I’m Back!

Hi Everyone;

I have been away for too long.  I apologize, but have a good excuse…..well, several excuses, actually.  I accidentally overbooked myself into several projects to do with animal welfare, backyard chickens, advances in commercial egg production, and all the personal stuff that comes from having 2 kids that keep all the rest of the projects in perspective.

I think these past couple years have given me new perspectives on the poultry world that hopefully will make my blog posts a little more insightful.  Many of my projects have been at the national level and have made me think about bigger issues in bigger ways.  Conversely, I have done some projects that involve backyard flocks, which makes me think about smaller issues, in smaller ways…..equally challenging, surprisingly!

The things that sidetracked me from writing here over the past year or so have included being a member of the National Farm Animal Care Council committee to develop that Code of Practice for Poultry (Layers).  This document is basically a set of rules that define what is considered humane treatment for egg laying chickens in Canada.  It is a national standard, that is going to be implemented across the country.  As you can imagine, this was a VERY complicated process, and involved finding a middle ground that retailers, researchers, vets, humane societies and producers could all agree on…..I think we should take on the Palistine situation next….it couldn’t be a lot more complicated.  The code we produced, which will be published this March, is one that I am very proud to be a part of….it truly improves the welfare of millions of chickens, while still being practical.  I will tell you more about the process in a later post.

I have been very involved in developing and delivering a euthanasia course to all the laying hen producers in Ontario (yes, every one), and to a large percentage of the producers across the country.  Euthanasia has been one of those subjects that everyone wonders about but people don’t want to talk about openly (kinda like that funny looking nephew at the family reunion…..admit it…).  All producers, from the small backyard keeper to the largest professional farm need to have a plan in place to deal with an injured or sick chicken.  The decisions around when and how to euthanize are personal, emotional, and difficult, no matter what the size of your operation.  It is a subject that has been poorly communicated historically, and the course we made and delivered has been really successful and well received by the producers that attended.  I hope to explain practical methods of euthanizing to this audience as well.  I hope that you can understand the process, if it is valuable to you, or at least understand what chicken farmers face when they have to deal with euthanasia.

I have been involved with teaching how-to courses to backyard chicken keepers near me in Ontario, and being part of developing a course for non-poultry vets to give them the basics of chicken medicine so that they can be of service to backyard producers or small flock farmers in their area.  It was fun to explain some of what I do to some old colleagues, and it is definitely valuable to get some more vets out there that are willing and able to service small flocks.

I was also involved in developing a hatchery welfare program that is being implemented in the hatcheries across the country.  Again, the hatcheries have somewhat “fallen through the cracks” with respect to programs.  Don’t get me wrong, the welfare of the birds is very important in our hatcheries, but now we have a program that ensures that we are all measuring welfare in the same way, and trying to improve our processes as a group.  There are several new technologies and processes that are improving the welfare of all chicks in the first day of life.  I am continuing to work on these issues, and will share these advances in the next little while in the blog.

Finally, I have been very involved in the health of the laying hens in Ontario.  This means that I was busy helping to recover from Avian Influenza over the past year.  Understanding how the disease is spread, and the things that a country has to do to regain the status of being “free from Avian Influenza”, and the importance of that distinction gave me a new understanding of this devastating disease and the repercussions.

So, in summary….I am back….I have missed writing this blog, and am very glad to have the time to get back to it.  I hope there are still those of you that are interested in what I have to say, and I hope that I can share some things that are of value to you.

Thanks for reading,

Mike the Chicken Vet.





25 responses to “I’m Back!

  1. Really looking forward to your euthanasia course. It is the worst part of having chickens. My avian vet agrees that it is a really difficult issue for many people. It is very hard to find a relatively humane way to deal with an injured or sick bird. I use the broomstick method.

    • Hi Sweeth2o1;

      Yes, this is definitely one of the most difficult issues that chicken keepers face. It is also very emotionally charged, and difficult to address in a way that, frankly, won’t annoy some people. I do plan to discuss and illustrate some effective “how to’s” soon, and I hope everyone finds it useful.

  2. Hi Mike,

    I love your blog and so glad to see you are back! We are a family farm in California and are interested in knowing if you would be open in sharing the humane guidelines you have developed for industrial laying operations. Also interested in the euthanasia document you wrote about.

