Biosecurity measures for backyard poultry

Poultry Disease Control and Prevention

Between the COVID-19 crisis and the recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in Victoria, the term “biosecurity” has taken on a new significance. Suddenly, the biosecurity measures taken by commercial chicken operations, such as boot washing stations and hazmat suits, seem much more reasonable.

Hazmat suits are obviously overkill with backyard chooks. But just like our social distancing prevents COVID-19 from spreading in the community, good chicken pen biosecurity measures help control and prevent poultry disease. In you live in one of the affected areas of Victoria, practicing good biosecurity, even with a small backyard flock, is now a legal requirement. This protects the health of our families and our chooks, the local community and the multibillion-dollar commercial poultry industry.

There are 4 simple steps to poultry disease control and prevention:

  1. Prevent disease coming into the flock
  2. Protect yourself from diseases by practicing good hygiene
  3. Control disease to keep your flock healthy
  4. Prevent disease from spreading to other chickens

Step 1: Prevent poultry disease coming into the flock

There are many sources of poultry disease. Some can be avoided, and others not so much. Preventing poultry disease is the most important biosecurity measures on a backyard scale. Here is a basic breakdown of how to avoid the most common sources of chicken disease.

Step 2: Protect yourself from poultry disease

Protecting yourself and those around you from illness is simple. In this case, biosecurity relies on normal hygiene. Yet you’d be amazed how many backyard chicken keepers fail to practice it!

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling chickens, their equipment or eggs
  • Avoid bringing birds into the house
  • Avoid close contact with sick chickens and wear a mask and gloves if you are unsure what the illness is
  • Wear a mask when cleaning the chicken coop
  • Always wash clothes and hair after cleaning the chicken coop
  • Thoroughly clean clothing, shoes or equipment that has been used with chickens before using it for anything else
  • Never eat eggs or meat from a bird that might be sick
  • Always properly compost chicken manure and bedding before using them on gardens
  • Do not allow indoor pets into the chicken coop or run
  • Do not eat in the chicken coop or run

Step 3: Control disease in your flock

Like humans, chickens pass diseases and parasites back and forth among themselves. The best thing a chicken keeper can do to control the spread of disease in their flock is to keep their coop clean and their flock healthy. This means:

  • Deworm your chickens regularly and treat for external parasites like lice and mites
  • Keep the coop and run clean and dry
  • Disinfect your coop regularly
  • Always isolate sick birds and treat illnesses immediately
  • Never feed chickens on the ground
  • Always ensure food and water are not contaminated by faeces
  • Keep grass short and encourage sunlight, which can destroy many parasites and diseases

Step 4: Prevent disease from spreading between flocks

What we do at home makes a difference to other chicken keepers and the commercial poultry industry, which employs thousands of people across Australia. That is why backyard biosecurity is so important to the control and prevention of poultry disease.

It is simple to prevent spreading diseases off your property:

  • Keep your chickens at home unless absolutely necessary, e.g. to visit the vet
  • Be aware of common chicken illnesses and their symptoms, including notifiable diseases that must be reported nationally and/or to your State/Territory
  • Do not wear contaminated clothes or shoes off your property
  • Avoid contact with other chickens
  • Clean and disinfect any contaminated equipment, especially tyres, before leaving the property
  • Dispose of dead birds and other waste responsibly
  • Do not swap, sell or give away birds that you believe may be carrying diseases. Once birds are exposed to some illnesses, they will carry them for life.

Remember, what we do at home matters. Good biosecurity measures in backyard chicken coops all over Australia are key to the control and prevention of poultry diseases in our own flocks and in the community.

Happy chicken keeping!

Rachael at Dine A Chook Australia

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