Keeping flocks and people healthy

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Keeping backyard poultry continues to increase in popularity in the United States. Have you recently expanded your animal family to include backyard poultry like chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, and guineafowl? We know that as a flock owner you want to keep your birds healthy. Keeping your flock healthy also helps to prevent the spread of diseases to other birds (wild or domestic), pets and other domestic animals, and to you and your family. This is especially important for people at higher risk for serious illness from germs that poultry can carry, like young kids, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Here are some simple ways to protect your birds, yourself, and your family from disease.

Practice healthy habits around your flock 

Muddy Rubber GumBoots on Wood Holder
  • Wash your hands before and after handling poultry or their supplies.
  • Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry.
  • Don’t let backyard poultry in your house.
  • Supervise children around poultry, and don’t let children younger than 5 years old handle or touch poultry.
  • Use a dedicated pair of shoes for taking care of poultry and keep those shoes outside.
  • Clean poultry equipment and supplies outside.

Protect your flock from bird flu 

Chickens on traditional free range poultry farm

A specific bird flu virus called H5N1 bird flu has recently been found in wild birds in 27 states and has caused outbreaks in commercial poultry and backyard flocks in 17 states as of March 28, 2022. These viruses can spread quickly among flocks, and birds can get very sick and sadly, often die. Although the risk of people getting bird flu from birds is low, flock owners should take steps to keep their birds healthy and report any sick birds immediately.

Make a biosecurity plan 

Biosecurity – actions to keep diseases away from birds, property, and people – is key to keeping your poultry healthy. Practicing good biosecurity reduces the chance of your poultry being exposed to diseases. These diseases can be spread by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles. Now is a good time to review your biosecurity plan!

  • Keep your distance — Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds.
  • Keep it clean — Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools, and equipment, and by frequently cleaning food and water sources.
  • Don’t haul disease home — Also clean vehicles and cages.
  • Don’t borrow disease from your neighbor — Avoid sharing tools and equipment with neighbors.
  • Know the warning signs of infectious bird diseases — Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease.
  • Report sick birds — Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths to the state or the federal government, either through your state veterinarian or by calling USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.