Infectious bronchitis in chickens is one reason that it’s important to practice biosecurity and quarantine new birds before introducing them into your flock.
When we introduced new chickens into our first small flock, I missed one important step, and we learned a painful lesson as a result.
It wasn’t enough to ask if the new chickens were vaccinated, we should have kept them separate from our flock for 30 days to make sure they couldn’t introduce disease.
As it turns out, the new Barred Rock chickens brought Infectious Bronchitis into our flock (it does not affect humans), and it destroyed the Golden Buffs ability to produce eggs.
What Is Infectious Bronchitis (IB)?
Infectious bronchitis is a virus, it’s the most contagious poultry disease, and it spreads rapidly. It’s transmitted by contact with infected birds, contact with contaminated equipment, and can travel over 1000 yards through the air. The disease will infect a flock within 48 hours, and those birds that survive usually recover within 2 to 3 weeks.
Symptoms of Infectious Bronchitis
Gasping, coughing and sneezing are symptoms displayed by birds with infectious bronchitis. There is typically a significant drop in egg production, and those eggs that are laid may have soft, ridged, wrinkled, or non-existent shells.
For awhile we were in denial about the chickens having infectious bronchitis, thinking it was winter, they were molting, etc. However, when one of the Golden Buffs produced a “wrinkled” egg (see picture below – it’s a classic symptom of IB), we finally accepted that the new chickens brought disease to the flock.
Long Term Symptoms
Infectious bronchitis damages the reproductive organs of mature chickens, so although they may return to production six to eight weeks after contracting the disease, they may never produce well again. In the case of the Golden Buffs, they were about two years old and producing well. After getting IB, they were seldom able to produce an egg with a shell, and one hen had the difficulty with a prolapsed vent (see Chicken Emergency).
Preventing Infectious Bronchitis
Survivors of infectious bronchitis are IB carriers, so the only way to eliminate it is to get rid of the flock, clean the pen or coop, disinfect everything, and start over.
We started with vaccinated Golden Buff pullets (and I think starting with quality stock is important), but it didn’t protect them from contracting IB. So, the only sure way to protect your flock is to practice biosecurity, keep as “closed” a flock as possible and be sure to adequately quarantine any new birds before introducing them to your flock.