Highly Pathogenic Bird Flu (H5N2)
To date, our flock shows no signs of bird flu. Due to rising costs of eggs, egg rationing, and concern about a future egg/chicken shortage, we encourage all people who are able to keep a small backyard flock of their own. In war time, the government recommended 2 hens per person to keep a family supplied in eggs. We think this is a great starter number of hens. Financially, our hens have paid back the cost of their coop, run, and feed with their eggs. Please consider getting some laying hens of your own and contact us if you would like more information on raising them.
For more information about highly pathogenic bird flu, check here:
Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices
What are GAAMPS?
GAAMPS stands for Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices. They are a voluntary list of practices intended to give animals adequate care and to provide for their well being. These GAAMPS provide scientifically backed guidelines for the care of each species of animal. From the Michigan 2018 Livestock Management GAAMPS:
“These voluntary Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices are intended to be used by the livestock industry and other groups concerned with animal welfare as an educational tool in the promotion of animal husbandry and care practices. The recommendations do not claim to be comprehensive for all circumstances; but attempt to define general standards for livestock production and well-being on farm operations...Proper animal management is essential to the well being of animals and the financial success of livestock operations. A sound animal husbandry program provides a system of care that permits the animals to grow, mature, reproduce and maintain health.”
Why are they important to us at Kaninchen Farm? Why follow them if they’re voluntary and not required?
GAAMPS are designed to do 3 things:
- Look out for the animals health, safety, and well-being.
- Promote good animal husbandry and care
- Help educate both farmers and the public about good care practices.
The health, safety, and well-being of our animals is a top priority for us. All of our animals are given regular health checks. If a problem is found, the animal is quarantined and treated. We also have the added measure of if there is any disease found, we will not sell any stock until the problem is cleared up and all animals are deemed safe. It’s not just their physical health that we care about. The psychological health of our animals is important too. All of our animals are provided enrichment. The rabbits are given chew toys and rings for instance. The ducks and chickens are allowed to range in a protected natural environment where they do what they are intended to do - scratch in the dirt, hunt for seeds, dust bathe, eat bugs, and run around. We believe that this is all part of good animal husbandry and care. Sometimes people have the wrong perception of a care practice or situation and may believe it to be inhumane or dangerous when really it isn’t (for instance keeping rabbits in wire bottom cages instead of solid bottom cages.). We are always happy to educate people about the methods we use and most importantly why we use them.
We would like to invite you to learn more about the GAAMPS and the practices used on our farm. In the sections below, I have copied sections of the 2018 Livestock Management GAAMPS for Laying Chickens. Anywhere you see words in quotation marks, they are also quoting these 2018 GAAMPS.
Generally Accepted Agriculture and Management Practices for Laying Chickens
"Nearly all commercial birds are kept in confinement housing with light control, power ventilation and mechanical feeding. Confinement housing varies from a few birds per house to more than 100,000 birds per house. In addition, there are many small and some commercial flocks that utilize a variety of free range and/or confinement shelters and housing.”
At Kaninchen Farm, we rarely keep our birds in confinement housing. In 5 years, we have only had 2 instances where they were confined to the coop. They were: when we built a new coop and they were closed in for 3 days to learn their new home, when we added new ducklings who also were closed in to learn their new home. There have been several times where the birds have been confined to a covered run that is attached to the coop. These generally include: when we seed new grass and plants in their large run, when it is extremely rainy or snowy (this includes extreme weather events such as a winter storm warning or area flood potentials, not the average thunderstorm), and when we take a trip and will not be their regular caretakers. These short term confinements do not harm the birds, but instead give them a better quality of life and help to keep them healthy and safe.
“Nutrition: Feed and clean water shall be available to the birds and when new birds are placed in the system, care must be taken to ensure that the birds find the feed and water sources. Knowing that all birds do not feed or drink at the same time, an average of 2.2 inches of feeder space and 1 inch of trough watering space per bird is acceptable for most systems, but may vary based on bird type. A maximum of 20 birds per mechanical water cup or nipple is recommended. In situations where high environmental temperatures may be encountered, fewer birds per cup or nipple is recommended.”
We have feed available to our birds two ways. Their main source of feed is put in one of two metal feeders. We have an indoor J feeder, and an outdoor 30# hanging feeder that is 44.8" of feeder space and listed to feed 30-50 birds. These feeders are usually kept full giving the birds continuous access to feed. In inclimate weather we bring the outdoor feeder inside before it is rained or snowed on. Sometimes these feeders are removed or allowed to be low-empty overnight to help cut down on mice and other potential pest problems. If we notice pest activity, we will remove the outdoor feeder when we close up the coop at 10pm and give it back when we open the coop up at 6am. Chicks are provided with a chick trough feeder that is kept full at all times.
