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An Update on Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza to the North Carolina Backyard Poultry Owners

As summer gives way to fall, crops are harvested, apples are picked and fresh cider and donuts greet us in the morning, and with the fair and exhibition season now in full swing we want to thank everyone for your understanding and compliance in keeping birds out of the fairs this season.

With all of the good that comes with the fall season, it also starts the migration of wild bird populations to their winter grounds in the south. This is how the recent outbreak of HPAI began in the Northwest in backyard flocks in December 2014. We consider the fall and spring migration as the period of greatest threat for the introduction of HPAI into North Carolina. Mid-October is here and the movement of waterfowl into North Carolina is well underway.

The first stage of this year's migration began in September, and October brings a larger and more diverse migration of waterfowl into North Carolina. These migratory movements will continue through March 2016 where things change as we see birds from southern latitudes arrive and stage in North Carolina for a few weeks before continuing their migration north. It is not uncommon to still see migrant waterfowl in the state in early-April.

We are reminding all our backyard owners to remain vigilant and are asking you to review and continue to use good biosecurity practices with your flocks. With the long, cold months of migratory bird movements still ahead of us, these are the months that the virus is able to persist in the environment for extended periods of time and increases the risk of infecting your flock. Your backyard flock remains at the greatest risk for commingling with migratory birds and becoming infected with the HPAI virus. USDA-APHIS has a good biosecurity checklist online.

We thank everyone who has registered a backyard flock with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. We will continue to send you e-mail updates on the spread of the disease as well as forward you the most current updates and links on how to improve your biosecurity to protect your birds. We ask that if you haven't registered your flock yet that you go to our website so that you can be receive the benefits listed above and receive alerts of any outbreaks as they develop.

If you have any concerns or questions, please contact us at 919-707-3250 and know that we remain committed to serving, protecting and promoting agriculture in North Carolina

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Visit us at the State Fair!

There isn't the sound of roosters crowing, but we do have some great chicken coops on display. Nine FFA clubs from N.C. high schools competed in theN.C. State Fair Coop Competition. They had to design a coop with biosecurity in mind, along with being judged for creativity and sustainability.

So stop by and see some of the interesting touches they added to these coops. And if you find one you like, you can make a bid. Each coop is for sale, with a silent auction being held throughout the fair.

There is also info about avian influenza available in the Poultry Tent, located near Gate 2 on the south side of Dorton Arena.

Help spread the word!

Please share this newsletter with anyone who works with poultry or their suppliers. Download a poster for your place of business. Or share the website with a fellow enthusiast.

Our website has a ton of information for small-flock owners. Visit for biosecurity information, links to USDA information, hunting information, frequently asked questions and more!


Frequently Asked Questions

My ducks and chickens, turkeys and guineas live together and all seem healthy. Do I need to separate them?
It is a good idea to keep all waterfowl separate from your chickens, guineas and turkeys. Waterfowl are known carriers of the influenza virus and may appear perfectly healthy, while being able to infect your flock.

I’ve heard that I might catch avian influenza from my flock. Is this something I should be concerned about?
The Centers for Disease Control considers HPAI to be of low concern to humans. The types of avian influenza found earlier this year in the U.S. have not affected humans. (Most human cases of avian influenza have been in the Far East and Middle East. If you are travelling to those areas of the world, you should avoid poultry markets and close contact with live birds or their droppings, and avoid contact with your poultry for two weeks after returning.)

My flock lives outside except when they enter their coop for the night. Should I keep them inside all the time?
Moving flocks inside will provide further protection because they have less chance of coming in contact with wild waterfowl. If you cannot keep them in housing, be sure to avoid anything that might attract other birds, such as feeding them in the open.

How could wild waterfowl give the disease to my flock?
Wild waterfowl typically shed the virus through their droppings. The virus lives well in cool, moist places, so access to ponds and streams can be dangerous for your flock. It is best to keep your flock confined so that they cannot access areas where waterfowl gather.

What, if any, controls or restrictions have been placed on backyard chicken operations, especially the movements between homes of birds?
No controls have been applied to backyard operations other than the suspension of public sales and shows which applies to all poultry. Individual sales (person to person) of poultry are allowed to take place. Flock owners are also free to order poultry from out of state hatcheries as long as import rules are followed. Flock owners who sell hatching eggs or chicks may sell them and ship by mail.

Should we be encouraging backyard farmers to take better measures for prevention (ex. Confinement, PPE, disinfecting)?
Yes, NCDA&CS has developed a comprehensive website for HPAI to include a section for small flock owners with information on warning signs of infectious diseases.  Veterinarians from NCSU and NCDA&CS are presenting the latest information at workshops designed for small flock owners. You can register to attend a meeting at  NCDA&CS produces an e-newsletter for small flock owners. Sign up here

If a neighbor is affected will his birds be euthanized or just quarantined?
Only birds from infected flocks will be put down. However, other premises in close proximity to an infected site will be subject to surveillance and possible quarantine. All movement of poultry and poultry products into and out of a quarantine zone will be permitted.

Follow NCAgriculture:

Informational posters:

NCDA&CS biosecurity poster for feed stores & bird shows (PDF)

USDA-APHIS Biosecurity guide for poultry and bird owners (PDF)

USDA-APHIS 6 ways to prevent poultry diseases (PDF English & Spanish)

USDA: What to expect if you suspect HPAI (PDF)

HPAI: A Guide To Help You Understand the Response Process (PDF)



We've had almost 3,000 small/backyard flocks owners register with the State Veterinarians' office since Aug. 1.

This will faciliate getting information to all flock owners in case HPAI is introduced to North Carolina.

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Steve Troxler, Commissioner of Agriculture

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