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General Game Bird information

At Sandhill Veterinary Services we aim to help our clients produce healthy birds and reduce any losses as quickly and efficiently as possible. To do this we need to examine samples – be it birds, faeces etc. – that typically reflect any problem being experienced. We can then give advice or medication relevant to the flocks’ situation at that time. 

We undertake post mortem examinations when sudden mortality or sickness occurs in a flock or can provide routine check-ups to monitor parasite levels in the gut. 

We also test faeces samples, mainly on partridges, to monitor worm eggs and cocci levels.  This is usually done from the birds being about 4 weeks old during the rearing season. This enables us to carefully monitor parasite levels, and then to treat the birds before they become sick.  

In addition to this we also carry out drinking water cultures and Trichostrongylus worm counts on grouse guts.  

When bringing in samples for testing or post mortem, the accuracy of the results very much depends on the quality of sample provided by the client. It is therefore crucial to select samples carefully and, if in doubt, contact the practice to confirm which birds or samples to select.  

Bird Samples  

Should your birds appear sick, without significant mortality, it is essential to select the birds which are typically affected. Do notselect birds for post mortem which maybe underweight, lame or poor quality birds, unless of course that is the particular problem you are having. These birds may not be typical of the flock as a whole, and may be showing other disease signs due to stress. Although you may not like sending better birds for post mortem, we will be better able to diagnose and treat your flock if the birds examined are more typical of the flock as a whole.  

The selection of birds depends on the circumstances. Should there be a sudden rise in mortality, select some freshly dead birds - these should ideally be dead less than 12 hours. In addition try and supply a minimum of three freshly culled birds. These fresh birds are as important as the dead ones as although they may appear healthy, they can give vital clues as to the health of the whole flock. Diagnosis of bacterial disease is done by culturing the organism, which must be taken from a freshly culled or dead carcass.  

The sooner the diagnosis and treatment of your birds, the less significant your loss should be, so as soon as you see a problem, contact us to check when the vet will be next available to see your birds if taking them in, or arrange a carrier to transport them. 

  • When bringing birds for post mortem in to us, we need;  

    • A brief history of the birds to aid diagnosis and any treatment necessary.
    • Age
    • Number of birds in the affected batch (for medication purposes)
    • Recent medication history

    When packaging birds for transport – cool the birds before packing if possible, then wrap in paper (newspaper will do) to absorb excess moisture. Then place in a plastic bag, then in a box. An ice or cool pack will help to keep the birds cool.  

    Faeces samples 

    Faeces tested for worm eggs and coccidial oocysts should be as fresh as possible. This is in order to reflect the current status of the birds that day. The faeces should be selected from a representative sample. If any scour is present, be sure to include a sample of these faeces too. They should be selected from different areas of both the shed and pen. Clean boards can be placed on the floor of the pen to catch any droppings – this ensures they are fresh. In partridge pens fresh droppings are often found near the tips of long grass.

    Please fill your sample pots to at least half full. We will thoroughly mix the faeces then use 2g of this to carry out the test. This mixed sample will provide a more typical count of the flock as a whole. Samples can be submitted on a weekly basis for routine monitoring, in which case faeces should be selected from the same pen each week in order to provide information from a typical group of birds and their health status monitored over the season.

    Please ensure pots are clearly marked with your name, the bird species, age and pen/house number so that the results can be accurately reported back to you. Ensure pots are securely packaged and posted the same day that the sample was taken, posted first class and any Royal Mail regulations complied with (correct postage please!). Please avoid posting samples on a Friday or Saturday as samples may sit in the sorting office over the weekend!

    Water samples  

    As clean water is essential for successful rearing of game birds, it may be necessary to test your water supply from time to time to check for bacteria levels. It is always a good idea to have your water tested at source before the season begins.  

    Collect a sample from the header tank or drinker using a sterile sample pot. Samples can be brought in to us directly or posted. Samples should be kept cool – please don’t leave them on the dashboard of your vehicle as the warmth is ideal for bacteria to multiply.  

    Please ensure pots are clearly marked with your name and the water source so that the results can be accurately reported back. Ensure pots are securely packaged and posted the same day that the sample was taken, posted first class and any Royal Mail regulations complied with (correct postage please!). Please avoid posting samples on a Friday or Saturday as samples may sit in the sorting office over the weekend!

    Grouse intestines  

    We carry out Trichostrongylus worm counts on grouse intestines to monitor worm levels. In order to carry out the count, we need the whole intestine of each grouse with both the caecae attached. If we receive a bag with numerous intestines and with the caecae detached, we cannot be sure we are testing different birds. If intestines cannot be sent in immediately they are obtained, they should be frozen and brought to the practice when convenient.  

    Please ensure samples are clearly marked with your name, contact number, age of birds and area the sample was taken.


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  Sandhill Veterinary Services 14 Long Street, Topcliffe YO7 3RW telephone 01845 578710 fax 01845 577685 email rtb@sandhillvet.co.uk