Improving Poultry Flock Management

M. ,
Jacob, J.
1 Scott County Extension Agent, University of Kentucky, Georgetown, KY 40324
2Univeristy of Kentucky Cooperative Extension, UK Extension Specialist, Lexington, KY 40564
Scott County has experienced a significant increase in poultry production over the last four years in a wide
array of operations ranging from commercial flocks of 700 birds to small backyard flocks for pleasure and
enjoyment, to farms working towards a goal of sustainability and providing eggs and meat for their own
consumption. In response to the growing popularity of this commodity the Scott County Extension Agent for
Agriculture and Natural Resources coordinated programming to increase the knowledge base of these
farmers on basic topics like nutritional requirements, disease prevention, and management tips to increase
egg production and increase the overall successfulness in their flock.
Upon receiving numerous questions and diagnostic samples of chickens that had died from respiratory
illness, Extension Agent, Michelle Simon, coordinated a workshop on “Improving Management of Poultry
Flocks”. This session responded to the producers experiencing these problems on a more in depth basis
by starting from the beginning with the basics. The majority of the respiratory and eye illness that was
causing a decrease in production or death in the flock were caused by a lack of knowledge in basic
management and nutrition. Farm visits to a farm experiencing issues with their chickens not laying eggs
before and after the program showed a positive response to the workshop. After adjusting the diet from
wheat to a feed mixture of corn, soybean meal (protein sources), and minerals the hens began laying
eggs and the overall health of the flock greatly improved.
The primary objective of this program in Scott County was to educate farmers and poultry enthusiasts
about the importance of proper nutrition and flock management techniques to reduce disease and
infection to lead to healthier flocks producing more eggs and meat.
These chickens were infected with the viral disease Infectious
Bronchitis. This disease will cause chickens to have “watery” eyes
and the eggs will have rough shells and watery albumens.
Newcastle Disease: respiratory
disease caused by virus typically
transmitted in situations with no
Barred Rock chickens, a dual purpose breed, are
recommended for small flocks. Once the hens egg
production decreases and the hens are ready to be
processed, there is more meat than typical laying
breeds. Using dual purpose breeds are more
economical for this reason.
Doug & Renee Corrigan, Scott County farmers,
built a mobile chicken coop that can be drug
between their rows of berries to provide fertilization
and reduce weed growth. Waterers were built so
they can be filled from the outside of coop. 5 gallon
buckets were cut in half for nesting boxes.
“Improving Management of Poultry Flocks” was offered to all sizes of operations and amounts of
experience. Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky Poultry Extension Specialist, delivered basic
nutrition fundamentals that could prevent the majority of illness and disease that producers had
experienced. Dr. Jacob also presented information to attendants regarding optimal breeds to use
depending on whether they were raising chickens for eggs or meat, disease identification, prevention, and
treatment, and utilized time for a helpful question and answer session. Agriculture and Natural Resources
Extension Agent, Michelle Simon, followed up with program attendants on their farms to examine the
management changes and give recommendations that could potentially improve the operations further.
Since 2010, the Scott County Cooperative Extension Service has received numerous questions and
diagnostic samples from local poultry producers regarding health issues with their poultry flocks. The
majority of the chickens experiencing these health issues did not survive the illness and the majority of the
producers fighting these problems with their flocks were new to the business. With the growing popularity
of sustainability, farmer’s markets, and interest in small hobby farms- interest in raising poultry has grown
tremendously in Scott County. Many of these producers have little to no experience with raising and
managing poultry. There was a need for these producers to learn more about nutritional, vitamin, and
mineral requirements before expanding their flocks to reduce disease, illness, and loss of chickens. Once
this knowledge was gained, producers could manage their flocks better and improve the economics of
their operation.
Triple J Farm raises 600 free range chickens and repurposed barn material and silage wagons for
chickens to roost at night. They also use 5 gallon buckets for nesting boxes and pieces of hay rings inside
of these mobile coops.
Figure 3. Northern Fowl Mite
Figure 1. Sticktight Fleas
Figure 2. Scaly Leg Mite
External Parasites of Poultry: Sticktight fleas, Scaly leg mites,
Fowl mites, and Chicken body lice are common parasites that
Scott County producers were experiencing.
Treatment of Parasites: Extensive discussion was held
regarding treatment. The use of Sevin dust, Linseed oil, and
Vaseline are recommended for control of these parasites.
In conclusion, Extension educators need to continue teaching the fundamentals of raising different
species of livestock. By stressing the fundamental importance of nutrition and management,
reproduction, weight gain, and overall health will be achieved. It is also important to teach producers new
to the industry the economics of decisions for their flocks. Many of the flock health management
decisions producers are faced with are very costly for small flocks and not always the best use of
finances. Since the audience of the workshop varied from backyard flocks to commercial flocks of
approximately seven hundred chickens, economics were discussed at length. The workshop participants
were surveyed following the session and all reflected the workshop was beneficial to them as individuals,
especially the time dedicated for a question and answer session to delve deeper into individual topics.
Figure 4. Chicken Body Lice
Special thanks to Dr. Jacquie Jacob for teaching the workshop, and participants: Triple J Farm and Doug
& Renee Corrigan, for allowing us to utilize their flocks for picture descriptions.

similar documents