The Hidden Bird Flu Hazards of Backyard Chicken Farms

Share Article

Bird Flu Beacon discovers weak biosecurity and high bird flu risk in backyard chicken farms. Bird Flu Beacon posted news on the risk of spread of bird flu in the U.S. and other industrialized countries through backyard chicken farms with free-roaming chickens. From the Hawaiian Islands where large numbers of wild chickens populate Kauai to New York City where live chickens and ducks are sold in street markets, the threat of bird flu infection through roaming backyard chickens looms large. In light of recent presence of H5N1 in West Africa, the U.S. will be vulnerable via spring migrations along the East Atlantic Flyway.

Industrial scale chicken farms are not high risk because they house chickens in buildings protected from possible infection from migratory birds. This is not the case with small-scale backyard operations, where chickens and other domestic birds often roam freely. These backyard chickens are largely unmonitored and uncontrolled, and they will be especially vulnerable to H5N1 brought from West Africa via the East Atlantic Flyway.

For biosecurity precautions to be implemented widely by backyard chicken farmers protective measures must be simple, affordable and widespread. The USDA has attempted to address this issue with recommendations that fall in 6 categories:

•Isolating flocks

•Minimizing bird-to-human contact

•Sanitization procedures

•Avoiding cross contamination

•Identifying infectious bird diseases

•Reporting sick birds

According to Mead Rose, a founding member of Bird Flu Beacon, relying on backyard chicken farmers to take adequate biosecurity measures is “whistling in the dark.” Even those who wish to be proactive may find the recommendations of the USDA and other sources cumbersome, expensive and impractical when there is no imminent threat. The Catch-22 is that these kinds of precautions are necessary to prevent just such a threat because:

•H5N1 bird flu symptoms are not widely known among backyard chicken farmers.

•Guidelines of the USDA and others are not yet widely circulated among chicken farmers.

•The recommended protective steps can be cumbersome.

•Protective equipment such as goggles, masks, and boots is not routinely stocked by farmers and many do not know how to identify or obtain the most effective equipment.

•There is no incentive for reporting sick or dead birds because the confirmation of H5N1 inevitably leads to the destruction of their flocks.

In the full article The Hidden Bird Flu Hazards of Backyard Chicken Farms Mr. Rose has identified three additional key issues: manure management, chickens as pets, and wild chicken populations. For example, human exposure to infected chicken manure can be as deadly as exposure to infected birds. Given the right conditions, Avian Influenza viruses can remain viable in manure for up to 105 days.

“After all the research I had done on bird flu, on a recent trip to Hawaii I was shocked to discover that free range chickens are frequently found in backyards or kept as pets,” Mr. Rose added. “What’s worse, many people I spoke with believe bird flu is a conspiracy, not a health problem. People need to know how to protect themselves and their birds. They need clear guidelines about biosecurity procedures and must know how to recognize sick birds. Convincing people to take this seriously enough to take protective action will go a long way towards preventing catastrophe.”

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Laurie Grace
Visit website