Biosecurity procedures protect people and animals from disease. To keep yourself and your birds healthy, keep these important biosecurity steps in mind.
Look closely at your birds to watch for warning signs of diseases. Early detection can prevent the spread of disease and lead to more effective treatment. Common bird diseases to look out for are avian influenza and Exotic or Virulent Newcastle Disease.
Spotting a Sick Bird
Bird diseases can be difficult to spot. Knowing the signs of bird disease will help you prevent an outbreak.
Avian Influenza viruses can infect many kinds of fowl and strike quickly. If you see any of these signs, call your local extension office or veterinarian. Signs of AI are:
- Sudden death without any signs
- Lack of energy and appetite
- Decreased egg production
- Soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
- Swelling of head, eyelids, comb, wattles, shanks
- Difficulty breathing, nasal discharge, or sneezing
- Stumbling or falling down
Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) is a deadly viral disease that can cause death in poultry, even if it is vaccinated. Signs of END are:
- Sudden death and increased death in flock
- Sneezing, gasping for air, or nasal discharge
- Greenish, watery diarrhea
- Decreased activity, tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, stiffness
- Swelling around the eyes and neck
If your birds are sick or dying, make calls to set up a disease investigation or prevent its spread. Call your local cooperative extension office, your veterinarian, or the State veterinarian or animal diagnostic laboratory. You can also get in touch with a local contact via the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at 1-866-536-7593.
First, protect your birds by keeping them and their habitat as clean as possible. Take measures to wash your hands before and after entering the bird area, change food and water daily, clean cages, tools, and equipment that touches the birds, remove dirt and manure from equipment regularly, wear clean clothes and shoes used only when interacting with birds, and scrub your shoes with disinfectant after leaving your bird area. Changing clothes before entering your home will prevent disease from following you.
Secondly, keep other people and birds away from your flock, as they could carry diseases. Restrict access to your property, avoid visiting other poultry farms, change clothes after coming into contact with other birds, don’t share equipment with other farms, separate exhibited birds from the rest of your flocks for about 2 weeks after the event, buy birds from a reputable source, don’t let wild birds have contact with your flock, and properly dispose of dead birds by burial or incineration.
How to Clean and Disinfect
Cleaning and disinfecting will help keep your birds healthy. Before using disinfectant, be sure to clean all dirt, manure, and droppings from the equipment or tools you are cleaning. Make sure you clean outside the house to keep germs from entering your living space.
If you remove your birds from their enclosure, you can complete a thorough cleaning. Take out old litter and debris, then clean the area with these steps:
- Mist the area lightly with water to avoid stirring up dust particles while cleaning.
- Do a dry cleaning by brushing, scraping, and shoveling off manure, feathers, and other materials from surfaces to be disinfected.
- Do a wet cleaning with warm water and detergent. Work from top to bottom and back to front.
- After rinsing all surfaces in the enclosure, apply a disinfectant. Before doing so, check to make sure you’re using a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered disinfectant that is effective against poultry viruses. (This information can be found on the label.)
- Leave the enclosure empty until it is completely dry.
As an extra cleanly precaution, include a disinfectant footbath to walk through when you enter or exit your bird area. Scrape debris from your shoes before entering the footbath and change it frequently to maintain its effectiveness. You should also wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when done working with birds. Even seemingly healthy birds can carry germs that will make you sick, and handwashing will keep you healthy while tending to your flock.
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