Lookout for Avian Flu in Your Flock

This week we’re trying to help you solve problems you’re likely to encounter this grazing season. We start with a focus on reducing the impact of hay and fuel costs on your operation. To that, we’re adding some watch outs and ways to prevent your flocks from being impacted by the current round of Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu speading across North America. Millions of chickens and turkeys from infected commercial and backyard flocks in 22 states have already been killed and now the highly contagious bird virus has been detected in the Pacific Flyway where birds are migrating, and in Wyoming, Colorado and British Columbia.

Know Your Enemy

Avian influenza (Bird Flu) is a highly contagious and deadly virus for chickens, turkeys and wild birds, including ducks and geese. It spreads via nasal secretions, saliva, and fecal droppings, which experts say makes it difficult to contain.

Once bird flu has arrived in an area, it spreads quickly and easily. It can travel on manure, egg flats, crates, farming materials and equipment, and on people who have unknowingly picked up the virus on their clothes, shoes or hands. When poultry come in contact with contaminated surfaces or materials, they contract the disease and continue its spread.

Birds that have contracted avian flu will show these symptoms:
• Lack of energy and appetite
• Decreased egg production and/or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
• Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
• Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs
• Runny nose, coughing, sneezing
• Stumbling or falling down
• Diarrhea
• Sudden death without any clinical signs

Pictures courtesy of the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Protect Your Flock

Biosecurity steps are so straight forward, you should do them all the time, whether or not there’s a known threat heading your way. Here’s what the experts recommend:

1. Keep Your Distance.
Restrict access to your property and your birds. If visitors have birds of their own, do not let them near your birds. You should also do your best to keep your birds from having contact with wild birds and migratory water fowl that can carry germs and diseases.

2. Keep Clean.
Wash your hands before and after working with your birds. It’s also recommend that you wear clean clothes, scrubbing your shoes with disinfectant, and cleaning and disinfecting equipment that comes in contact with your birds. Clean clothes and disinfected shoes and equipment is something that we all probably balk at.

3. Don’t haul disease home.
Buy birds from reputable sources. Then keep new birds separate from your flock for 30 days. If you take your birds to the fair on an exhibition, keep them away from your flock for 2 weeks after the event.

4. Don’t borrow disease from your neighbors.
Don’t share garden equipment or poultry supplies with your neighbors or other bird owners. If you have to borrow things, clean and disinfect them before they reach your property. Do the same if you’ve borrowed something and are returning it.

5. Know the signs and report sick birds.
Don’t wait! If your birds are sick or dying, call your local cooperative extension office, your veterinarian, or your State Vet or animal/poultry diagnostic laboratory. You can also call the USDA at 1-866-536-7593 and they can put you in touch with a local contact who can help you.

Thanks for reading,

Kathy

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