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Protecting Your Flock – Decoding the Mystery of Mycoplasma in Chickens

Are you a chicken owner or poultry farmer concerned about the health and well-being of your flock? If so, you may have come across the challenges posed by mycoplasma infections, specifically mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) and mycoplasma synoviae (MS). MG and MS affect chickens, turkeys, and other avian species. Found most often in backyard flocks or multi-age commercial layer operations, MG and MS can result in severe economic losses due to slow growth rates in broilers or diminished egg production in layers.

MG, also known as chronic respiratory disease (CRD), attacks the respiratory system of infected birds and can weaken their immune systems, making them more susceptible to other infections. MS can also affect the respiratory system of infected birds, but another form of the disease attacks the joints.

At Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we understand the frustrations and difficulties you may encounter when dealing with MG & MS in chickens. From reduced hatchability to compromised immune systems, these infections can cause a range of issues that affect both the productivity and well-being of your flock.

In this blog post, we will delve deep into the world of mycoplasma in chickens, providing you with valuable insights, practical tips, and effective solutions to tackle these infections head-on. We will explore the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for MG & MS, empowering you with the knowledge to make informed decisions about the health of your chickens.

Don’t let MG & MS infections hinder the health and productivity of your chickens any longer. Take action and equip yourself with the knowledge and resources needed to combat these challenges effectively. Contact Freedom Ranger Hatchery today to discover how we can support you in ensuring the well-being of your flock.

What Is Mycoplasma in Chickens?

Mycoplasma is a group of bacteria that can cause respiratory infections in chickens, known as mycoplasmosis. Unlike other bacteria, mycoplasma lacks a cell wall, which makes them challenging to treat and control. These tiny organisms can affect various avian species, including chickens, and have significant implications for their health and well-being.

In chickens, the two most common strains of mycoplasma are mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) and mycoplasma synoviae (MS). MG primarily targets the respiratory system, causing symptoms such as nasal discharge, sneezing, coughing, and swollen eyelids. On the other hand, MS affects multiple systems, including joints, the respiratory tract, and reproductive organs. It can lead to lameness, swollen joints, decreased egg production, and even infertility in breeding birds.

Neither MS nor MG is known to affect humans, and mycoplasma synoviae in chickens is not the same as MS (multiple sclerosis) in humans. However, humans can spread the mycoplasma bacteria, so it’s important to practice good biosecurity practices.

What Is the Difference Between MS and MG in Chickens?

A veterinarian with a stethoscope on a chicken’s chest.

Differentiating between MS and MG can be challenging as some symptoms may overlap. However, there are key distinctions to consider. MS tends to display more severe clinical signs and affects a wider range of body systems compared to MG. If you notice lameness, swollen joints, or reproductive issues in addition to respiratory symptoms, it’s more likely to be MS. To determine the exact strain affecting your flock, it’s essential to consult with a veterinarian and conduct proper diagnostic tests such as blood tests or PCR.

How Do I Recognize the Signs of Mycoplasmosis in Poultry?

Recognizing the signs of mycoplasmosis in poultry is crucial for early detection and effective disease management. Common mycoplasma in chickens’ symptoms and signs for both diseases include respiratory distress, such as coughing, sneezing, and tracheal rales (abnormal breathing sounds). You may also observe nasal discharge, watery eyes, and swollen sinuses. In severe cases, chickens may exhibit decreased appetite, weight loss, reduced egg production, and even death.

A chicken with swollen eyes.

More specifically, chickens infected with MG may show no signs of infection, especially if there is no accompanying secondary infection. Common signs of MG in chickens include sticky discharge from the nostrils, foamy discharge from the eyes, and swollen sinuses. Often, the air sacs in the lungs become infected, resulting in rattling sounds and sneezing. Affected chickens may fail to grow and gain weight or have poor egg production.

MS chicken or poultry will have affected joints that will develop lameness, which is followed by a reluctance to move, swollen joints, stilted gait, weight loss, and general lethargy. Those infected with the respiratory form of MS show signs of respiratory distress, similar to an infection with MG. In fact, according to the Poultry Extension, “It is not possible to distinguish between MS and MG without administering a blood test.”

How Are MG and MS Transmitted in Chicken Flocks?

Untreated mycoplasma infections can have severe consequences for hatcheries, leading to reduced growth rates, poor feed conversion efficiency, and lower hatchability rates. Moreover, infected birds can become carriers, shedding the bacteria through respiratory secretions, which poses a continuous risk of transmission to other birds in the flock.

Both MG and MS are fragile organisms that cannot survive more than a few days without a host, but these diseases can be spread to offspring through eggs or through natural breeding with an infected mate. Sick or recovering birds can also spread infections through nasal or eye discharge or fecal matter to other birds in the flock. Once infected, chickens are carriers of these diseases for life, though they may not show symptoms until they are stressed.