We also believe that chickens are meant to scratch and display other natural pecking behaviors. To support this, we will throw out a few handfuls of scratch grains, wheat, oats, or other feed to our birds. This feed goes on the ground where the chickens hunt, peck, scratch, and dig for it. This gives them a chance to exercise their natural instincts and provides additional nutrients.
When it comes to water, we have 2 options we regularly use. We have an outdoor trough waterer. It holds 3 gallons of water. We also have multiple nipple systems we utilize when the time is right. We have between 5 and 9 nipples available. At 20 birds per nipple, that would be well over 100 birds we could have. Instead, we keep our flock numbers much smaller and the the nipple to bird ratio between 1:3 and 1:5. We prefer the nipple system because it keeps the water cleaner and fresher. Our system is equipped with a float valve that is hooked up to the water supply so that it automatically fills itself when it is low. We really like this system, but it has it’s disadvantages - namely if the valve malfunctions the hose will run until it is noticed, and in the winter the hose will freeze. This is why we have both a trough/pan waterer and a nipple system.
"Stocking Density: Regardless of the type of enclosure or system of management used, all birds should have sufficient freedom of movement. Minimum space allowance should be in the range of 67 to 86 square inches of usable space per bird housed in conventional cages (United Egg Producers, 2016)."
Our birds all have sufficient freedom of movement and are not housed in conventional cages. They are allowed freely from the coop into the run which has a 300’ perimeter. More than ample space for our flock.
"Beak Trimming and Dubbing: Due to the temperament of chickens toward feather picking, fighting and cannibalism, the beaks of domestic birds can be trimmed to remove their sharp tips. Trimming should be done by properly trained workers and should be done at prescribed times, usually prior to 10 days of age.
Partial removal of the comb at one day of age is commonly called dubbing and is an acceptable management practice. It is usually done at the hatchery before shipment of the chicks. In laying strains that develop large combs, dubbing reduces injury and bleeding caused by contact with their peers, as well as cages and/or equipment during feeding and drinking."
At Kaninchen Farm we do not debeak or dub our birds.
"Transportation: Safety and comfort of the animals are of prime importance when transporting poultry. Poultry in transit should be provided with proper ventilation for the conditions; clean, sanitized vehicles and equipment; and a floor surface that minimizes slipping. A delay or cancellation of transport should occur for birds that appear unhealthy, dehydrated or exhausted and unfit to withstand travel. Chick delivery: The day-old chick delivery vehicle should have the capability of maintaining a uniform temperature of 75°F (24°C) to 80°F (27°C) regardless of ambient temperature. Air circulation must be maintained around all chick boxes at all times regardless of their location in the vehicle. The vehicle should not stop from the time it is loaded until it reaches its destination. Provisions for maintenance of proper ventilation and temperature control should be provided in case of vehicle's mechanical failure or any other unforeseen vehicle stop(s). The transportation vehicle should be properly cleaned and sanitized between deliveries.
Adult poultry delivery: When adult poultry are transported, adequate ventilation, space and flooring should be provided. Hot weather is a time for particular caution. The birds should be protected from heat stress by being shaded and/or moved during the dark hours. Prompt unloading and/or auxiliary ventilation is essential when the birds reach their destination. During transportation in cold weather, birds should be protected by use of windbreaks, partial covering, etc. Ventilation must always be adequate."
At Kaninchen Farm we generally do not transport our birds except for sale. When birds are transported, we strive to do so in a manner that is safe and low-stress for the animals. We transport in a large cage with a textured plastic bottomed floor with a bedding of straw, hay, or wood shavings. Animals are not transported on a slippery surface. The vehicle used is one with working climate control and the animals are placed in the passenger cab, not in a trunk, trailer, bed, or on the roof. They receive the same climate, ventilation, and comfort as the humans do. After loading we do not stop before our destination and animals are never left unattended inside or outside of the vehicle. Water is always in the vehicle and can be given at any time, though most of our trips are short (under 30 minutes) and it is not necessary to provide food and water. We try to keep things calm, quiet, low-stress, and comfortable for any rides the animals take.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ENVIRONMENT
“Ventilation and Lighting: Ventilation in the layer house should provide a healthy level of moisture, gases and temperature maintained without drafts or dead air pockets. Lighting should be provided to allow effective inspection of all the birds and sufficient light for the birds to eat and drink. Light intensity within the house should average between 0.125 and 1.0 foot candle during the daily light period. The housing should provide shelter from disturbing noises, strong vibrations, or unusual stimuli, regardless of origin.”
Our coop provides a 2-3” vent along the entire front and back roofline. We also have 3 doors and a screened window that is left open all seasons except for winter (temperature dependant). Natural lighting is provided through the large glass window, and the smaller screened window. We also have a solar light system that comes on at night and lasts for 20 minutes to 3 hours.
FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT
“Housing: The design, construction and management of a poultry housing system must meet the birds' need for shelter against undesirable environmental conditions such as extreme cold, excessive heat, rain and wind and modify these climatic conditions to conform to an adequate environment for laying hens. They shall be constructed to minimize transmission of disease, parasites and other vermin infestation and optimize the principles of disease prevention. The housing should also protect the birds from all forms of predators and allow for daily visual inspection and care. Public Act No. 117 of October 12, 2009 will require that by April 1, 2020 all egg laying hens be housed so that they are able to fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. Hens may be housed in a variety of housing arrangements such as aviary, single tier systems or colony systems that are large enough to do so with a minimum of 1 sq. ft. per hen.
Cleaning of poultry houses: Poultry houses should be cleaned periodically to provide a healthy environment for the birds. The length of time between cleaning depends upon the type of housing, mechanical systems installed, removal of birds from the house and other factors peculiar to each individual farm. Typically cleaning is done in the time period after depopulation of the old flock and before the arrival of the new flock. Manure management should conform to the recommendations presented in the current Right to Farm Practices (Michigan Manure GAAMPs).”
Our coop is made of a double wall of plywood with insulation in between and provides protection from the elements, predators, loud noises, and more. The floor is covered with pine shavings and maintained using the deep litter method. We also regularly use DE in our coop to prevent mites and other parasites. The entire coop is cleaned and sprayed with sanitizer every season. The manure and bedding removed is composted in a low-odor method at the edge of our property and then used in the garden after 1 year. Nest boxes are checked daily and any eggs are promptly removed. They are regularly topped up with fresh bedding to maintain a clean environment and clean eggs.
HEALTH CARE AND MEDICAL PROCEDURES
“Optimal management practices are essential to maintain good health status in the egg production facilities and may be in consultation with a veterinarian. A program of disease prevention and control should be established for both conventional and organic production programs. Only federally approved medications and vaccines shall be used, following label directions in accordance with state and federal regulations."
We take health, disease, and prevention very seriously here. We have strict biosecurity measures designed to keep people from bringing in pathogens from their own areas. We have reduced/removed the number of available feed and water sources for wild birds on the property to help minimize transmission of disease. As part of preventing disease and catching it early, all of our animals are given regular check ups. This is done in 3 stages.
- The first stage are longer annual checks. These checks take place twice a year (spring and fall) and are when we weigh the animals, do a thorough full body exam, trim any claws and do any grooming or bathing that is needed. This helps us to keep track of each individual and how they are doing over a long period of time since things like weight and feather condition can vary by laying season.
- The second stage of checks are daily spot checks. Every day the animals are observed at least 4 times over the course of the day. We make sure that each animal is eating and drinking. We check their behavior and activity level (Are they acting right? Are they socializing properly? Are they playful or separating themselves?). We also check each bird’s general condition. We check their body shape and profile; combs, wattles, eyes, and legs are visually checked. We also examine the run for things like scat and footprints to be sure everything looks healthy and normal.
- The third stage happens whenever something different is noticed in the second or first stage. We will quietly catch the animal and take them for a closer inspection. Everything is checked from head to toe and if normal, the bird will be released back into the pen. If not, quarantine procedures are initiated and the bird is treated and isolated. If there is any disease found, we will not sell any stock until the problem is cleared up and all animals are deemed safe. It’s not just the sick individual who is quarantined, but we lock down the entire farm until it is cleared up and everyone is healthy.
“Pharmaceutical Use: It is imperative that those engaged in raising livestock and poultry for human consumption understand the prudent and legal use of pharmaceutical products. To help ensure that health and welfare of livestock and poultry and the safety of food they produce for the public, a veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is highly recommended. In most cases, a valid VCPR is mandatory for acquiring and using pharmaceutical products in food producing animals."
We only use approved medications in their appropriate doses, following the label use, and when clearly needed for our birds. We do not vaccinate our birds at this time. All withdrawal times are strictly followed if medication is needed for an animal whose meat or eggs are intended for human consumption. To date no chicken or duck has had medication besides a topically applied triple antibiotic cream for some foot lacerations.
“Euthanasia: Animals that are seriously injured or ill and show no promise for recovery should be euthanized immediately. Methods can be physical or chemical and one of the approved methods recommended by the AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia (AVMA, 2013). On the farm euthanasia recommendations are also available in the United Egg Producers Guidelines (2016).
Dead Animal Disposal: Animal tissue, whole carcasses or portions thereof, must be disposed of according to the Michigan Bodies of Dead Animal Act, Act 239 of 1982, Amended Act No. 311, Public Acts of 2008, December 18, 2008.”
In the best interest of our animals, all animals that are seriously injured, severely ill, or suffering without hope are humanely euthanized. We always have the illness or injury assessed and treated if possible or feasible. Unfortunately some things do not have a high recovery rate, are highly contagious, too expensive for a single animal, or lead to a prolonged painful existence. In these instances the animals are freed from their suffering and the bodies are disposed of appropriately.