By Randy Stevens As published in Backyard Poultry Magazine
Dubbing is the practice of removing the comb, and the wattles of your fowl, to help prevent frostbite, and the complications that come with it. If you live in a area of the country that experiences below freezing temperatures, you might want to consider dubbing an option to prevent this, because it can lead to serious infections, fertility problems, permanent tissue damage, and even death. It does not hurt the bird to do this, and will make your whole flock healthier in the long run. Like many things that concern chickens, everyone has their own methods of dubbing, and along with that, different reasons for doing it. Birds, like the Old English Bantams, require dubbing to meet the standard for showing them, and some people like to dub their birds at a specific age, to help control the size of the adult bird. I dub all my fowl, including the hens, to promote better health, and prevent them from getting frostbite, which can be a real problem where I live.
To get the best results, dubbing is primarily done when chickens reach breeding age, and their combs and wattles are pretty much full grown. The first thing I make sure of when I am going to dub birds, is to do it at the right time of the month, so the bleeding is kept to a minimum. It is best to dub a bird the last two, or three days of the moon cycle, just before the new moon. This puts the blood of the bird more in the feet, and less in the head of the bird. I also prefer to do it in the evening, when the birds are calm, and will not be doing a bunch of running around after they are dubbed. It is best to avoid doing it during the hot summer months too, because the heat thins the blood. It is also a good idea to take the water away from the bird you plan on dubbing the day before, so their blood will be thicker, and will clot better. Some people also supplement Vitamin K to their birds prior to dubbing, by feeding alfalfa meal in with their normal feed, or using red cell in the drinking water. Others swear by dunking the birds’ head in a cold bucket of water before, and after dubbing too. All of the things I mentioned are meant to help keep bleeding to a minimum, and any of them will help, but they aren’t required. I have seen many a bird get dubbed without following the above steps, and do just fine, but I am trying to provide you with tips to make the process easier on you, and your fowl.
After deciding on a day, the next thing to do is to prepare to do it.You will need a very sharp, high quality pair of scissors that are capable of cutting through the flesh.I use a pair of leather trimming shears, but some people buy scissors specifically made for this.You can purchase them from most high quality poultry supply companies.I can say, don’t skimp on this, as it makes it much easier to dub a bird if you have a good pair of scissors.You will also need some rubbing alcohol, a towel, and some blood stop powder (You can use flour for this too, if you don’t want to spend the big bucks for the blood stop powder.)Next, you will need to decide what you are going to dub.I dub my combs tight to the head most of the time, which is as close as I can, because I like the look it gives my birds, and I remove the wattles and earlobes too, if they are excessively long.Most people dub the comb approximately a quarter inch off the head, and the wattles, and earlobes tight.The birds that have the worst problems with frostbite, are the tall, straight combed birds.Pea combed fowl need to be dubbed too, but most rose, and walnut combed birds are tight enough to the head, that you shouldn’t have a problem with them.
Once you decide how you are going to dub your bird, you need to take your bird to an area for doing this, preferably outside, as you will get some blood. Take your towel, and spread it out on your work area, grab your bird by the feet with one hand, and cradle the breast with your other hand. Lay the bird at one end of the towel, with his head and feet hanging over the edges. Make sure the bird’s wings are tucked in tight, and still holding the feet, roll the bird up in the towel. If done properly, you will have a bird with only it’s head, and feet hanging out of the rolled up towel, and it is unable to move. If you have a helper, it makes this easier, because you can now have them put their hands around the bird, to keep it calm and unable to wiggle loose. If not, I sit down, and put the bird between my legs, and hold it with my knees. You now need to disinfect the area of dubbing, and your scissors, with the rubbing alcohol. You don’t need much, just a damp cloth to clean the comb, and wattles if you desire. Take care not to get alcohol in the birds’ eyes. Ok, at this point, you are ready to start cutting. Remember, you can not replace flesh that you cut off, so if you are not sure what you are doing, it is better to take less off, and trim down to where you want to go, than to take too much off by accident. I like to start at the back of the head. I take the comb between my fingers in one hand, pull it up away from the bird’s head, then place the scissors behind the comb, tight to the top of the birds’ head, and angling up towards the middle of the comb, for the first cut. Once you make the first cut, you will see blood, don’t worry about it, just finish your cutting. Some birds will bleed a lot, some won’t bleed at all, either way, I will talk about what to do about that, after the dubbing process is finished. Next, you want to hold on to the tallest part of the comb left, and pull it tight. Place your scissors parallel to the head, at the distance you have decided on, and make your next cut. You should be done with the comb at this point, unless you need to do some trimming, for cosmetic reasons. If you decide to cut the wattles and earlobes off, now is the time to do it. If your birds have wattles that are over a quarter inch long, I recommend cutting them. These are much easier to cut, as they are thin, but it is very important to not pull on these when you cut them. If you pull them tight, and cut them off where it looks flush, you will end up having a large hole in the side of their necks from cutting too much off. If you do this, don’t worry, it will heal fine, it just looks scary at first, and leaves a larger wound, and will take longer to heal. With cutting the wattles, it is best to cut off less, and trim your way flush to the neck. If properly done, there will just be a slit in the skin where the wattle was. Some people like to trim the earlobes too, but it isn’t necessary to dub them, as it is not an area that will get frostbite typically, unless they are unusually large. If you decide to dub the earlobes, do them the same way you did the wattles.
