Protect Your Backyard Chickens

— Written By
Ancona bantam rooster, image by Smudge 9000 CC-BY-NC

Ancona bantam rooster, image by Smudge 9000 CC-BY-NC

Avian Infuenza is a virus transmitted by migrating birds, here is some background information and tips for protecting your flock during the fall migration (September and October).

Avoid Contact with Wild Ducks and Surface Water Where they Swim - image by A1404 CC-BY-SA

Avoid Contact with Wild Ducks and Surface Water Where they Swim – image by A1404 CC-BY-SA

Protect your Flock through Isolation of your birds and anyone who interacts with your birds

  • Keep people, chickens and other pets away from:
    • Other flocks, birds can have the virus and pass it on for 5 days before they show any symptoms.
    • Wild birds and surface water (ponds, lakes, wetlands) that wild birds frequent.

      Zeesenboot CC-BY

      Zeesenboot CC-BY

  • Have a designated pair of boots that you wear to work with your birds, do not wear them anywhere else that they could pick up the virus (feed store, the pond, etc.)
  • Duck hunters and those who fish & boat be aware of the risk of transporting the virus which can live for a day or two on a person and longer in the mud on boots and tires.
  • Exclude rodents that could spread the virus.
  • Remove branches over the coop that could serve as roosting spots for wild birds.

    image by Tom Caswell CC-BY

    image by Tom Caswell CC-BY

  • Do not share feeding, watering or other equipment with other bird owners.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after working with birds. Clean and disinfect equipment that comes in contact with birds and their droppings.
  • Stay informed by registering your flock. The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is requiring all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds, to register with NCFarmID. Registration form:  Online,  Printed. More information (scroll to bottom for message from state veterinarian Doug Meckes)

Watch for Symptoms

  • Lack of energy and poor appetite
  • Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing, and nasal discharge
  • Watery, green diarrhea
  • Reduction in egg laying or soft/misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of head, eyelids and comb
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs
  • Tremors, drooping wings, circling, twisting of the head and neck or lack of movement
  • Sudden death

Report:  If you think one of your birds could be exhibiting symptoms call 919-733-7601.

image by Adrian Clark CC-BY-ND

image by Adrian Clark CC-BY-ND

  • If the bird does not test positive for Avian Influenza they may be able to tell you what is wrong and give you advice for treating the bird.
  • If the bird tests positive, that bird and the rest of your flock will be euthanized as quickly and humanely as possible. Remember, if one bird is positive, all of your birds have been exposed and they are likely all hosts spreading the pathogen. The virus kills birds within 24 hrs of their exhibiting symptoms, and they have the potential to exponentially grow and spread the virus while they suffer from the symptoms. In addition, the dead birds must be disposed of in a way to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Each of us has the opportunity to protect all of us by acting quickly to minimize risk. This fall “our state is facing exposure to the worst animal disease event in U.S. history“, Doug Meckes, DVM, State Veterinarian. Thank you for taking measures to protect your pets as well as other birds across the state.

Remember:

  • This strain of avian Influenza has not been known to cause health problems for people
  • Our food supply is safe
  • So far no cases of Avian influenza have been identified in North Carolina
  • The virus is easily killed with bleach, disinfectant spray, or heat
  • To register your flock and to get updated information on Avian Flu in NC visit http://www.ncagr.gov/avianflu