickens, but it is a choice of what you do with your flock. Weigh out the risks and your maintenance practices and make a good decision for yourself.

    Return From Vaccinating Chickens to Chicken Diseases

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