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How to Protect Your Backyard Flock from Bird Flu

Bird flu (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza) is making it’s way across the United States.  And while there is no threat to human health or food safety, this is scary for anyone with poultry because:
  1. There is no vaccine.
  2. There is no treatment.
  3. It is extremely contagious.
  4. It is fatal.  Chickens and turkeys die within days of contracting the virus.
Obviously, as turkey farmers, we do NOT want our birds to get this disease.  Not only is the farm our livelihood, but we care deeply about animal welfare, and it breaks our hearts to see our birds suffering and dying.

And I know many of you with “backyard flocks” of chickens feel the same way.  You’d be devastated if your flock died from HPAI. But unfortunately, your flock is also at risk.

bird flu chickens

Let’s back up.  HPAI was first detected in the United States in December in Washington state in wild birds (gyrfalcon and wild duck.) Then, a flock of 100 chickens and guinea fowl in Oregon came down with the disease.  There was a turkey farm in California infected, and “several incidences” of the infection in wild ducks in Idaho.

Last week, HPAI was found in one turkey barn in Minnesota and on two separate farms in Missouri (SW MO and Central MO.)

Edited 4/13/15: There have now been more than 35 confirmed cases of Avian Influenza in the United States, affecting Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Kansas, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  There is also a confirmed case in Ontario (right between New York and Michigan.)  Stay up to date with this map.

Obviously, the disease spreads quickly, especially during the spring migratory season.  Wild birds (ducks and geese, mainly) carry the disease, but do not have many obvious symptoms.  From there, it can be spread to chickens and turkeys, who generally die within 48 hours of infection.

Preventing the Spread of HPAI

So, what can you do to prevent your flock from getting HPAI?

- Prevent contact between your birds and wild birds.
- Restrict visitor access to your property and flock.
- Keep a separate pair of shoes/boots to wear around your birds, and wash clothing after handling your birds.
- Do not borrow supplies from another poultry owner.
- Don’t haul disease home.  If you’ve been around other birds or bird owners, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before going home. (Same goes for you - shower before and after visiting other birds/bird owners and wash your clothing as well.)
- Do not hunt wild ducks or feed ducks or geese. (In fact, any clothing and footwear that is worn in a wild bird environment should be removed and not brought in contact with your poultry at all.)
- Report dead birds to your state vet (wild water fowl or poultry.) Do NOT touch them.

If you suspect that a wild or domestic bird has HPAI or has died from HPAI, contact your state vet immediately!

It is so important for backyard enthusiasts, hunters, and farmers to work together to prevent the spread of HPAI.  Please share these tips with anyone you know who comes in contact with wild birds or poultry!

Protect from bird flu

(By the way, that beautiful backyard chicken enthusiast pictured is my friend Kristin from Local Farm Mom.)

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great information. This is a serious problem and threatens backyard flocks everywhere if we can' manage to control and contain it. Thanks for writing this.

  2. Great information about a very scary problem.