After you have finished the cutting, you will want to stop any severe bleeding. Most of the time, the bleeding is very minor, and you can just put the bird back in its pen, and it will be fine. If you get a bird that is bleeding excessively, just apply pressure to the area with a clean cloth until it slows down. If you get bleeding that doesn’t want to stop after a couple minutes of pressure, just sprinkle some blood stop, or flour in the wound, and it will help stop the bleeding. The next day, you will want to check the bird and make sure that its nose isn’t plugged with dried blood. If it is, take a moist cloth, and clean it out so the bird can breath properly. It is also a good idea to treat the bird with a broad spectrum antibiotic for a couple of days to help prevent infections.Most dubbings will heal completely within 2 to 3 weeks. If you have a bird that has frostbite, I dub the bird immediately.Doing this, will keep your bird from getting infections from dead tissue, and they will heal from the dubbing much faster than waiting for the dead tissue to fall off.Ifthe wattles, or earlobes, are swelled to the point that you can’t dub them, I like to cut a slit for the excess blood, and liquids to drain.Usually, after 24 hours of draining, the swelling will have went down enough that you can dub them.
Along with worrying about the head of your fowl, you need to think of your bird’s feet too. Make sure that your roosts are wide enough, that when they are on them, their breast feathers cover their toes. I use 2×4 lumber for my roosts, thin side up for bantam sized birds, and the wider side up for larger breeds. Doing this, will virtually eliminate loosing toes. Chickens can handle the cold surprisingly well, even better than they can handle extreme heat. If you have a spot for them to get out of the elements, keep them dubbed, and have nice wide roosts for them, they should be able to handle just about anything!
Cutting off spurs is very simple, and does not hurt your chickens at all. Spurs have an inner core, which is the live part, and an outer husk, which is the hard horn type material. When you trim the spur, you are cutting the outer husk. The trick is to not cut into the inner core, which can bleed. The first thing you will need to do is to immobilize your bird. What I have found works well for this is to take an old towel, fold it in half, lay the bird down on it, hold the wings tight to the body, and leaving only the head and legs sticking out, roll the bird in the towel nice and snug. By doing this, it will allow you to work on his spurs much easier, and even do it by yourself! After securing the bird, you will need to decide where you need to cut the spur off. As a rule of thumb, I have found that the length of the inner core is approximately three times the size of the diameter of the spur itself, which on most standard sized, mature roosters will be about 5/8 of an inch away from the leg. Next, grab the spur at the base, while supporting the leg at the same time. Doing this is very important as the saw can grab while cutting, and you don’t want to excessively torque the spur which can actually break the connection of it to the leg bone. Next, use a small, fine toothed hacksaw to cut the spur off. I find it works best to use short, light strokes with the saw. Some people prefer to use a rotary tool to do this, if you do, just make sure that you don’t inadvertently hit the leg, or your fingers for that matter, because it will cut anything it touches very quickly. If done properly, you will see no bleeding at all. If you do trim them a little short, and get into the inner core, you may get some bleeding. This is nothing to be concerned about, as it won’t bleed excessively, and will soon stop on it’s own.
Notice how the bird is immobilized in the towel with only his head and feet hanging out. This will allow you to work on your bird without assistance.
Spur before trimming.
While gripping the spur firmly, begin to make your cut. Notice how I hold both the leg, and the spur at the same time.
