The use of antibiotics in one day old chicks

The use of antibiotics in one day old chicks

Many farmers are used to giving antibiotics as a prevention to one day old chicks, but is this really necessary? For one day old chicks, it is very important to establish a healthy gut flora. This starts byingestion of all sorts of bacteria which chicks find in their environment. This helps the gut to develop into a steady environment, with a lot of lactobacillus species to protect the chicken against pathogenic bacteria.

This means that if the chicks come from a good quality hatchery on a farm with good management, which is disinfected after the last round, chicks should be able to develop a healthy gut flora. A healthy gut flora acts as a natural barrier against disease, which makes the use of antibiotics in one day old chicks not necessary.

 In the article “Perturbation of microbiota in one-day old broiler chickens with antibiotic for 24 hours negatively affects intestinal immune development”  (Schokker et al., 2017), the effect of giving antibiotics to one day old chicks is researched. The research states that antibiotics given in the first 24 hours have a negative effect on the development of a stable gut flora. Furthermore, it has a negative effect on the development of the immune system. So in other words: giving antibiotics to healthy one day old chicks, doesn’t benefit them, it is bad for their development. It is better to offer good quality feed and a clean environment to healthy chicks, instead of using antibiotics in the first 24 hours. To help chicks develop a good immune system, it can be helpful to give extra vitamins, like Powervit wsp or Vitamino Trace Oral

Why are we giving antibiotics to one day old chicks if it is bad for them?
This is mainly because, in many cases, chickens can have vertically transmitted diseases (image 1), or because of hatchery infections.
Image 1 - Vertically transmitted disease

Vertically transmitted diseases are diseases which go from the adult hen through the egg to the young chick. This means, the chickens are born with the infection. These diseases can be:
  • Salmonellosis
  • Mycoplasma
  • Avian Encephelomyelitis
Avian Encephelomyelitis is a viral disease. We will not discuss this disease in this newsletter because this disease will need another approach.  A one day old chick can already have the bacterial infections Salmonella and/or Mycoplasma before it comes onto the farm. The only way to manage these diseases, is by giving antibiotics to the one day old chicks, followed by vaccination later in life. So in this case, it is better to administer antibiotics to one day old chicks. This outweighs the disadvantages of keeping Mycoplasma, Salmonella and hatchery infections in the birds.

In short:

How do you know if you have chicks with vertically transmitted diseases or hatchery infections?
This is very difficult to find out. You can inform at your hatchery if they are Salmonella, Mycoplasma and hatchery infection free. Hatcheries in Europe usually have certificates to show that they are confirmed disease free.

Which antibiotics are suitable for one day old chicks?
When you need to treat your chicks it is very important to choose antibiotics which do least harm to the gut flora. Besides that, it is important that the antibiotics only...

Do you already have an account? Log in here

Join the discussion


To read and post comments you need to login or register