Avian Flu and Backyard Flocks

This is proving to be a horrible year for avian influenza. This infection is mostly associated with migratory birds. The droppings from the migratory birds can cause infection—affecting poultry owners/farmers/hatcheries.

McMurray is the hatchery that I have bought most of my chicks in the past. I have read numerous other blogs in the past several days depicting infections within their flocks. Virginia has had a series of infections in January and February listing both migratory ducks and a backyard flock. The Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS) website cites 593 episodes throughout the US as of this morning https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/avian-influenza/hpai-2022/2022-hpai-wild-birds

This HPAI (high-pathogenic-avian-influenza) carries an 80-100% mortality rate but USDA will also likely come in an euthanize the remaining flock as it is so highly contagious. Many small farms are loosing their entire flocks. The trickle down of these infections and flock deaths will cause an increased cost of chicken and eggs for the coming year. McMurray hatchery won’t be selling chicks or eggs from any of their rare breeds as they will need them for breeding stock as rare/old genetic lines have been affected.

Suggestions from the USDA to reduce contamination to backyard flocks include the following bio security measures:
• keep your distance (restrict access to your property and your birds);
• keep it clean (clean and disinfect your clothes, shoes, equipment, and hands);
• don’t haul disease home (if you have been near other birds or bird owners, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before going home);
• don’t risk disease from your neighbor (do not borrow lawn and garden equipment, tools, or poultry supplies from other bird owners);
• know the warning signs (sudden increase in bird deaths, sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, watery or green diarrhea, lack of energy, poor appetite, drop in egg production, swelling around the eyes, neck, and head, and purple discoloration of wattles, combs, and legs); and
• report sick birds (call your local or State veterinarian, or USDA toll-free at 1-866-536-7593


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