This is what you should end up with after being cut, and as you can see, the spur is very blunt. This is the best option to help keep your hens from getting damaged from being topped.
Twisting off the spur is a little more difficult in my opinion. You may have had people tell you to use a potato, or some other method, but you don’t need anything special to twist them off. What you are doing by twisting off the spurs, is removing the outer husk from the inner core completely. To do this, follow the method above to immobilize the bird, then hold the bird by the leg where the spur is attached. Take a pair of ordinary pliers and grip the spur approximately where the inner core ends, and rock the spur gently side to side to help break it loose. Once you feel the spur start to loosen, use the pliers in a twisting motion to pop off the outer husk. What you will end up with is the soft inner core of the spur. You will see some blood, but it is typically minimal. After a few days, the spur will harden up, and you will have a stag sized spur again.
Spurs that have grown long after being trimmed before.
Hold the leg firmly as you begin to remove the outer casing, notice the placement of the pliers, if you get them too close to the leg, you will have trouble twisting them off.
Both spurs have been removed, you can see them laying on the floor next to the legs.
Trimming toenails is another thing you can do to help protect your hen’s backsides. It also will need done to fowl that are raised on wire, because they don’t wear down the toenails naturally as they would if they were raised on the ground. It’s really easy to do with no bleeding, as long as you do it right. To start, you will need to immobilize the bird in the same fashion I already described, and a pair of dog toenail clippers. Some breeds have dark nails, and some have lighter ones. The lighter ones are much easier to do since you can see the vein in the nail. The vein is like the quick in a dog, if you hit the vein while trimming, it will cause some bleeding. On the chickens with light colored nails, it is easy to see where the vein is, so just cut enough that you don’t hit it. On the dark nails, I find it best to hold them up in the light to trim. It can be tricky with really dark ones to see, but by holding them against a light source, it will help you see where you need to cut. It is best to leave them longer if you are not sure where to cut, than to cut too close. If you do cut too far back, and get some bleeding, it will stop by applying pressure. Even if you still see some bleeding after that, don’t worry too much as it will quit on its own.
Toenails in need of trimming.
Find your placement for the cut by watching where the vein ends in the nail.
After the nails have been trimmed.
Some additional notes: Trimming both the spurs, and toenails will definitely help keep your hens from getting damage from them when being topped, but something that is just as important is your hen to rooster ratio. Too many roosters can literally kill your hens from being topped too much, even after being trimmed. Some breeds of chickens are worse than others for this, but as a rule of thumb, one rooster can top several hens without a problem. Also, you can run into problems with abnormally submissive hens. Hens like this will drop to be bred just by the sight of a rooster getting close. When this situation happens, the hen will be over bred, and can easily be damaged from this. There isn’t much you can do about this situation except to keep roosters away from them, put a chicken saddle on her, or what I do, cull her out. This is not a desirable trait, so I prefer to not breed off them. Something else you may run across, are hens that are spurred. I prefer to leave the spurs on the hens, as they won’t hurt anything to let them keep them, and having spurs will help them defend their chicks, especially if they are free ranging. Another thing to consider if you are free ranging is to not trim the spurs on your rooster for the same reasons. A good rooster will help protect your flock, and chicks as well, and having spurs will help him do this. Now saying this, if you let them get too long, they will start curling to the point it won’t help, and will actually hinder him walking properly. This is where twisting off the spur is the better choice, because by doing this, the spur will harden back up to a weapon for the rooster to use for defending with. Either way, you will have to make your own decisions when deciding whether or not to trim your birds, but hopefully this information will help you make that decision. If you want to learn more about this, or any other issues with the caring of your fowl, check out our forum for this at www.ultimatefowl.com.
Maintaining a Family of Gamefowl
Several months ago a good friend asked us to write an article that would map out a method on how to maintain a family of gamefowl. At the time, we did not give the matter much thought simply because we did not consider ourselves qualified to be writing about the subject.
Not that we claim to be experts on the subject now, but after maintaining a couple of strains of gamefowl at a high level of competitiveness since 1985, there are a few thoughts we can share with you that may help you in your breeding efforts. We will list as they come to mind, in no particular order of importance.
SINGLEMATE – You must know exactly who the parents are on both sides. Most great families owe their greatness to a few outstanding individuals and it is your never ending job to find them in your fowl. The only way we know to do this is by singlemating.
