Backyard Birds and Biosecurity

Backyard Birds and Biosecurity

What Is Biosecurity?

Biosecurity is what you do to reduce the likelihood of an infectious disease being carried into your backyard and to your chickens by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles. Good biosecurity helps keep infectious disease from spreading to your chickens and causing illness or death.  I am not an expert on avian diseases, but just like with plant diseases, practicing prevention and sanitation is important and far easier than trying to cure a disease.  I agree the following sounds extreme and a bit paranoid, but commercial poultry businesses are far more strict in their operations.  I value the health of my family and my flock so we try to follow these practices.

Some of the biosecurity and sanitation methods I use in our yard.

  • I do not introduce any adult chickens to my flock.  This is the most important thing I can do to keep my flock healthy.  (other folks quarantine new birds for 1 month before introducing to their existing flock.)
  • I don’t handle other peoples’ chickens and I stay out of their coop and run areas.
  • I keep droppings cleaned up daily in the coop and weekly in the yard.
  • I compost the droppings in my hot compost bin.  Temperatures reach as high as 160 degrees so I am confident it kills any pathogens.
  • I regularly clean feeders and waters before refilling.
  • I constructed my coop so it could be easily cleaned, and prevents rodents, flies, and mosquitoes from getting in.  There have been numerous local cases of West Nile virus in the local birds and a few in humans and it was transmitted by mosquitoes.  The city of Long Beach actually uses sentinel chickens to track diseases in four locations in the city.
  • I make a habit of removing my shoes that I wore to the feed store or other similar places before stepping on my property when I return home.  The shoes get dipped in disinfectant before wearing again.
  • When I have chicken keeping visitors come over, I ask that they dip their shoes in disinfectant before coming through my house or gate and I ask that they don’t handle my birds.
  • I make sure to wear clean shoes and clothes that were not worn outside around my chickens whenever I visit other peoples’ places that have chickens.
  • I regularly examine my birds for signs of illness or parasites.
  • I have impressed upon my children and their visiting friends the importance of good hand washing after handling chickens (or the tortoise,) any of their equipment, or eggs.  THIS IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR KEEPING OUR FAMILY HEALTHY than anything.  I also made sure the kids learned not to snuggle or kiss any chickens.
  • I don’t allow my children to handle the neighborhood ducks that frequent our street.

*Unfortunately, because I allow my hens to forage around the yard, they manage to come in contact with areas that wild birds also have access to.  Also, with a duck pond across the street, some exposure happens indirectly through dogs and kids that can not be avoided.  If a local outbreak of a disease is reported in the bird population, I will confine my flock exclusively to the run and coop, and practice even stricter methods of diseases prevention.

Some of the other stricter biosecurity methods recommended to protect a flock from disease or pathogens:

  • Quarantine any new birds for one month to watch for signs of illness before exposing them to existing birds.
  • Always keep chickens in an enclosed coop and run that wild birds can not get into.
  • Never let other poultry keepers visit the area the chickens are kept.
  • Keep a “clean area” perimeter around the coop.
  • Use only “coop shoes and clothes” around your flock that never go off your property.
  • Keep other pets like dogs and cats away from the flock.

Here is a good links to learn more about biosecurity, common diseases, disease prevention, symptoms to look out for, and more:

United States Department of Agriculture

UC Davis

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