Radio interview source: Dr. Chrislyn Wood, Poultry Specialist, USDA
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The number of backyard chicken flocks is increasing, and so is the need to keep them healthy. The term biosecurity means taking the right measures to keep your flock healthy and disease-free. We know the health status of the animals on our farm, and for biosecurity reasons, we don't allow anyone else's animals on the property.
Chrislyn Wood is a poultry specialist with the U-S-D-A and says biosecurity for birds is a growing concern as more people are raising chickens. She says the term biosecurity may sound scary, but all it means is keeping your flock healthy and disease-free.
"Number one, keep things clean," she says. "Clean the cages, the waterers, the feeders, every couple of days. Prevent manure buildup that can harbor bacteria and viruses. You don't want to borrow equipment from some of your neighbors who might have poultry because you don't know the health status of that other flock."
In some countries, avian influenza and exotic Newcastle disease are of serious concern to poultry owners. Wood says fortunately in the U.S., we don't have the high-pathogen strain of avian influenza. However, the low-pathogen strain does occasionally occur and the worry is it could mutate to the more severe strain.
This is why it's important to take precautions against infectious diseases, and to contact your veterinarian if you see a sudden increase in bird deaths, or signs of illness.
"Sometimes birds might cough or sneeze, or have open-mouth breathing, kind of gasping for air, or even discharge coming from the nose or coming from the eyes," says Wood. "Other signs are watery, or greenish-colored diarrhea, lack of energy, poor appetite."
Before you bring new birds home, have them tested for disease. It's also a good idea to keep them separated from the rest of the flock for two-to-three weeks so if they are sick, the others won't become infected.