    Thanks Denise

  3. Outstanding! Looking forward to reading more about all of those projects! Definitely missed your insight and sense of humor. 🙂

  4. Thank you for returning to your blog. I look forward to more of your informative entries!

  5. I’m so glad you’re back! Congratulations on the good work you’ve done, and I look forward to your future blogs.

  6. Fantastic! I forwarded your email to all my producer emails, you have a lot of fans in AB.



  7. Glad you are back, and I am looking forward to your future posts! I hope there may be code of practice for small flocks as well as big producers coming, we also need a common understanding of humane treatment.

  8. Welcome back Mike! Looking forward to it all. 🙂 ~ karen

  9. Thank goodness you are back! We need to have more input from experienced medical folks. It is very hard to find a vet who knows much about chickens or has much wisdom about flocks.
    I think the subject of euthanasia is timely and will be well received. We all dread having to kill our chickens and yet on occasion it must be done. I want to know how to do it with the least amount of trauma for my birds and for my own self.

  10. NOTED

    Thanks alot

  11. Welcome back, and Yes! I am still very interested in what you have to say. Keep the posts coming!

  12. Mike the chicken vet,

    How can the classes on poultry medicine for veterinarians be accessed? My daughter is a mixed animal veterinarian in Maryland. She intermittently sees chickens in her practice, but has found it difficult to find poultry medicine continuing education classes.


    Ann Brokaw

    Sent from my iPad


  13. Welcome back! I look forward to all the new information!

  14. Kelly ann Mulholland

    Mike, you should be proud. As a member of the animal welfare community, I know how difficult it is to come to agreement on issues that have been around (and accepted) for centuries.
    Chickens, those gentle, intelligent and complex creatures continue to be exploited and abused by the billions. All that you are doing saves untold suffering. I wish I were a part of it, beyond taking care of our tiny flock of girls. Regarding the euthanasia issue, we have always taken our girls to a local vet who euthanizes them as pets would be, and gives us a slight discount as a courtesy. I realize that some producers can’t do this. Why is it that if we are dealing in larger numbers, individual suffering seems less important?
    Thank you for all you do. The world is truly becoming a kinder, more intelligent place.
    from Clonmel Farm, West Luther, Ontario.

  15. Wow, it sounds like you’ve been busy doing some Needed work. I’m very glad that you’ve come back to us though! There aren’t enough chicken experts around here for backyard flocks. Like the others, I am very interested in humane hen lives and humane dispatches. The broomstick method following “hypnosis” seems the most humane but I don’t really know. I would like to read the document on that. Also, I have always felt bad for chicks in hatcheries and then mailed!!! I am curious to see what you’ve gathered. Thanks. 🙂👍🏼

  16. Hi Mike,
    I too am in desperate need of info on euthanasia for the backyard chicken keeper. I tend to put it off too long and have resorted to asking neighbors for help when I can’t do it. I want to do it humanely, of course – but I seriously don’t know the most humane way at home.

  17. Oh no, the broomstick method might cause painful crushing of vertebra. Dr. Mike, can you direct us to a video that shows how to do cervical dislocation in the most humane way?? I ended up letting my poor sick girls decide when it was time to go…but if I knew of a kind way to euthanize I might have used it. Also, for farmers: is it necessary to use a blood-letting method when harvesting for meat? Thanks to all.

  18. Welcome back Dr Mike. I am so happy to read all of the things that you have been feverishly involved in. Having an avian doctor helping those who desire doing things the very best way to insure health in our flocks,is wonderful. Thank you -:) Leslie in a very snowy Northern CA.

  19. Great to see you back Mike – don’t forget you also contributed to The Fear Babe (and it’s been very well received, thanks in no small part to your invaluable input on this issue).

    I just had another enraged activist (and friend) demand to know why chickens are forced to lay 300+ eggs a year in terrible conditions.

    These rumours (doubtless fired up by stories of rogue outfits in the media) and then amplified by uniformed mommy bloggers, just refuse to die.

  20. Wow! Thank you for all your work. I will look forward to your posts.

  21. Mike, You are still the bomb! Thanks for staying in touch — I’m looking forward to more good stuff from you!

  22. Thanks for reviving the blog! As a backyard chicken owner we are starved for good information and often overwhelmed with bad and conflicting information on blogs and forums. A euthanasia series would be highly appreciated.

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