KEEP ACCURATE RECORDS – Of your matings and the offspring they produce as well as the performance of the offspring from each of these matings. This is the tool you will use to evaluate each singlemating and decide whether to continue it or not. Without good records, you cannot make sound breeding decisions. A NOTE OF CAUTION: If you track your fowl using a computer program, be sure and keep that information backed up on a disk everytime you update it, because if your computer crashes (which they all do now and then) that information may be permanently unavailable.
BE EXTREMELY SELECTIVE IN YOUR MATINGS – Very picky if you will, of both parents. They must be perfect in every way and HEALTY. Spend as much time as you need to deciding which individuals to mate. Study them carefully and make sure they will further your breeding goals. Follow your gut instinct and the facts rather than getting hung up on breed names, feather and leg colors, etc, as in the end all that matters is the PERFORMANCE of their offspring.
ONLY HAVE ONE OR TWO FAMILIES – Unless you have an unlimited amount of money, time and space, you need to concentrate your efforts on one or two families of fowl at the most. That is why you must find the ones that suit you the best and build from there. It’s a lot of fun to have different types of gamefowl, and we all have been there at some time in our lives. But if you are serious about your breeding program, you cannot afford to take this route. Each time you acquire new fowl, you will be taking away time, space, etc, from the ones you started out with and want to perpetuate.
PROVE EACH MATING – You will have to use other hens or an incubator to hatch the eggs from your singlemated pens in order to raise a good number of chicks from them. The more stags you can raise from a pair, the better you will be able to evaluate the production of that pair. Again, good record keeping is a must. Before deciding to breed any offspring from any of these matings, make sure the production of the pair lives up to your scrutiny and expectations. Work base on the results you achieve. It should take you on the average close to 2 years to prove the results of a pair, unless they are an early maturing strain.
DO NOT MAKE NEW MATINGS EACH YEAR – If you find a top producing pair, keep them together as long as you can before branching out and breeding to other individuals. A good pair should produce for 5 or more years depending on how old they were at the time you started with them. Remember that each new mating you put together will have to be put to the same scrutiny and that you will need additional space and pens to care for their offspring. So plan the number of matings carefully based on all the resource you have and the goals you hope to achieve.
DO NOT SKIMP ON FEED AND CARE – This one are will defeat you before you ever get stated. Good feed and care are what produces healthy fowl, and health is what you need for the longevity of a family of fowl. If you can turn your hens out to free range after the breeding season, you can keep them looking, feeling and acting like pullets for many years. We’ve had 10 year old hens that did not show their age and produced like pullets because they were turned out to free range at the conclusion of each breeding season. Sure you will probably lose some, but you will lose them quicker if you keep them penned up all their lives.
KEEP A SAFE NUMBER REPLACEMENTS – With gamefowl, disaster seems to always be lurking just around the corner. For this reason, once you locate your top producing pairs, it is a good idea to keep at least a couple of females and male from each of them even though you may not breed these offspring for couple of years or so. What you can do is replace these with subsequent years offspring from these pairs so you can have some fairly young individuals to use and carry on their bloodline. The blood of many good producing individuals is never carried on simply because their owners failed to plan and did not keep any of their offspring (because they were not going to breed them at the time), then they lose the hen or cock for one reason or another and that is far as they are able to go with that pair.
FIND THE BREEDING METHOD THAT WORKS FOR YOU – As most of you know, there is inbreeding, linebreeding, infusing, crossbreeding, and on and on. Which of these should you use is something you will have to find out for yourself based on the goals you have set in your breeding program., and your ability to make the right selections. Again, this is where good record keeping will prove to be a valuable tool in deciding which individual fowls blood should be used to carry on and improve the performance of the family.
We hope you are not too disappointed in finding out that we had no charts or graphs in this article showing you how the matings are to be carried out to produce super gamefowl for a lifetime. The reason for that is there is no such thing. It is all a matter of having good fowl to start with, keeping them healthy, singlemating, keeping extremely good production and performance records, and having the ability to analyze and interpret those records to decide your matings and the breeding methods you will use.
More Ideas on Maintaining a Breed
After I wrote my first article on establishing a breed, several people ask about how to maintain a breed. I did a little research and some thinking and came up with the following ideas.
The first factor is maintaining a large breeding population to select a few very outstanding fowl to perpetuate the strain. This population should contain some close bred and some almost unrelated fowl. The idea is to inbreed and then outcross then inbreed and outcross and so on. When I say outcross, I mean within the breed.
