In 2018, Southern California dealt with an outbreak of a highly virulent strain of Newcastle disease. This outbreak meant that many backyard flock owners had to have their flocks humanely euthanized for the protection of the entire country’s poultry population. We can all imagine how devastating this would be for us, not to mention the impact that a nationwide outbreak could have on our food supply from egg and chicken meat sources. It’s a trickle-up effect.
Any poultry illness can potentially become a national outbreak if backyard poultry owners fail to do their part in maintaining good biosecurity practices. Let’s outline the main points of good biosecurity for a backyard flock owner.
- Don’t move your poultry off your property. For most of us, that’s easy. But some of us take animals to poultry shows, fairs, and other exhibits. Be aware that you risk possible infection and these animals should be quarantined when returning home for a minimum of 3 weeks to watch for any illness to develop.
- Maintain a closed flock. Only bring in new poultry from sources that are NPIP tested clean. Don’t allow your friends to bring their birds to your farm for a visit. Chickens don’t really care for playdates anyway and you risk contaminating your flock. Also, try to avoid attracting wild birds to your flock by keeping outside feeders closed and cleaning up spilled food.
- Have a designated pair of shoes to wear in your poultry area and do not wear them anywhere else. Running into town in your farm boots is the fastest way to spread diseases. While you’re at it, set up a shoe cleaning station to sanitize your poultry shoes.
- Don’t wear your street shoes into your poultry areas. If you walked around the feed store, grocery store, then the hardware store in those shoes, consider them contaminated. Trust me, someone else didn’t read point 3 above and wore their poultry shoes to the stores and you now have picked up their germs.
- Vaccinate your flock for diseases. Although vaccines are not a 100% guarantee that your birds won’t get sick, having vaccinated flocks can help prevent a widespread outbreak from occurring.
- Wash your hands after touching poultry, eggs and after coop cleanings. You'll especially want to change your clothes, shoes and wash your hands after visiting another area that has poultry, before entering your poultry area.
- Clean and disinfect your feeders and waterers regularly. Especially those waterers. Germs love to rapidly populate in wet conditions.