Protect Your Backyard Chickens

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

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

Avian Influenza 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 by isolating 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.)
  • The virus can live for two days on a person and longer in the mud on boots and tires. Duck hunters and those who fish & boat avoid accidentally transporting.
  • Exclude rodents that could spread the virus.
  • Remove branches over the coop that could be 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 requires all poultry owners, regardless of the number of birds, to register with NCFarmID. Registration form: Online,  Printed. More information (scroll to the bottom for a 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 the 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 is 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 advise you on 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 exhibiting symptoms, and they can exponentially grow and spread the virus while they suffer from the symptoms. In addition, the dead birds must be disposed of to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Each of us has the opportunity to protect all of us by acting quickly to minimize risk. “our state is facing exposure to the worst animal disease event in U.S. history this fall,” Doug Meckes, DVM, State Veterinarian. Thank you for taking measures to protect your pets and other birds nationwide.


  • 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