A second factor would be to have the healthiest conditions to raise our fowl. The best bred fowl raised poorly will not result in good fowl. I feel that many good strains have been lost because of over crowded conditions and poor feeding practices.
A third factor is money and time. (enough said)
Now to some productive practices. These ideas are not listed in order of importance, but all should be used at some point in the breeding program to maintain your strain with quality fowl.
1. The most successful matings should be duplicated with close relatives and if the Nick is true, you will have quality fowl from those matings to breed. For example, you breed a many time winner to a well bred well made hen and get world beaters. Get a good brother to the rooster and breed to some good sisters to the hen. You might even go breeding cousins of the original pair together.
2. The above mentioned pen should be linebred. Breed a good stag to his mother’s sisters and some good pullets to the rooster’s brothers. Then bring the reslting offspring back together. These would be bred much like the original cross and they should resemble the original cross breds. If you are lucky enough to get these results, then you can breed back to old original stock. This is inbreeding through line breeding and out crossing by crossing two line bred strains. The possibilities are endless when you maintain enough stock.
3. Breed some of the oldest stock to some of the youngest stock even when they are close bred. The tendency is to breed away from some of the good characteristics by accident and this will bring those back into the gene pool and very often it will result in hybrid vigor also.
4. Learn who has some of the same fowl and if they are good, bring their blood into your line. For example the Pitmaster breeds Redfox fowl and the Redfox fowl are being bred by Jack back in Alabama. If these two guys trust each other, they would have a lot going for each one by exchanging fowl from time to time. They have the same fowl, but because they are individuals, they will select for different traits. This practice will result in hybrid vigor also.
5. You don’t have to breed all your good stock every year. Most people have too many fowl to care for, it is much better to raise only what you can care for, but don’t let the unused brood fowl get away from you. You will need them later. Some years you will need to breed only battle stock, by breeding to other breeds.
6. Keep good records. You will need to know how all of your fowl are related. Record the fighting records of the roosters. You need to know which hens produce the most eggs and raise healthy babies as well.
7. Breeding brothers to sisters is usually unproductive, but if when the next generation is considered, it has a use. I like to select the hens from brother-sister matings that look the most like their grandmother and stags that look like their grandfather and cross these back to the old stocks (a brother to the old rooster and a sister to old hen). This is another form of linebreeding by intense inbreeding and then line breeding to the old stock. These fowl may not be strong enough to win at the top level, but they are very often great producers.
8. Bring your linebred strains together when you want to fight successfully, these crosses will have enough hybrid vigor to provide the bottom.
9. Always keep linebreeding only the very best crosses of these crosses. Every six or seven years you should be able to start a new line of fowl and bred these back to the old fowl.
10. Numbers are needed to maintain the line, but plan your breeding program so that you make only the number of brood pens that you need each year.
11. One last thought, have at least a five year plan for your matings. Plan breedings that will not be produced until five or ten years from now. This is one form of goal setting and it will provide you will a guide.
God Bless each of you and thanks for the opportunity to write this.
Roger I firstname.lastname@example.org
(taken from the old website of paulniteowl.com/birds/july4.htm)
Fowl Typhoid and Pullorum Disease
Bacillary White Diarrhea
Fowl typhoid and pullorum disease are among the most important diseases of poultry. These conditions are caused by two very closely related organisms, which were once thought to be different species but have recently been classified as biovars of Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica. Pullorum disease is usually symptomatic only in young birds. The mortality rate varies, but it can be as high as 100%. Fowl typhoid resembles pullorum disease in young birds, but it is also a serious concern in growing and adult poultry. The control of these diseases is complicated by vertical transmission: hens can become subclinically infected carriers, and pass the infections to their embryos in the egg. Fowl typhoid and pullorum disease have been eradicated from commercial poultry in many developed countries including the United States and Canada, but they may persist in backyard poultry flocks and game birds. Pullorum disease is an increasing concern in pheasant chicks. On rare occasions, these diseases have been reintroduced to commercial chicken or turkey farms.
Fowl typhoid results from infection by Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica serovar Gallinarum biovar Gallinarum (Salmonella Gallinarum), a Gram negative bacterial rod in the family Enterobacteriaceae (serogroup D). Pullorum disease is caused by the closely related organism S. enterica subsp. enterica ser. Gallinarum biovar Pullorum (Salmonella Pullorum). Other names may also be used for these bacteria. Some classification schemes consider them to be different serovars (i.e., S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Pullorum and S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Gallinarum), or place them both in the species S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Pullorum-Gallinarum. At one time, Salmonella Gallinarum and Salmonella Pullorum were considered to be separate species. Isolates may display a degree of host species tropism. For example, some isolates found in pheasants do not usually occur among chickens.
