Everyone wants their chickens to be healthy, but are you truly giving them the best protection possible? There are some very lethal poultry diseases out there and you may, without even knowing it, be bringing those pathogens into your backyard. It is important to think about setting up some kind of defense between disease and your birds.
When we use the term “Biosecurity” we are talking about a system of methods that, used correctly, will help to protect your birds from the unseen viruses and bacteria that are looking for a new home. We don’t want that new home to be your chicken coop.
There are many contagious diseases out there that can effect your flock. There has been an outbreak of Virulent Newcastle Disease is southern California this summer. This particular outbreak is effecting small backyard flocks and not the large commercial poultry houses like we saw with the Avian Flu a few years back. The Newcastle outbreak highlights the need for year round poultry biosecurity. If biosecurity is not practiced it would be very easy for Newcastle disease to make its way across the United States infecting birds as it hitches a ride on the tires of a truck or on the bottom of someone’s shoe.
The first thing that you can do is to keep things clean in your own backyard. Something as simple as washing your hands or using hand sanitizer before entering or exiting your bird area can be effective. Change food and water daily in your pen. Clean and disinfect cages, tools or other equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings. There are several good disinfecting products. I use Oxivir on everything. Other good products include Oxine and Virkon S. Cleaning and disinfecting are important steps to keep your bird’s environment healthy. Disinfectants only work effectively when you first clean all dirt, manure, and bird droppings from your tools, cages, boots and equipment. Clean these things outside of your house to keep germs outside.
Have a separate set of clothes and shoes that you wear only in your poultry area. I have a pair of slogger boots that I only wear when I am doing chicken chores. They slip on and off easily and can be cleaned daily with a garden hose. I do not go down to the chicken coop unless I am wearing those boots. I have a set of snowmobile boots that I use in the winter for chicken chores. When I go into the house I change into my house shoes. Those shoes I will wear in the brooder room and the incubation area. I wear an apron in the brooder room that is washable. Outside in the adult chicken area I have a coat that I only wear when doing chicken chores. It is washable as well. I also wear gloves that are easily washed as well. It is important to me to keep the adult chicken germs away from the baby chick area and the rest of the house. Wash and disinfect shoes and clothes often.
It is important to keep other people and other birds away from your flock as much as possible. That includes birds you just bought and wild birds. Both could carry disease to your chickens. Restrict access to your property and your birds. Avoid visiting farms or other households with poultry. At your own place, do not let visitors near your birds at all if they have their own birds. It is sad to have to say this, but you need to protect your flock. If you can’t avoid contact with others then make sure that you disinfect your shoes and clothes before being with your birds again. This is why you need separate boots and coats that you only use with your chickens. Don’t use other people poultry equipment without disinfecting it first.
If you like to exhibit birds at poultry shows, make sure that you quarantine birds for at least two weeks after the event. Wear different shoes and clothing when at the show or fair and disinfect when you return home. Disinfect cages that were used for transport.
Be sure to buy birds from a reputable source. Check and see what kind of biosecurity they practice. Someone who is an NPIP breeder has their flock pullorum tested every year and can only buy from others who are NPIP. A state inspected hatchery has a state vet come out and inspect the premises every year and discusses biosecurity standards with them. Whoever you do buy from make sure that you keep new birds quarantined for at least 30 days.
Don’t let wild birds have contact with your flock. If your birds are outside, consider keeping them in a screened area. Do not let wild birds eat food in your chicken run. This will also help keep insects and rodents away. Hang fly strips or fly traps in the coop. Flies can transmit disease on the bottom of their feet. Put out mouse traps and clean up spilled feed to keep your area rodent free.
Change is always hard especially if you are used to doing things in a certain way. Just pick one suggestion and start with that. Once it becomes a habit, choose another biosecurity measure to implement. You will feel better knowing that you are keeping your flock safe and healthy.
For tips and tricks for raising outstanding silkies check out our Chicken Learning Center at VJPPoultry.com . VJP Poultry is an NPIP and state inspected hatchery located 30 miles north of St. Paul. We hatch out silkies all year long so we always have stock available. Like us on Facebook to get weekly updates on what we currently have for sale.
Victoria J. Peterson