Towards the end of May it became clear that we had a big problem. Mycoplasma is endemic in about 75% of domestic flocks and usually doesn’t cause any real problem.
The severity of this particular strain however was shocking to see. Many of the hens were sneezing and coughing. When close to individuals you could hear them gurgling quite loudly and some were having great difficulty breathing. If this wasn’t bad enough, many had swollen sinuses and eyes that were closed, due to a sticky yellow secretion.
It was clear that a vet had to be involved if we wanted to get on top of this plague. We contacted Rhona in Portree, who responded quickly. The bad cases were given a few days dose of an antibiotic. The rest of the flocks were given Denaguard, a new antibiotic which has no egg withdrawal. There is no cure for mycoplasma, so the antibiotics only reduce the symptoms.
The infection began in our bantams, some had pretty bad symptoms but all of them got through it without any antibiotics. Our Black Rocks, Brahmas and Maran flock strangely showed no sign of this particular strain and to date that remains the case. I can only guess that at some point in the past they had already come into contact with it. I know that some members of this flock have in the past displayed respiratory infections, but nothing like the severity of the latest one. I always thought that mycoplasma was an infection that most birds got and that the symptoms were at a low level, I now know better!
Unfortunately the infection also got to our Japanese bantam chicks. At first several of the adults showed the symptoms and a week or so later a couple of the chicks were looking bad. One poor chick had both eyes closed, both eyelids solidly stuck due to the sticky secretion. Having caught him (no mean fete with Jap bantams) we carried him to our ‘medical centre’ in the garage. We gently wiped his eyes with damp cotton wool and then put a couple of eye drops in each eye, the drops contained antibiotics and an anti-inflamatory.
We have a bantam cross male called Helmut who has had mycoplasma, during which he had both eyes shut, this was caused by the swelling and the yellow secretion coming from the tear ducts. He was treated along with the other birds, having largely got over the mycoplasma he now has a major eye problem with his right eye. It seems to be a different infection (not caused by mycoplasma directly), the eye remains shut, but when trying to treat the eye with an antibiotic we can see that the infection is quite different from mycoplasma, we think it might be salmonella. He could have caught it trying to clean his eye and scratched it allowing the salmonella in. Looking at it shows the infection has covered the outer membrane of the eys, either way it doesn’t look good. He will be taken to the vet tomorrow. Update on the vet visit. Sadly his right eye has largely been eaten away by the salmonella and he won’t be able to see from this eye again. Good thing he’s a very spirited little cockerel, although it will take time, he will adjust.
On the left is a photo of a White Silkie with Mycoplasma. If you put your mouse over the photo and click you will see a close-up, in the close-up view you can clearly see the foaming in the corner of the eye. This is one of the characteristic symptoms of Mycoplasma.
We are near the end of this Mycoplasma infection, there are still a few birds displaying symptoms, but no new cases, so fingers crossed that things will now improve. It has been three weeks of hard work to get on top of the infection. Never again will the word mycoplasma be dismissed as a minor infection of poultry.