Chickens are the natural hosts for Salmonella Gallinarum and Salmonella Pullorum, but other birds can also be infected. In addition to chickens, Salmonella Gallinarum has been reported in turkeys, quail, guinea fowl, pheasants, peafowl, grouse, parrots, sparrows, ostriches and ring–necked doves. Although infections have been described in ducks and pigeons, most currently raised breeds of ducks, geese and pigeons seem to be resistant to clinical fowl typhoid. Salmonella Pullorum infections can be found in many avian species including chickens, turkeys, quail, guinea fowl, pheasants, ducks, pigeons, sparrows, canaries, bullfinches and parrots; however, pullorum disease is uncommon except in chickens, turkeys and pheasants. Although Salmonella Pullorum and Salmonella Gallinarum are considered to be highly adapted to birds, a few infections have been reported in mammals after experimental inoculation or natural exposure. Salmonella Pullorum has been reported in pigs, cattle, cats, dogs, foxes, mink, rabbits, guinea pigs, laboratory and wild rats, chinchillas and chimpanzees. Salmonella Gallinarum has been documented in experimentally infected rats.
Fowl typhoid and pullorum disease are common in some countries of Central and South America, Africa and Asia. These diseases have been eradicated from commercial poultry in many developed nations including the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and most countries in Europe. In areas where they are absent from commercial chickens and turkeys, Salmonella Gallinarum and Salmonella Pullorum may still be present in backyard flocks and wild birds. In these areas, pullorum disease can also occur in intensively reared game birds including pheasants, partridges and guinea fowl.
Horizontal and vertical transmission are both important in the epidemiology of fowl typhoid and pullorum disease. Birds can become chronic carriers for both organisms, passing them to their offspring in eggs. Horizontal transmission occurs via the respiratory and oral routes. Birds can ingest bacteria after environmental contamination or during cannibalism. Wound infections are also possible. Salmonella Gallinarum and Salmonella Pullorum can be transmitted on fomites including contaminated feed, water and litter; they may survive in a favorable environment for many months and up to several years. Wild birds, mammals, and insects can act as mechanical or biological vectors. Red mites, in particular, are involved in spreading fowl typhoid, and limited evidence suggests that rodents might be biological vectors for Salmonella Pullorum.
The incubation period is usually 4 to 6 days.
If birds are hatched from Salmonella Pullorum- or Salmonella Gallinarum- infected eggs, dead and dying chicks may be found shortly after hatching. Chicks and poults develop nonspecific signs such as depression, weakness, somnolence, loss of appetite, drooping wings, huddling, dehydration and ruffled feathers. Labored breathing or gasping, as well as diarrhea and pasting of the vent feathers, may be seen. The droppings can be white and viscous in pullorum disease. In somewhat older birds, pullorum disease can be subacute, and lameness and joint swelling may be apparent. Blindness has also been described. Birds that survive may be underweight and poorly feathered, and may not mature into productive adults. In growing birds and adults, Salmonella Pullorum infections are likely to be inapparent. Fowl typhoid can occur in older as well as young birds. The clinical signs may include decreased appetite, depression, dehydration, weight loss, ruffled feathers, and watery to mucoid diarrhea. A progressive loss of condition can lead to anemia with pale, shrunken combs. Occasionally, Salmonella Pullorum may cause a disease similar to fowl typhoid in older birds; the most common signs are anorexia, depression, diarrhea and dehydration. Salmonella Gallinarum and Salmonella Pullorum can cause decreased egg production, fertility or hatchability in inapparent carriers as well as in birds with systemic signs.
