We are facing the most deadly animal disease in the history of our country. Highly pathogenic avian influenza has killed more than 48 million birds in the U.S. since last December. We will face our greatest risk to our flocks beginning with the fall movement of migratory waterfowl south from their breeding grounds in Canada. If we have the disease in our state, we will be fighting to save our birds from 3 to 5 years. We have developed the following tips to help you protect your poultry.
10 Tips to Keep Your Birds Safe from Avian Flu
- Keep chickens, turkeys, quail, guineas and other poultry separately from ducks. Ducks are known reservoirs for HPAI virus and can carry the virus without signs of illness.
- The HPAI virus lives for a long time in cool, moist conditions, so eliminate standing water (which might attract wild birds and waterfowl) in your flock’s pen. Also, make certain your birds do not have access to other water sources that might be visited by wild waterfowl: ponds, streams, lakes. Commingling of domestic poultry with any wild waterfowl creates a real possibility for the spread of HPAI virus.
- Place a cover over your flock’s pen, if possible, to prevent introduction of wild waterfowl droppings into the area your flock inhabits. The droppings of infected waterfowl have very high levels of infectious HPAI virus.
- Feed and water your birds in a protected area to prevent attracting any wild birds. The virus infects many species of birds and can be spread to your poultry through contact with birds carrying the virus on their feet or feathers, though they may not be infected.
- Wear shoe covers or clean boots each time you enter your birds’ pen. This will prevent tracking HPAI virus into the birds’ pen if it is present on your grounds.
- Keep feeders and waterers clean and sanitized often. Wild birds infected with HPAI virus that drink or eat from your flock’s equipment can spread the virus to your flock.
- Do not share equipment with other flocks. If you must share equipment, be certain it is cleaned and disinfected before moving from one premises to another.
- If you purchase new birds, buy only from a reputable NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) dealer. Keep the newly purchased birds separate from your existing flock for at least 3 weeks to rule out any infection that might be present, but not showing signs of illness when the birds were initially purchased.
- Watch your flock closely and know the signs of illness. Poultry infected with HPAI can have various signs of illness: lack of energy and appetite, reluctance to move, decreased egg production, soft or misshapen eggs, discolored comb and wattles, lack of coordination, diarrhea or sudden death. Susceptible birds may die without showing any signs of illness. In a HPAI-infected flock many birds will die within a short time.
- If your flock suddenly becomes depressed and begins dying, please contact NCDA&CS, your cooperative extension office, your local veterinarian or USDA APHIS and report these deaths immediately. You can reach NCDA&CS Veterinary Division at 919-707-3250, or USDA APHIS at 1-866-536-7593.