Avian Flu is a real concern right now, and it is important to take steps to keep everyone’s poultry safe. Whether you have a backyard flock or something larger, this affects everyone.
Island flocks are very susceptible right now, as the spring migration of waterfowl and wild birds makes its way north. Fortunately, the threat will diminish as the weather gets warmer and the ground dries up. However, this means that the next few weeks are imperative.
Some quick info:
Avian influenza (“bird flu”) is a respiratory disease of birds. Wild birds, especially raptors and waterfowl, can carry and spread the virus with no signs of illness. However, the virus can kill domestic poultry such as chickens, ducks, geese and turkey.
Symptoms of Avian Flu in domestic poultry include a lack of energy, appetite, and coordination, discoloration, swelling, diarrhea, coughing and sneezing, and sudden death. To be honest, it is a miserable disease that requires euthanization.
Avian Flu is not dangerous to humans. In very rare cases, humans have been infected with Avian Flu, and on the whole these rare cases held no symptoms or mild illness.
For your backyard flock, there are steps you can take:
Separate your flock from disease sources. This means keeping them off areas to which wild birds have had access (ie, no free ranging for now).
Secure your coop so that wild birds cannot enter.
Keep your poultry area and equipment clean.
Don’t share equipment between neighbors.
Sunny and drier days are ahead! While your chickens are contained, you can set up a little dust bath area to keep everyone happy.
Here on the farm we are taking steps to prevent exposure to Avian Flu. We have moved chicken tractors away from high-traffic areas in the farm. For the next few weeks you won’t see chickens free ranging here, as they are safer staying closed in their coops. It is strangely quiet without the cackling of our hens up by the farmstand - but it will be music to our ears when they're back!
We will also be much stricter about biosecurity on the farm, especially around the poultry. We are limiting the number of workers who go in with the chickens, and keeping things dry and clean.
Eric has had a huge project in setting up a covered area safe and humane for our flock. This photo is the space in progress.
While we really don’t love keeping the birds cooped up, we also really don’t want to have sick birds either. If just one bird in our farm is diagnosed with bird flu, WA state requires that the entire flock be euthanized. For us, that is upwards of 300 birds.
Amy has done much research in the past weeks. We want to make sure that you have access to all the information, so here are some links:
You can find information at WSDA, including the latest press releases about guidelines for farms in WA state.
Mid-May there was an excellent Youtube Q & A session with the state vet Dr. Amber Itle.
There is also a Facebook group where you can ask questions and get answers from the WSDA vets.
For a little levity, Backyardchickens.com is full of ideas for how to keep your coop interesting for bored chickens. Could be a fun project for kids!
Yes, all this comes right when we thought we'd reached our limit of having to contend with highly-contagious viruses. However, we've learned over the last couple years that there are steps that can be taken that are well worth the time and effort. Carry on, good neighbors! We'll get through this one too!