I know that I have done a few posts on mycoplasma since it has been in my flock but I am constantly researching it as it’s been such a big issue to me recently. I thought that I had read everything there was about it but sometimes putting a slightly different question into the google search engine can throw up some slightly different information.
For instance when I asked the question of whether chickens could get colds I found the information saying that they don’t have colds like we do but have a respiratory disease such as mycoplasma and that it must be treated as it won’t get better on it’s own.
When I got Caramel and Pebbles and this disease first showed itself in them I was put off the scent by the breeder telling me that seramas are prone to colds. Even this time round I could have treated a few days earlier if I hadn’t had this thought in my head when I first heard Freckles sneezing. After asking this question in my research I now know to treat at the first sign of sneezing. It makes me think that if the breeder believed that seramas were prone to colds then she unknowingly had it in her flock and wasn’t as knowledgeable as I would have imagined a breeder to be.
Goodness knows how many other chicken owners have landed up in my position through buying chickens from her. She used to show her chickens too so it could have been passed around this way and was perhaps how it came to her flock in the first place.
Anyway what I am leading up to is that I have just put a new question into my search. Because I have been treating my flock for so long now I asked how long chickens could live with mycoplasma. I didn’t really get an answer to this exactly but it did throw up an interesting essay on mycoplasma that I hadn’t seen before. It has actually made me feel a bit more positive about my situation.
This is the gist of what I found. Mycoplasma is a very challenging disease. Chickens become reservoirs of the pathogenic organisms. A hundred percent elimination involves culling the entire flock.
Mycoplasma has four pathogens in chickens but they all have similar symptoms and the same treatment so it’s not important to identify the particular one. Mycoplasma causes chronic respiratory disease, coughing, sneezing, sinus infection and ocular and nasal discharge.
Mycoplasma are very unique bacteria. They are the smallest living organisms on the planet. They are five times smaller than e-coli. Unlike most bacteria they often infect the inside of cells as opposed to the outside of cells.
They lack a bacterial cell wall which would protect them from the environment. Therefore they are extremely sensitive to the outside environment and do not survive outside of the host for very long.
That bit of information is good news because it means that there is no need to worry too much about disinfecting the chickens surroundings.
Many antibiotics work by inhibiting cell wall growth. Therefore mycoplasma is naturally resistant to antibiotics that inhibit cell wall synthesis. Tylan is one of the recommended treatments.
Mycoplasma is contracted vertically or horizontally. Horizontally is from one bird to another via respiratory droplets. Vertically is from a hen to embryo before the egg is laid. Therefore if one bird has it they all do even if they don’t show symptoms. Older birds rarely ever die from it.
Breeders must therefore cull their entire flock but as I will never be breeding this bit will never apply to me. Farmers who are not breeding cull the birds showing symptoms.
Back yard chicken keepers may need to do nothing except keep a closed flock as in not pass any birds on or will need to treat as symptoms occur.
This has given me some hope. It seems that Emerald and Speckles are not effected because they are older birds rather than bigger birds as I had imagined. It means that seramas are not more likely to suffer from symptoms because of their size but only because of their young age. Even with my four seramas only two have really been effected and as Cinnamon is the tiniest and the least effected that seems to back that up.
Sadly it means I will never be free of it because there is no way that I would ever cull my entire flock meaning that Emerald, who is my oldest and a great favourite of mine, and a well bird, would have to be sacrificed and that is never going to happen.
I couldn’t contemplate adding no more birds either as the flock could live many years and I could end up with one sad and lonely girl at the end of that journey. But it means that when I do add new girls I have to be super vigilant and treat at the first sign of any symptoms. I could maybe add older girls to lessen the chances of it effecting them.
It has given me hope that although I have had a bad run recently there could be times where it doesn’t rear it’s ugly head for long periods of time. If I can get my girls into spring and eventually a bit older they may not relapse.
I will now always keep a stock of tylan and having a vet that knows my history makes this easier to do. I will always treat at the very first sign of any symptoms. I can’t turn the clock back to a time before this was in my flock but I have learned an awful lot about this and I am now armed to do my very best to keep the problem as low as I possibly can.
I know this has been a long and heavy post but every new snippet of information helps me with this and if there is any chance that it could help anyone else then it is worth documenting.