People who keep backyard chickens should be aware of the risks of Avian Flu (Bird Flu), as it is a disease that can destroy a flock. Bird Flu can also potentially spread to humans. It is important to take precautions to reduce the risk that your chickens or family will contract this deadly disease.
Bird Flu Facts
The World Health Organization and Center for Disease Control state that Bird Flu is caused by one of several viruses that birds can spread. Most of these viruses cannot be spread to humans, but some strains can jump from birds to people and be fatal.
Humans can contract Bird Flu by handling an infected bird (alive or dead). If a person comes in contact with the infected bird’s saliva, nasal secretions, or feces, they can become infected. There is no evidence that Avian Flu can be a threat when eating well-cooked eggs or meat.
Some symptoms of Bird Flu in humans include fever, coughing, muscles ache, and eye infections. If the disease is left untreated, other medical complications can arise.
Are Your Birds at Risk?
Bird Flu is unlikely to strike isolated backyard flocks. Think about how people transmit diseases to one another. If we have minimal contact with others, we are unlikely to catch contagious diseases. However, if we’re crammed together in an airplane or in the office, one sick person can spread the disease to the rest. Chickens spread diseases the same way. If you keep your chickens away from outside birds and don’t bring in any chickens unless you know they’re healthy, you should be fine.
To reduce the odds of infection of Bird Flu in your backyard flock, follow these basic safety precautions:
- Keep your flock isolated. Don’t bring in outside birds that may carry the disease.
- Any visitors that have birds should be asked to wash up and change clothes before visiting your birds. Sharing pictures of your chickens is even safer than providing direct contact.
- Don’t adopt stray or orphan chickens. Always be cautious when attending “coop tours” and poultry shows, which can spread diseases quickly.
- Keep the chicken coop clean and dry. Moisture breeds disease.
- Proved your chickens with a balanced diet, clean water, and fresh air to keep them healthy.
- Separate sick birds from the rest of the flock.
- Wear rubber gloves and other protective gear when butchering and dressing chickens. Thoroughly clean all tools and knives used. Afterwards, dip your tools and soiled gloves in a bleach solution to kill pathogens.
- Limit your flock’s access to wild birds, especially waterfowl, which can move germs from place to place.
- Avoid direct contact with dead or diseased birds. Wash thoroughly and change into clean clothes after any contact.
- If a family member or friend develops flu symptoms, be sure to tell the doctor that chicken contact was likely.
Millions of people live and handle chickens every day without suffering from Bird Flu. The chance that someone with a backyard flock will contract Avian flu is unlikely but possible. Understanding the disease and practicing preventative measures will reduce the odds even more.
To learn more about chicken diseases and what to look for, check out our Common Chicken Diseases post. There are also tons of informative posts in the Chick Days category. Make sure to take a look to learn even more about backyard flocks.