Mycoplasma Gallisepticum | a Poultry Respiratory Illness

Mycoplasma gallisepticum is a chicken respiratory infection, and one of the most horrific poultry diseases around. Mycoplasma in chickens is not reversible even if the symptoms have cleared up. Learn what you’re dealing with and how it affects your flock.

mycoplasma gallisepticum

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum (MG), a poultry disease which is unknown to many poultry keepers. However, the disease is not taken as seriously as it should.

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As poultry keepers we know that illness inevitable, even for a flock which has a strong holistic preventative plan in place.  The use of colloidal silver, beneficial herbs, and even clean, unadulterated essential oils helps to boost the immune system of the flock.

In addition to herbal and homeopathic care, fermented items are offered. This ensures that beneficial bacteria is present, working hard to protect the gut.

Daily interaction with the flock helps to detect health issues quickly. Whereas weekly wellness checks allows for deeper inspection of flock members.

Yet, at times, that is not enough. Something slips through. Something which you, as a chicken keeper, cannot control.

That’s when a chicken sneezed.  And another.  Then another.

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum, what is it?

First, but not foremost, mycoplasma gallisepticum is a respiratory infection, and one of the most horrific poultry diseases around.

The organism which makes up MG is neither a bacterium nor a virus in size, but part way between, having no cell wall but instead a plasma membrane.

So, what does this mean?  Mycoplasma gallisepticum is so microscopic that no antibiotic can cure an infected bird. 

The symptoms for this respiratory infection is treatable. However, the recovered bird then becomes a carrier.  Meaning, the bacteria never leaves the bird’s body. Often making itself present when the bird’s immune system is low.

And like wildfire, this poultry disease becomes active once again. The disease favors no one, attacking new flock members as well as previously ill birds.

The hard truth about mycoplasma in chickens and other poultry is this, you must expect that every flock member which has been exposed is infected. Regardless if they exhibit signs of illness or not.

Chicken Respiratory Infection | The Symptoms

MG can awaken at any stage of the carrier’s life.  It seems that older birds are more susceptible to either activating the bacteria or catching it. But in truth there are many things that can bring mycoplasma gallisepticum out of slumber.  

The disease becomes active in birds which are stressed, overheated, cold, and as previously stated, old.  Surprisingly, molting can trigger this particular poultry and chicken respiratory infection to become active.

What are the symptoms?  Basically, the symptoms are almost identical to a typical respiratory issue. 

  • Foamy eyes, also known as eye bubble 
  • Ongoing sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Swollen eyelids and sinus
  • Gasping
  • Raspy or rattle like breathing
  • Phlegm discharge
  • Reduction in egg production

Aside from these symptoms there is one other tell tail sign. A sweet, sickly scent associated with nasal and phlegm discharge is often present.

A Cure

There is no cure. However, the symptoms are treatable.

Mycoplasma in chickens and other poultry remain asymptomatic carriers for life. Carriers of MG transfer the bacteria from hen, to egg, to chick. Making the new generation high risk for mycoplasma gallisepticum.

Sadly, the cycle never ends.

chicken respiratory infection

How do poultry contract mycoplasma gallisepticum?

More times than not, a property with a relatively healthy flock contracts the illnesses from migrating fowl and birds. Sadly, that is not the only way for a flock member to become infected.

  • Incorporation of new flock members – Execute a 30 quarantine period for new flock members.  
  • Through chicks or hatching eggs which are carriers. Purchase from feed stores, hatcheries, and private parties that are NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) certified.

Using a NPIP certified breeder is a great preventative for minimizing disease brought to your property. However, only a few states require testing of MG and MS. To be more specific, most NPIP breeders are not required have to their flocks tested for MG and MS. This is a secondary test which can be offered, but is not mandated. Make sure to ask NPIP breeders if they specifically test for MG and MS. *NPIP require testing for Pullorum and Typhoil.

Preventative Care for Poultry and Chicken Respiratory Infections

Preventative care against all poultry diseases is necessary. Believe it or not, keeping a healthy flock is as easy as maintaining good housekeeping.