MG and MS can also be carried by humans when egg flats, cages, coops, tools, equipment, or clothing have been contaminated with respiratory secretions or droppings from infected birds. Wild birds or rodents can also carry the infection and spread it to the flock. Additionally, wild birds and rodents can introduce mycoplasma to a flock, making biosecurity measures essential.

How Can I Prevent MG and MS in Chickens?

Preventing MG and mycoplasma synoviae in poultry infections requires a comprehensive approach that focuses on biosecurity, proper management practices, and maintaining optimal flock health. Here are some key strategies:

Start with Disease-Free Birds

The best way to control MG and MS is to begin your flock with disease-free birds and then practice scrupulous biosecurity to protect your flock. Chicks should always be purchased from MG or MS-free flocks. Care must be taken to avoid purchasing adult birds with unknown MG or MS status. Starting with healthy birds reduces the risk of introducing mycoplasma into your flock.

Minimize Contact with Other Flocks

Be sure to change your clothing and footwear if you have visited other birds before coming in contact with your own flock. Also, be sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect tools and equipment when they’ve been used in other areas of the farm or the vicinity of other flocks. You may also want to use a set of dedicated tools and equipment for each flock to avoid contamination. You should also limit contact with other flocks during events like exhibitions or poultry shows, which can help prevent the spread of mycoplasma.

Keep Rodents & Wild Birds Away

Institute a pest control plan to keep rodents and wild birds away from your flock. Both rodents and wild birds can carry the disease and infect your birds. Take measures to keep them away from the chicken house by securing feed and water sources, sealing any openings or gaps, and using effective rodent control methods.

Boost Immunity with the Right Diet

Using quality feed and adding fresh garlic or apple cider vinegar to food and water can boost immunity, making birds less susceptible to infection. Providing your chickens with a well-balanced diet is vital to boost their immune system and protect them from mycoplasma infections. Ensure they receive proper nutrition, including essential vitamins and minerals, through a quality feed formulated for their specific needs.

Quarantine New Birds

Whenever introducing new birds to your flock, maintain a strict quarantine period of at least 30 days. This transition allows for proper observation and testing to ensure the newcomers are not carriers of mycoplasma or other diseases. Be sure to quarantine any new members of the flock at least 12 yards away from your current flock.

What is the Treatment of MG, MS, and CRD in Poultry?

Mycoplasma in chicken’s treatment can be challenging due to the persistent nature of the bacteria. While antibiotics can help manage clinical symptoms and reduce the severity of the infection, it’s important to note that infected birds will remain carriers, potentially spreading the bacteria to others.

In cases of severe infections or when antibiotics are necessary, treatment of CRD in poultry means consulting with a veterinarian. They can prescribe appropriate medications for mycoplasma gallisepticum treatment and mycoplasma synoviae antibiotic treatment. The most common antibiotics for treatment include Tylan, Baytril, and Gallmycin. Antibiotics may be administered through feed or water, targeting the respiratory system to help manage the clinical symptoms and minimize the impact on the birds’ health. There is no natural treatment for mycoplasma in chickens.

A vet giving a vaccine to a baby chick.

Vaccination plays a crucial role in preventing mycoplasma infections. Vaccines are available for MG and MS and should be administered according to a vaccination schedule recommended by a veterinarian. Vaccination helps in reducing the severity of the infection and minimizing its spread within the flock.

In order to completely eliminate MG or MS, it is necessary to harvest or cull infected broilers. Layers are often eliminated at the end of their laying cycle. Complete disinfection, followed by a rest period, is recommended before establishing a new flock. Many commercial operations maintain an all-in, all-out policy to prevent problems with MG or MS infections.

Remember, prevention is key in managing mycoplasma infections. By implementing good biosecurity practices, starting with disease-free birds and following proper management protocols, you can significantly reduce the risk of MG, MS, and CRD in chickens.

Choose the NPIP-Certified Chicken Hatcheries at Freedom Ranger Hatchery!

Understanding and addressing the challenges posed by mycoplasma in chickens is crucial for maintaining a healthy and thriving flock. MG and MS infections can have significant implications for the respiratory system, joints, reproductive organs, and overall productivity of your poultry operation.

By recognizing the signs of mycoplasmosis and implementing preventive measures such as starting with disease-free birds, minimizing contact with other flocks, and boosting immunity through proper nutrition, you can reduce the risk of infection and ensure the well-being of your chickens.

Don’t let mycoplasma infections hinder your poultry operation’s success. Take action today by reaching out to us at Freedom Ranger Hatchery. Together, we can overcome the struggles posed by mycoplasma in chickens and create a thriving, disease-resistant flock that will bring you success and satisfaction.

And if you’re looking for a source of healthy broilers or layers, be sure to check out the NPIP-certified chicken hatcheries at Freedom Ranger Hatchery. We provide quality baby chicks shipped direct to you nationwide!

Contact us now to take the first step towards a healthier and more productive poultry operation. Your chickens deserve the best care, and we’re here to help you achieve it.