Avian Influenza: How can you best defend your flock?

You’ve heard of avian influenza and its impact on chicken keepers. Over 36 million birds have been affected.

There is now one case in both Oregon and Washington. Most of the west coast has very few cases of avian influenza recorded, but there are many avian influenza cases in commercial and backyard flocks elsewhere.

Wild birds carry infectious diseases like avian influenza (AI), a virus. So how do you keep your flock safe from diseases? This virus can survive in manure and litter for long periods.

We have some tips for chicken keepers in the region. Let’s look at what avian influenza is, its symptoms, and how it spreads.

So what exactly is the Avian Influenza?

According to the USDA, Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus that can infect poultry such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and wild birds, especially waterfowl.

There are two types:

  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza virus strains are highly infectious, often fatal to domestic poultry, and can spread rapidly from flock to flock.
  • Low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) virus strains occur naturally in wild migratory waterfowl and shorebirds without causing illness. Likewise, LPAI can infect domestic poultry with little or no signs of illness.

Is it only wild birds that carry this disease?

Wildfowl like ducks carry avian influenza. In addition, feathers, nests, feces, and other organic materials can carry disease. They can come in contact with your flock through poultry enclosures, feed and water supplies, and vehicles.

What are the symptoms you need to look for in your flock?Avian Influenza

These may look like the signs of other poultry-related diseases, but since avian influenza is top of mind, it must be ruled out if you’re seeing a lot of sick or dying flock members.

  • Sudden death without clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, comb, eyelid, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs
  • Nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing
  • Incoordination
  • Diarrhea

What should backyard chicken keepers do?

Practicing biosecurity is very important. Confining poultry to their coop is a best practice, and your flock should not mix with wild birds or ducks. In addition, your birds shouldn’t free-range until this disease is no longer a threat.

Biosecurity sounds complicated, but it’s not.

Prevention is the goal. Here are some tips to make sure you don’t get salmonella and other viruses or bacteria that humans can get:

  • Always clean the coop; daily spot cleanings!
  • After working in the coop, wash your hands or sanitize
  • A dedicated pair of shoes is part of biosecurity
  • No house chickens!
  • Collect eggs often, and throw away any cracked eggs
  • Don’t wash eggs
  • Cook eggs thoroughly, and don’t eat raw eggs from the ladies

Reporting sick birds to the state vet or calling 1866-536-7593 is what the USDA recommends.

Please ask our staff if you have questions about how to keep your flock safe.




If you found this article interesting, you might like:

Why Are My Chickens Losing All Their Feathers?