Post Mortem Lesions
The lesions in young birds may include unabsorbed yolk sacs, peritonitis and signs of septicemia. The subcutaneous blood vessels may be dilated, the liver, spleen and kidneys are often enlarged and congested, and the spleen may be mottled. Congestion can also occur in the lungs; lung lesions can be prominent in pheasants with pullorum disease and guinea fowl with fowl typhoid. The cecum may be enlarged and can contain firm, cheesy material (cecal cores). White necrotic foci or nodules may be found in the liver, spleen, lungs, heart, pancreas and gizzard, and sometimes in the cecum; some of these nodules may resemble tumors. The joints may be swollen and contain a viscous creamy fluid. Exudates can also occur in the anterior chamber of the eye. Birds that die peracutely may exhibit no gross lesions. Adult birds with acute fowl typhoid may have a swollen, friable, often bile-stained liver, as well as an enlarged spleen and kidneys. Catarrhal enteritis with viscous, bile-stained, slimy intestinal contents may be found. In some cases, necrotic foci may be visible through the intestinal wall. Focal necrosis can also occur in the heart, liver, pancreas, intestine and testes. The bone marrow is dark brown. In more chronic cases, birds may be wasted or emaciated, and the carcass can be intensely anemic. Fibrinous pericarditis may be seen. Similar lesions can occur in clinically affected adults with pullorum disease. In carrier birds, the lesions may be limited to nodular or regressing ovarian follicles, an inactive ovary with small, undeveloped ova, or a few misshapen, discolored, cystic and/or pedunculated ova among normal ovules. Caseous material is often found in the oviduct, and ovarian dysfunction may lead to peritonitis. Ascites may be seen, especially in turkeys. Some carriers have perihepatitis, a mottled pancreas, pericarditis, arthritis, caseous granulomas in the lungs and air sacs, or necrotic foci in the testes.
Morbidity and Mortality
Fowl typhoid frequently affects growing and adult poultry, although it can also occur in young birds. Pullorum disease is usually symptomatic only in young birds, but occasional outbreaks are reported in older animals. Morbidity and mortality also vary with the species and breed, as well as nutrition and management, stress and concurrent infections. Among chickens, lighter breeds such as leghorns are more resistant to pullorum disease than heavier breeds such as Rhode Island Reds, Barred Plymouth Rocks, White Wyandottes or New Hampshires. Genetic differences in susceptibility to fowl typhoid have also been reported. Mortality is usually highest in chicks and poults, particularly in two to three–week old birds. In chickens and turkeys, the mortality rate for fowl typhoid and pullorum disease varies from less than 1% to 100%; the morbidity rate is often significantly higher than the mortality rate, and some birds recover. In young pheasants with pullorum disease, mortality rates as high as 50% have been reported. Mortality rates in experimentally infected, young, northern bobwhite quail with pullorum disease are 65–100%.
The clinical signs, flock history, mortality and post–mortem lesions can be suggestive, but may resemble Differential diagnosis . Fowl typhoid and pullorum disease must be differentiated from infections with other Salmonella species, Mycoplasma synoviae, Staphylococcus aureus, Pasteurella multocida, Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae and fungi including Aspergillus. In chicks, the white nodules in internal organs can be confused with Marek’s disease or hepatic lesions caused by Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. In adult carriers, infections with staphylococci, streptococci, coliform bacteria, other salmonellae, and P. multocida must also be considered.
Fowl typhoid and pullorum disease can be diagnosed by isolating S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Gallinarum from affected birds. Biovar Gallinarum occurs in fowl typhoid, and biovar Pullorum is found in cases of pullorum disease. These organisms are Gram negative, facultative anaerobes. They will grow on most standard nonselective media, as well as on selective media including MacConkey, brilliant green and xylose lysine deoxycholate agars. Salmonella Pullorum occasionally fails to grow on brilliant green or salmonella-shigella agar. To prevent the overgrowth of competing flora, selective enrichment should be used for fecal samples, intestinal contents and environmental samples. Colonies on nutrient or blood agar are small (1–2 mm in diameter), circular, glistening, smooth, translucent, slightly raised and entire after a 24 to 48 hour incubation. Salmonella Pullorum may grow more slowly than Salmonella Gallinarum. Treatment with antibiotics during the 2 to 3 weeks before testing can lead to false negatives. Identification of the organism and differentiation of the biovars Pullorum and Gallinarum is by standard biochemical and serologic tests. Commercial kits such as the Analytical Profile Index (API) system can be used for identification; however, the results should be interpreted with caution, as the API system may misidentify Salmonella Pullorum as Hafnia spp. Isolates can be sent to a reference laboratory for serotyping and for phage typing of Salmonella Pullorum. Plasmid profile analysis, pulsed field gel electrophoresis or ribotyping are used to characterize isolates during epidemiological investigations. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays can be used to identify Salmonella Pullorum and Salmonella Gallinarum in research laboratories and possibly in some commercial laboratories. Serology can be used to detect infected flocks and estimate the prevalence of infection within a flock. The rapid whole blood plate agglutination test can identify reactors in the field. Agglutinating antibodies appear from three to 10 or more days after infection. This test is not reliable in turkeys and ducks, due to false positives. Other serological tests include the rapid serum agglutination test, tube agglutination, microagglutination, microantiglobulin, immunodiffusion, hemagglutination, and enzyme–linked immunosorbent (ELISA) assays. Cross–reactions with other species or serovars of Salmonella, particularly S. enterica subsp. enterica serovar Enteritidis, can complicate the interpretation of serological tests. Vaccination can also interfere with testing. Testing for reactors should be repeated at three to five week intervals, as a single test may not detect all carrier birds. Seropositive birds should be confirmed by culture. Flocks participating in official testing should follow the recommendations established by government programs such as the National Poultry Improvement Program (NPIP) in the U.S.