  • Stay away from poultry swaps – A good rule of thumb, refrain from purchasing poultry at swaps or online auctions.
  • Keep a clean coop – Keep dust at a minimal and perform a monthly deep cleaning. 
  • Provide adequate ventilation Proper ventilation in a coop consists of an opening high along the ceiling as wide as the wall.  Place a secondary ventilation on the opposite wall, allowing for cross ventilation.
  • Remove waste daily – Prevent ammonia build-up by removing heavily soiled bedding daily. Install a drop pan under the roosting areas for easy clean-up. 
  • Execute good bio-security habits –
    • Designate one pair of working shoes for the property. Never wear these shoes onto another property, into town, and refrain from wearing them to the feed store.
    • Use 1/2 inch hardware clothe to enclose the run. This prevents wild birds from mixing with poultry. It also prevents wild birds from eating and drinking from feeder and waterers.
    • Provide foot covers for visitors who enter into the poultry’s space.
chicken respiratory infection

What to do with Infected Poultry

A decision needs to be made as to what to do with the flock which has been exposed to mycoplasma gallisepticum. It is not an easy decision, but education is the key to making a sound one.

  • Raise Pets – There is the obvious decision, treat the symptom and raise poultry as pets. Do not incorporate or breed more poultry until the infected flock is no longer on the property.
  • Cull – Break the cycle and cull not only poultry which have exhibited the symptoms, but all flock members which were exposed.
  • Eggs and Meat Consumption – Eggs and meat from poultry infected with mycoplasma gallispeticum can safely be consumed. However, if a treatment was offered refrain from consuming these items until the withhold period has passed.
  • Carcass Disposal – In practice of good animal husbandry and bio security measures, carcasses of culled poultry should be burned on site or taken to a facility to have them incinerated. This eliminates any potential risk of spreading the disease.

Sanitize the Area infected by Mycoplasma Gallisepticum

Mycoplasma in chickens and other poultry not only infects the bird, it contaminates the area where they reside. Much like other poultry diseases, sanitizing the area is necessary to ensure the bacteria is no longer present.

Begin by removing all straw and other bedding from the property. These materials will need to be burned or removed in tightly sealed bags. Refrain from composting straw and bedding, mycoplasma gallisepticum has an incubation period of 6 to 21 days.

Next, sanitize the walls, roosting bar, nesting boxes, coop floor, waterers and feed bowls with Chlorine Dioxide. In addition to what has been mentioned, do not forget to sanitize all outdoor roosting spots.

Finally, do not house or allow poultry into any contaminated space for a minimum of 90 days. This ensures that the bacteria is no longer present.

poultry diseases
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Comments

  1. Karen Dunn says

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. Without bloggers like you, information for small homesteaders and backyard farmers wouldn’t be available. Thanks for keeping it real.

  2. B Family Farm says

    Good for you, on all counts. Horrible thing to have happen but for what it matters, you have another homesteader agreeing with every agonizing and heartbreaking decision you made. None of their blasted business and you would have just fueled their campaign to make everyone reliant on them.

  3. Kari says

    Good article thanks. Here where I live in British Columbia Canada we have a place where we can send our birds for necropsy. Every year your first necropsy (I think you can send 3 birds) is only $20, it’s detailed and you can call and discuss it with a Vet. It’s too bad you don’t have something like this. I do understand not wanting government involvement. I am sorry you had to go through this.

  4. Heartsease Homestead says

    Thanks, Ann. This was very informative and explained the topic much more in depth than what we had time for at the HOA conference. Sorry you had to make the hard decision but in the end, it’s YOUR decision for your family and homestead and it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. There is no doubt in my mind that you approached the decision with great consideration and prayer. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Sandra says

    Thanks. I’m making the crap decision to cull my little flock of 6. So damn sad. We bought some pullets locally to boost numbers for the winter. The showed signs of bronchitis but tested pos for both bronchitis and Myco. Between testing and results all my original flock came down sick one by one. The shitty breeder took back the poor ill chickies. 3 of the hens are from my first batch that launched our little farm.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG) is an incurable respiratory condition. The conditions can be managed; however, the bacteria remain in a chicken’s body for the lifetime of the bird and can transfer to an embryo, making the unhatched chick a possible carrier. It is important to understand that a carrier carries MG for its lifetime and bacteria sits dormant until a weak immune system awakens it.   […]

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