I will start with a question to jog your mind. How many ways can you vaccinate chicken?
Last week, my chicks turned nine weeks and it was time to administer the fowl typhoid intramuscular (IM) injection as per the recommended schedule (Seeds of Gold, July 22).
Please, don’t confuse fowl typhoid with fowl pox vaccine as I used to days back. The latter is given as a ‘wing-web stab’ at week six (Seeds of Gold, August 5).
Fowl typhoid is a bacterial infection in the family of salmonella. Actually, salmonellosis in birds presents itself in three different forms — as fowl typhoid, pullorum and as paratyphoid disease. Fowl typhoid causes high mortality in young, unvaccinated birds, so you have to administer it without fail.
Another important reason why the vaccine is given is that in humans, salmonella is a common cause of food poisoning. Salmonella infections in humans occur when one consumes infected raw poultry products like eggs and meat or when human food is contaminated with faecal matter from infected chicken. That means vaccination protects birds and humans against disease.
There are six different ways to vaccinate chicken. These are through eye drops, in drinking water (Newcastle and Gumboro), using IM injections, by wing-web stab, using backpack sprayers and subcutaneous injections.
Each method is applied to specific kinds of chicken diseases and it requires a trained worker. To ensure you’re using the right technique, always consult your vet.
With intramuscular, the needle gets injected into the chicken’s muscle.
“The breast muscle is the best site for IM vaccine injections,” Dr Omari, a vet, said as he gave the bird a stern glare last week.
To prepare, I had bought 500 doses of the fowl typhoid vaccine, four five cubic millilitre needles and syringes, cotton wool and surgical spirit.
The first thing was to draw 1ml of the vaccine into the four needles. He then sterilised the injection spot. To do this, he soaked a cotton wool ball in the surgical spirit and separated the feathers over the injection site before swabbing the skin.
For the next step, you will definitely need an assistant to hold the chicken down on a table. “It is easiest to give this injection when the chicken is placed on a table,” said the vet.
Cleophas, the farm manager, then grabbed the hocks and legs of the chicken with one hand, while the other hand grasped both wings at the base while the chicken lay on its side.
The vet then located the keel bone. “The keel bone is the bone that divides the chicken’s breast,” he elaborated.
He then located the exact spot to inject the vaccine which was one to one-and-a-half inches to the side of the keel bone. He explained that this spot is the largest part of the breast muscle and this makes it easy to administer the vaccine.
There’s something else I noticed. He held the needle at 45 degrees slant as he inserted it into the injection spot.
“Holding the needle at this position and inserting it into the chicken will ensure it reaches the muscle below the skin,” he explained.
He then pushed the plunger down on the syringe and injected the vaccine as the poor chick clucked and flapped its wings.
“Make sure that none of the vaccine spills out while you are injecting it,” Dr Omari cautioned. Once all of the vaccine had been injected, he removed the needle from the chicken.
The next step was to check and ensure there was no bleeding. “If you notice that the spot is bleeding, you’ll have hit a vein or artery. Remove the needle and try a different spot,” he said with finality.
Dr Omari, a long time consulting vet surgeon, told me that for better results, one should inject half the dose on the left and the other on the right side of the chicken breast.
I must warn you that for 500 birds, you must be prepared to work the whole day as we did.