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.