Disease is an unpleasant subject, yet its prevention is part of the game bird industry. When birds are removed from their natural habitat and raised in confinement under crowded conditions, the chance of disease becoming established in the population is greatly increased. Factors that produce mental and/or physical stress, appear to play a vital role in the disease picture. Stress is an often used but ill-defined term. It has several definitions; one dictionary defines it as “the sum of the nonspecific effects elicited by adverse external influences.” Another simpler definition states that “stress is a toxic or overdose of a stimulus.”
Many known and unknown factors cause stress. Any factor that weakens the body defenses is a stress. Of the known stresses, some are considered necessary and others unnecessary. Among those considered necessary are debeaking, vaccinating against various diseases, and handling or moving birds. Unnecessary stresses most commonly seen are overcrowding, inadequate food and/or water space, and improper brooding. Raising birds year after year on the same ground does not create a stress as such, but it does permit disease-causing agents to build up in the area — thus increasing the chance of disease outbreaks when stress does occur. Stress increases the bird’s susceptibility to diseases.
A producer striving to keep stress and poor management at a minimum is well on the way to controlling a disease problem. A game bird operation of any size cannot be run in a haphazard manner. It requires close, regular supervision. The owner must recognize early symptoms of disease problems and seek help from qualified persons when necessary.
Identify a problem before you try to treat it, and follow instructions given by a disease diagnostician.
Excessive treatment with drugs is harmful to birds and expensive. Once birds become overtreated and start dying from the effects, there is little that can be done.
Avoid constant unnecessary use of drugs. Indiscriminate use of drugs and antibiotics can allow development of drug resistant strains of disease organisms.
Disease Prevention Tips
Preventing disease is more economical than curing disease. Treatment of a specific disease is not always effective or possible. It is costly, and often experimental since little research specific to quail disease problems has been performed.
The following general management recommendations can help prevent disease. Many have been mentioned before in this circular in relation to management. But repeating — good management and disease prevention are synonymous.
- Do not add adult stock when introducing a new blood line. Get young chick quail or eggs for this purpose. By growing them on your premises they develop early immunity to some of the problems associated with your farm.
- Do not hunt cheap chicks or eggs. Know the breeder’s history. Isolate purchased chicks from your stock for at least 3 weeks, in case they carry a disease.
- Start with clean disinfected pens and equipment. Clean trough waterers daily (jar waterers at each refill) and refill with fresh cool water. Clean feeders at least once weekly.
- Always be sure that feed and water are present and easily accessible to the birds. You cannot overdo feed and water availability. Provide several sources of both in each pen.
- Do not crowd birds. Producers who fail to heed this recommendation usually fail in the business.
- Do not overstock feed. Feed stored for long periods can become moldy and moldy feed is toxic to quail. Old feed tends to lose nutritional value.
- Provide heat for sick birds. Chicks chill easily and require additional heat for a more speedy recovery. Mortality normally declines when extra heat is provided.
- Isolate young stock from adult breeders. Young birds are highly susceptible to many disease organisms. Birds become more resistant with age. Adult birds may be a source of infection if young stock are not isolated.
- Care for the youngest birds first and the oldest last. Always work from young to old where the same person must care for all ages. By following this procedure you are less likely to transmit disease.
- After working with known sick birds, do not visit healthy birds unless you take a bath, change clothes, and disinfect or change shoes. This may sound ridiculous, but, if you raise many birds, it pays off.
- Use only clean disinfected crates or boxes for transferring. Never borrow a used transfer box from another quail producer.
- Remove individual sick and dead birds from the pens daily. Incinerate or properly dispose of dead birds. Isolate individual sick birds until they recover.
- Keep floor birds in well-drained pens. Standing water is an excellent source of diseases and internal parasitic infections.
- Do not allow unwarranted visitation. Curiosity seekers, feed and drug salespeople, etc., should be dealt with at your house, office, or by phone — not in the quail pen. People can and do mechanically spread disease on the soles of shoes. Locate feed bins and storage rooms so delivery people do not have to enter the quail pens.
- For those who must visit, prospective buyers or health and management advisors, provide plastic boots or pans containing disinfectant for shoes before entering the pen area.
- Place a lock on pens to keep thoughtless people from entering the pens while you are absent.
- Do not allow personnel working with your quail to raise other fowl. They eventually bring their birds’ problems to your birds. It is best to keep other fowl off the farm. Transmission of many diseases occur from one to the other.
- Control rodents, wild birds, flies and other insects. Your local county agent can be of great assistance with best control practices.
- Do not exhibit birds at a fair or other fowl shows unless you are willing to sacrifice them. It is unwise to return these birds to your flock since they may have picked up a disease from other fowl in the show. Isolate them at least 3 weeks from the other birds if they are returned to your premises.
Disease prevention is not easy, but it is the best and cheapest in the long run. You must be on your toes and willing to use some elbow grease if you plan to prevent disease. Take care of seemingly unimportant small details; otherwise, they will develop into big problems.
You will not prevent all disease problems from occurring on your farm. However, by following the advice of experienced people and keeping up with changing times and situations, you experience fewer disease problems.