The development of an intensive poultry industry in developing countries depends mainly on the ability to establish and enhance commercial operations in small and medium scale, and to ensure success will be essential to control the health of poultry. The economic losses caused by avian diseases range from 10 to 20 percent of the gross value of production in the poultry sector of developed countries, and are probably higher in developing countries.

The ability to diagnose the causes of avian diseases and to quickly recognize an emerging disease is essential. Poultry pathogens do not recognize national borders, only production sites and their disease control conditions. Therefore, to stop pathogens, commercial poultry sites must have advanced defense lines in the form of biosecurity programs.

In developing countries, deficiencies in the bio-security of production sites and in the diagnosis of diseases predisposes to emerging pathogens that may become endemic threats, as has very recently occurred with H5N1 avian influenza. The establishment of a central avian sanitary facility / unit is an essential step in building capacity for diagnosis of diseases in veterinary laboratories and at field level.

A unit that has designated positions in diagnostic services, intelligence on diseases and dissemination at the field level can guide the supply of integrated poultry health services in production to all sectors of the industry. The best approach is probably a poultry health network in which the public and private sectors work closely together.

Services must be provided based on remuneration and cash in terms of costs for users. One of the basic functions of the network will be to establish viable points of contact with rural (family) poultry production, since it is the sector where the majority of poultry production systems are concentrated in almost all developing countries.

The welfare of poultry is important for both ethical and practical reasons. From the point of view of ethics, chickens have a sufficient degree of awareness or “ability to feel” to suffer if their health is deficient or deprived if they are poorly housed. From a practical point of view, consumers value the welfare of birds in confinement, so that producers who seek welfare to their flocks could have better access to markets.

During the last 15 years, great progress has been made in the development of valid methods for measuring the welfare of poultry. Scientific research on resistance and bird preferences has allowed the development of measures that can be used to verify the welfare of laying hens and broilers in commercial farms. An accurate measurement is the first step to achieve an improvement in well-being. The detection of welfare problems constitutes a powerful economic incentive to adopt measures in favor of welfare, since an improvement in well-being often leads to an improvement in production.

However, occasionally, standards on poultry welfare should be supported by legislation. Some countries have banned (or intend to do so) housing systems such as conventional cages for laying hens. Legislation can also place limits on factors such as broiler density, and producers participating in voluntary certification schemes can achieve even higher levels of welfare.

In the information notes, well-being problems, such as leg health and metabolic disorders, which are characteristic of broiler production, and bone problems and harmful pecking, characteristic of laying hen systems, are examined. The transportation and slaughter of poultry are also addressed and information is provided on how to avoid or mitigate the problems.