Samples to collect
Before collecting or sending any samples from animals with a suspected foreign animal disease, the proper authorities should be contacted. Samples should only be sent under secure conditions and to authorized laboratories to prevent the spread of the disease. Precautions should be taken to prevent zoonotic infections. Swabs or tissue samples should be collected for bacterial isolation. Culture is more likely to be successful in birds that have not been treated with antimicrobials for approximately 2 to 3 weeks. In live birds, cloacal swabs may be taken. More often, swabs or tissue samples are collected from grossly abnormal tissues and intestinal and/or cloacal contents at necropsy. The preferred tissues for culture in clinical cases are the liver, spleen, yolk sac and cecum, which are most often involved. The heart, gizzard, pancreas, lungs, peritoneum, joint, interior of the eye, oviducts, ovaries and ovarian follicles can also be cultured. The tissues most likely to yield bacteria in carriers are the ovary and oviduct, with the addition of the liver and gall bladder for Salmonella Gallinarum. In practice, pooling a variety of tissues including the liver, gall bladder, spleen, heart, kidney, pancreas, digestive tract, ovary/ testis and oviduct is often the most successful approach in carrier birds. Highly seropositive birds should be selected for culture. Large amounts of tissue may be needed if the birds are asymptomatic. Organisms can also be isolated from eggs, embryos, feces, and the environment including incubators, transport boxes and/or poultry houses. Samples should include moist and dry litter, swabs from open drinkers, and aliquots of fluff, dust and broken eggshells from hatching chicks. Red mites and feed samples can also be cultured. Successful culture from the environment is more difficult than isolation of the organism from sick or recently dead birds. Serum should be collected for serology. Recommended actions if fowl typhoid suspected.
Notification of authorities
Fowl typhoid or pullorum disease must be reported to state or federal authorities immediately upon diagnosis or suspicion of the disease. Federal: Area Veterinarians in Charge (AVIC): http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/area_offices/ State Veterinarians: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/vs/sregs/official.html
The eradication of fowl typhoid and pullorum disease requires the establishment of infection-free breeding flocks. Poultry should be purchased from certified infection-free stock or tested before adding them to a flock. They should be hatched and reared in conditions where they cannot contact infected birds, potentially infected surface water, or other sources of organisms. Rodents and wild birds should be excluded, and insects, particularly flies, poultry mites and mealworms, should be controlled. The premises and equipment should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Infected flocks are quarantined in fowl typhoid- or pullorum-free countries. Repeated testing and removal of carriers can sometimes eliminate the infection from a flock. More often, the entire flock is depopulated and the premises are cleaned and disinfected before restocking. Compounds that contain phenol are the most effective disinfectants under field conditions, but quaternary ammonium compounds and iodophores may be used. Heat treatment, formalin, dichloride of mercury and potassium permanganate can also inactivate these organisms. Exposure to sunlight and high environmental temperatures increase the efficacy of cleaning and disinfection procedures. Fowl typhoid vaccines are used in chickens in some countries where this disease is endemic. Vaccination can reduce clinical disease and mortality, but does not prevent infection. Antibiotics can reduce mortality, but do not eliminate the infection from the flock.
Salmonella Gallinarum is highly host adapted, and it is not considered to be a serious public health concern. In one survey, only eight out of more than 450,000 isolations of Salmonella from humans were Salmonella Gallinarum. Salmonella Pullorum occasionally causes acute, self-limiting enteritis in people who eat massively contaminated food.
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