Check your senses for biosecurity with poultry

Help youth apply biosecurity guidelines by using their hearing, sight, touch smell and taste to ensure animals and humans are kept healthy.

As the number of people raising chickens in their backyard increases, the intermingling of people and poultry has also increased. You can help youth apply biosecurity guidelines by using their five senses to ensure both animals and humans are kept healthy. The five senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell and tastes provide a unique opportunity for youth to evaluate the environment around their animal.

You may hear the term biosecurity and wonder what it means. Biosecurity includes procedures that can be taken to prevent the spread of diseases. This is important to ensure animals and the people caring for them are healthy. With the large number of youth involved in 4-H animal science projects, and the increasing prevalence of animal diseases, awareness of these practices is critically important. The Michigan State University Extension 4-H Animal Science Anywhere lesson, “Basics of Biosecurity,” has a wealth of information to assist youth and adults working with animals.

Focusing on what you hear while interacting with poultry is important. Do you notice different sounds in the environment around the animal? Is there a change in your housing equipment? Perhaps a water line is broken that could result in water pooling, creating an environment ideally suited for mosquitos. Have you noticed different sounds coming from the animals? If you notice an increase in the loudness or how often your hens cackle, this may be an indication of a predator trying to enter your coop.

Utilize your sense of sight by mindfully evaluating the birds and their environment on a regular basis. Do you notice any changes in their housing? Are there holes in the coop where pests may enter? Do the birds look healthy? Are the birds eating their feed?

Thinking about touch is another extremely important aspect of biosecurity. Do you make sure any equipment or clothing that has come into contact with bird manure is properly washed before it is reused to prevent it from transmitting disease? Do you have shoes or boots that you only wear while caring for your poultry?

Smell can be another helpful tool in accessing biosecurity for poultry. Are there any strong odors coming from your coop? Perhaps a predator, such as a skunk, may be in the area? Have you checked to be certain your stored feed is mold- and rodent-free? Are your feed and water containers clean?

Lastly, taste, or the prevention of it, is also an important part of biosecurity. Do you thoroughly wash your hands and any surfaces that may come into contact with food after handling poultry, eggs, their environment and equipment? Careful washing is imperative to prevent disease transition. Also, avoid eating or drinking while around your birds or in their environment.

Take time to regularly check your senses while working with poultry. It can be very helpful in implementing good biosecurity practices that help to maintain the health of animals and people.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help create a workforce excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) careers. 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

For more ways to share science with youth in your life, explore the MSU Extension Science and Technology website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our office in Harrisville at 320 S. US 23, or visit our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page.

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