Keeping your flock safe from the avian flu

 

Increasingly, I have been reading about the current spread of the avian (bird) flu, but it was only yesterday that our local newspaper, the (Hanover) Evening Sun finally addresses the potential impact locally. Nationally, avian flu has already taken the lives of over 48 million birds so far this year. The article claims that the state of Pennsylvania is preparing by providing $3.5 million dollars to go towards “animal health staffs, [and gathering] laboratory supplies to test for the flu and secure other equipment that will be needed in the field to respond to an infected flock,” which seems to be ahead of the curve compared to other states. While I am glad that Pennsylvania is preparing for the Avian flu to spread here via migratory birds this fall, I do not see how any of that $3.5 million will help my small flock directly. For you fellow backyard chicken keepers out there, I have done a little research as to what can be done to keep small backyard flocks healthy this 2015 season.

It is important to know what to look for when determining whether or not your flock has been exposed to the avian flu. Tractor Supply Co. lists the following as avian flu symptoms to watch out for:

  • Sudden death
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decreased egg production
  • Soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the comb, wattles, and legs
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Diarrhea

However, before you notice any symptoms in your flock, there are steps that can be taken to help prevent the spread of the avian flu to your flock. These are simple steps towards biosecurity that are recommended to be practiced year round:

  • Only enter the coop wearing clean shoes or ones specifically designated for use in the coop
  • Wash hands before and after entering the coop
  • Limit the number of people who come in contact with your flock
  • Before introducing any new birds to the flock, quarantine them for 30 days
  • Immediately quarantine any chicken displaying symptoms until a few days after symptoms subside
  • If your chickens free-range and you have migratory birds entering your yard, consider restricting yard access to your chickens until migratory birds have moved on
  • Keep feeders and waterers clean
  • Keep the coop tidy and consider performing a thorough cleaning; the following links provide great directions and tips to properly clean a coop:

While it is nearly impossible to guarantee that your flock will not be affected, even if best measures are practiced, following these simple steps will give your flock their best chance and staying healthy this season. I hope this information is useful and that everyone has great success keeping their chickens flu-free this season.

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