Five Tips For Protecting Your Chickens From Bird Flu

Bird flu is a viral disease found in bird populations that can be spread to domestic poultry. Some strains of the virus can be passed to humans and there have been human fatalities reported in China and other countries. 

In the U.S., the strains of bird flu that have been detected so far are not a threat to human health. However, the disease is a threat to chickens and other domestic poultry species.

The H5N1 Bird Flu is dangerous to humans and
has killed several hundred people in Asia. Photo courtesy CDC

Waterfowl are known to carry bird flu and migrating populations can pass the disease to backyard and commercial flocks.  The recent discovery of bird flu in backyard flocks in Oregon and Washington states has been tied to this form of transmission. 

As a result, Experts at the University of California at Davis have issued a strong recommendation encouraging backyard chicken owners to take increased care in protecting their flocks. We agree and suggest the following to protect your flock.

Recent bird flu outbreaks have been traced to migrating waterfowl

Protecting Your Flock From Bird Flu

1. Create A Run For Your Girls - Domestic poultry can pick up bird flu by coming into contact with dropping from infected wild birds. The best defense is to isolate wild birds from your flock. Adding a chicken run to your coop that's completely enclosed by chicken wire (including a ceiling) keeps wild birds out and your chickens safe.

2. Keep the Water Clean - Since bird flu is passed by transmission of the virus in feces, it makes sense to keep the water sources for you flock free of chicken and wild bird droppings. This is particularly important if your property includes a pond that can attract known carriers of the disease including wild ducks, geese and other waterfowl. A valve based chicken waterer that uses poultry valves is a good way to keep the drinking water free of potential contamination. 

The BriteTap chicken waterer helps keep water safe and free of droppings

3. Buy A Spare Pair of Shoes or Boots - If you attend poultry shows, visit friends who own chickens, visit areas frequented by waterfowl, or come into contact with chickens other than your own you risk picking up bird flu and accidentally carrying back to your flock on your shoes. Buy a pair of shoes that you only wear when entering your chicken coop or run. Don't forget to wash your hands if you handle other birds as this is also a way the disease can be transmitted.

4. Friends Don't Let Friends Spread Bird Flu - We think the risks are still too low to ask all visitors to your home to wear disposable plastic shoe coverings. However, if your friends own their own chickens or if they are visiting as part of a chicken coop tour, you should insist that they either wear plastic booties or spray their shoes with disinfectant.

5. Buy Safe Birds - Make sure you buy your chicks from a reputable source that practices bio-security. If your not sure, ask them about this before you bring new chicks to your home.


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