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Biosecurity Tips for Your Flock

As the time to buy chicks or chickens approaches, biosecurity for your birds becomes increasingly important. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a campaign to raise awareness for the threats to poultry health and how to defend your flock this spring.

The USDA’s AHPIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has launched a poultry-health awareness campaign, titled Defend the Flock, focusing on biosecurity measures for both commercial and backyard operations. A Defend the Flock Resource Center has been curated on the USDA’s website and APHIS will be hosting a webinar for the campaign on March 28, 2019 at 1:30 pm Central Time.

The program used to be two separate biosecurity campaigns, one for production operations and one for small-flock operations. But they have been combined now, as there is little difference in best practices, with size and scale being the main variance.

While biosecurity is a relatively scary sounding word, Dr. Joanna Quinn, a Poultry Health Specialist and Veterinary Medical Officer for the USDA, says it’s simpler than it sounds.

“Bio is life, security is protection,” Quinn says. “Biosecurity is just a fancy term for protecting the lives of your flock though precautionary measures to help them avoid infectious diseases.”

Resource Center

The online resource center hosts a number of downloadable files in English and Spanish that outline the basics of poultry biosecurity. Along with links to press releases and sources for their information, Defend the Flock has put together easily-digestible documents, videos, toolkits and a self-assessment to flesh out the best biosecurity practices.

There are also downloadable checklists for cleaning and posters with tips for backyard biosecurity, which can be printed and displayed in coops. “We all need little reminders,” Quinn says. “Sometimes we forget; printing out these lists and posting them around the coop can help people stay on track.”

The USDA has also published a series of videos for the campaign covering cleaning, protective measures, bird handling and establishing boundaries.

Webinar Details

Four poultry experts will sit in on the Webinar to present information and answer audience questions that come up. Dr. Quinn will be on the webinar, along with Dr. Chrislyn Wood Nicholson, another USDA Poultry Health Specialist, Dr. Megin Nichols, the Enteric Zoonoses Activity Lead for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Andy Schneider, host of the Backyard Poultry with the Chicken Whisperer radio show.

While the webinar will cover some of the information in the resource center documents, there will be a focus on safely adding or replacing birds in a flock Dr. Quinn says; a timely issue during the spring and flocking season.

Dr. Quinn’s Quick Tips

There is a vast expanse of information in the online resource center, but Dr. Quinn says poultry biosecurity really comes down to common-sense provisions taken consistently to protect flocks everywhere.

“Biosecurity needs to be an everyday, constant thing,” Quinn said. “It really is a shared responsibility of everyone who comes into contact with poultry.”

There are simple steps every poultry handler can take on a daily basis to eliminate insecurities in the bird-raising process.

“I talk a lot about three things: shoes, clothing and hands,” Quinn says. “That goes for the owner or handler and everyone else who may come into contact.”

Dr. Quinn recommends the following quick tips as a starting point for biosecurity.

  1. Dedicate clothing for bird handling, this includes shoes, shirt and pants and hand-wear. Disinfect these clothes upon each use and store somewhere convenient.
  2. Limit outside contact with your birds. Don’t allow too much into or near the flock, especially if it is someone or something which has been around a different flock.
  3. Avoid contact with other birds. Diseases can move quickly amongst flocks so be sure yours is safe from outside contact.

Quick Links

There are a few general resources on the Defend the Flock website which are widely applicable and could provide useful information to any poultry handler.

Biosecurity Tips: 6 Ways to Prevent Poultry Disease

Biosecurity Poster

Poultry Cleaning and Disinfecting Checklist

Related Links

Starting a Flock

Prevent Chick Pasting

Buying Adult Chickens

Build a Chicken Coop

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