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Waterfowl Diseases (Don't Affect Chickens)
Duck Virus Enteritis (DVE)
Usually seen in domestic and feral waterfowl in urban/farm pond settings during breeding season (April to August). Diagnosis is based on clinical signs, pathology supported by the isolation and identification of the virus.
Duck virus enteritis (DVE) is an acute, sometimes chronic, contagious virus infection that occurs naturally only in ducks, geese and swans. The agent is a herpes virus. The infection has not been reported in other avian species, mammals or humans. In domestic ducks and ducklings, DVE has been reported in birds ranging from 7 days of age to mature breeders. In susceptible flocks, the first signs are often sudden, high and persistent mortality with a significant drop in egg production. In chronically infected partially immune flocks, only occasional deaths occur. (In mine they did not stop laying and even laid eggs the morning they died. Muscovy as in other diseases are the sentinels as they are victims often first and react quickly).
Signs associated with a DVE outbreak vary with the species, age and sex of the affected birds, and the virulence of the virus. In breeder ducks, the range of signs include photophobia (fear of light), polydipsia, loss of appetite, ataxia, watery diarrhoea and nasal discharge. Birds often have ruffled feathers and soiled vents. Sick birds may maintain an upright stance by using their wings for support, but their overall appearance is one of weakness and depression. In ducklings 2-7 weeks of age, losses may be lower than in older birds, and the signs associated with DVE infection include dehydration, loss of weight, a blue colouration of the beaks, and bloodstained vents.
Requirements for Vaccines
A live virus vaccine can be used to control DVE in birds over 2 weeks of age. Fattening or breeding ducks may be vaccinated subcutane-ously or intramuscularly to produce an active immunity. The vaccine virus is not thought to spread by contact from vaccinated to unvaccinated ducks, as the unvaccinated birds remain susceptible to infection.
At some time all poultry keepers will be plagued by one form of vermin whether it be rodent , fox, or the new danger the two legged stealing variety. In all cases they need the same preventative measure of keeping them out.
Badgers are protected by law and although will remove snacks if hungry may only be discouraged Not Harmed, often creosoting the fence with strong brown creosote or other very smelly preservative will suffice. If they are persistent consult the local wildlife group remembering that badgers burrow under or if really desperate will bulldoze through a fence and normally building work will stop them.
Ferrets, Minks and etc . . .
Often set free by well meaning persons with little countryside knowledge as being natural carnivores will decimate the local 'larder' then turn to nice captive food stores to themselves, your flock is the carnivore equivalent of Tesco . . . and cheaper. If they strike you will be greeted in the morning with little or no fence damage but plenty of bodies often headless or with eye and head damage. The only defence other than staying up with a gun is to put out a trap either captive (catches alive) or rat trap . . . tinned tuna or very fresh meat will work.
Normally the neighbours often your own. If they belong to someone else and your birds were kept in reasonably then they should pay for repacements. If the problem persists then contact the police who can serve an unruly dog order on the owner if it re-offends they get fined but the warning will galvanize action. If yours training / better fences or try a cat . . . they only eat the chicks!
The first method of control is keep them out either by putting away each night behind strong housing or to fence. Fencing can be electric run from mains or battery depending upon circumstance or can be fixed with a height of six foot and either embedded into the earth or fixed down to prevent burrowing.
If using 'chicken wire/wire netting' rather than attempt to wrestle with six foot rolls use smaller mesh such as rabbit wire at ground level and then large mesh further up with a small overlap that can be fixed together with soft wire or wire ties. This will suffice for ferrets too. The life of the fence will be extended if top rails are added to keep the fencing stretched taught as netting will sag with
If there is a persistent fox control then comes into the equation with the options being trapping /shooting / using the local gamekeeper / or poisoning. The last poisoning is dangerous and best left to gamekeepers with a lone rogue fox as dogs/cats etc. will eat bait unless very careful. Traps tend to be large wire boxes for captive trapping mine caught a Jack Russell and two Poodles in one week but no fox. If there is a gamekeeper that is often the cheapest and most efficient option.
Rats / Mice . . . Burrowing Vermin
These present differing problems they are usually more persistent and being mainly nocturnal often invisible. The best poultry keeper will be feeding quantities of wildlife as well as their own birds , there will be wild birds,mice,voles etc. Rats and mice are problems in that they transmit diseases ranging from Weils to Salmonella and breed very effectively making eradication a dream and control whether by bait or traps a necessity.
Rats are usually found both inside and out having the poultry area on their 'run' if you have a lot of poultry you can have a number of separate families 'runs' going through your stock. First check for obvious signs droppings / holes / gnawed wood etc. as any bait must be put either down the burrow or on the run. If using the modern tubes or boxes leave them outside in situ for a while before adding bait as rats will not touch any new structure they are suspicious . . . many centuries of baiting gives them a reason.
MAFF booklet "Rodent Infestation in Poultry Flocks" available from your local Ministry of Agriculture or from MAFF
Two Legged Rats (Humans!)
Barbed Wire / Electric Fencing treat as for other vermin . . . keep them out. For some reason the most mildly mannered local will believe at Christmas that those geese / ducks / chickens that you have spent so much time (and money) on are surplus to requirements and can be stolen / sold / eaten without any recourse to the police or preventative measures. I personally found that a further line of electric fence (mains) at 36 inch inside leg height very useful . . . inside the fence about six feet into your land!
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