Biosecurity and Keeping The Chickens Safe

All I can say sucks.  It isn't fun.  It is a chore and a huge PITA.  BUT!!!  I will keep it up and be as careful as I am able to.  I love my birds.  I don't want to lose them because of something I could have prevented. So, lets talk about biosecurity.  

You have probably seen the reports of poultry farms around the country who have had to have chickens or turkeys euthanized due to HPAI or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. Millions of birds. MILLIONS. What a waste.  It breaks my heart.  There is a You Tube video made by a gentleman in NY who documented his experience with HPAI.  He lost his entire backyard flock.  You can see that video here.  It is a difficult video to watch, but I think everybody with a backyard flock needs to see the reality of it.   You can keep track of wild bird cases in your area on the USDA APHIS website. There is also a google map created by an individual.  You can see that here.   There have been a couple of Bald Eagle deaths just a couple counties over from our location which tells us that HPAI is in our area.  

So, what's the difference?  Why is this different than "regular" bird flu?  There are low pathogenic strains of avian influenza and your flock could have symptoms and recover, or your flock could be infected and you not even know.  It poses little threat to human health.  The highly pathogenic strains are the opposite.   They are a death sentence to chickens and turkeys.  Water fowl may/may not survive.  It could potentially infect a human, although no known cases have been documented in the US with this year's spread as of today.    

I am in a lot of groups in Facebook.  So often I see people still allowing their flocks to free range.  That is their prerogative and I respect that, even if I disagree with it.  The thing that bothers me though, is that there are some that truly believe that it isn't a big deal and shame (or try to) those who are being responsible and keeping their flocks isolated.  

So.  What are some things you can you do to protect your flock from HPAI? 

First thing is, don't attract wild birds.  Anything you can do to deter them from hanging around is worth it.  Don't put out feeders.  Keep your yard cleaned up.  Chase off any wild ducks or geese hanging around your pond.  Wild birds are the main spreaders of HPAI. 

Second.  Keep your flock either in their coop or a secured COVERED run.  The covered part is important because that prevents fecal droppings from birds flying overhead from landing in the run.  Be sure that wild birds do not have a way to gain entry.  

Covered Chicken Coop

Third.  Wash your hands and either wash your shoes before and after entering your run/coop, or wear foot coverings.  This will prevent you from inadvertently tracking wild bird feces into your coop/run.  When putting on foot coverings, be sure to put them on AS you are stepping inside, without letting them touch the outside ground.  (For someone with crappy balance, this part sucks) 

Fourth, be sure feed and water is free of contamination and inaccessible to wild birds.  If you already have them under cover, it shouldn't be an issue.  

Some symptoms of HPAI are decreased egg production, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks, nasal discharge, lack of coordination, or sudden unexplained death.  If your flock has sudden unexplained deaths, contact your local vet, your state vet's office, or USDA APHIS. 




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