Protect your small or backyard flock from diseases such as highly contagious avian influenza

Learn biosecurity basics to keep your birds healthy.

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Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was detected in Michigan on February 24, 2022. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is monitoring the situation closely. It is important for all poultry owners and caretakers to know the signs of the disease and the steps they can take to protect their flocks.

Biosecurity sounds technical, but it is simple to understand when broken down to its roots: Bio- is a prefix meaning “relating to life” and security means “being free of danger or threat.” So essentially, biosecurity is a word that means the steps you take to protect the health of your animals by reducing the spread of disease. 

Avian influenza, and other avian diseases, spread through direct transmission, with exposure to infected birds, feces or secretions or through indirect transmission, through the movement of people, containment equipment, clothing, footwear. Some diseases such as avian influenza may be spread via respired respiratory droplets. A major concern is that wild migrating birds carry the disease from place to place along their route. Limiting exposure of backyard flocks to wild birds is critically important for limiting the spread of avian influenza, particularly during times of waterfowl migration, spring and late fall. Learn more about the symptoms of avian influenza and how to report a suspected case in the article: Identify the signs of highly contagious avian influenza in your small or backyard flock.

To help protect your flocks and limit the spread of avian influenza and other diseases, follow these biosecurity suggestions from MDARD, Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic  Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Defend the Flock Program.

  • Keep Your Distance – Limit visitors to your flocks and keep wild birds away from your flock. If you customarily free-range, pasture, and/or rotate your birds, keep them indoors or in a fully enclosed run, ideally with a covered roof to prevent wild bird poop from entering. This is particularly important when waterfowl are migrating.
  • Keep it Clean – Always wash your hands thoroughly before entering your bird area and wear clean footwear. In simply walking to and from your coop to your home, your footwear can pick up disease agents. Consider designating a pair of boots and outerwear that are kept inside your coop and changing in and out of them immediately prior to and after caring for birds. Use well water or municipal water as drinking water for your birds. Secure poultry food so that wild birds do not have access to it. If you have sick or dead birds that you suspect might have HPAI contact MDARD IMMEDIATELY at 800-292-3939 (daytime) or 517-373-0440 (after-hours).
  • Disinfect – If you cannot designate one pair of boots, scrub your footwear with disinfectant before and after entering poultry areas or use disposable shoe covers. All equipment, cages, and tools that come into contact with your flock or their waste should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Learn more about cleaning and disinfecting by reading the article Simple sanitation for your small or backyard flock.
  • Don’t Haul Disease Home - If you have been near other birds or bird owners, such as at a feed store or park, clean and disinfect shoes and any purchased poultry equipment before going home, if possible, or immediately upon return. If you golf or hunt waterfowl, find someone else to care for your flock for a period of 72 hours afterwards.
  • Don’t Borrow Disease from Your Neighbor – Do not share lawn and garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies with your neighbors or other bird owners. If you do bring these items home, clean and disinfect them immediately.

To learn more about biosecurity for your birds, MSU Extension has a one-hour recorded Backyard Biosecurity training available for viewing online.

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