QA: How to Prevent Bird Flu in Chickens

Protect your backyard chickens against Avian influenza; here?s how.

What is Avian flu?

Many backyard chicken owners may be asking, “What is avian influenza?”

To best protect your flock, beware of this disease that is on the rise.

Kansas Department of Agriculture states, “Highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, is a rapidly spreading viral disease that can infect many types of birds. Avian influenza, often called avian flu or bird flu, can be common, but some strains are highly pathogenic, which means they are more deadly.”

There are two categories of the Avian flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) causes critical disease in poultry, with mortality rates reaching 90% in chickens within just 48 hours.
  • Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) causes mild or no signs of disease in chickens and other poultry; however, it’s possible that the low-pathogenic virus canâ?¯mutate into the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus.
  • What causes Avian flu?

    Infected migrating wild birds -- specifically waterfowl -- are the culprit of Avian flu. Avian influenza can be spread by more than 100 different species of wild birds worldwide, reports the CDC.

    Avian flu occurs naturally in waterfowl -- ducks, geese, seagulls and others -- which are considered the hosts. The disease becomes all the more widespread during spring migration time, impacting other bird species and all domestic poultry, including chickens, turkeys and ducks. Small and backyard flocks, as well as commercial industries, are all at risk for the Avian flu, warns Kansas Department of Agriculture.

    What are bird flu symptoms in chickens?

    Avian flu symptoms in chickens can include:

  • Coughing and/or sneezing
  • Challenged breathing
  • Decreased egg production
  • Sudden death
  • Swelling or purple discoloration of legs, comb, eyelids and head
  • Lethargy and depression
  • Decreased feed/water intake
  • Loss of energy

  • How can you prevent bird flu in chickens?

    Many may be wondering how to prevent bird flu in chickens. Experts recommend taking the following steps:

  • Prevent the flock from any direct contact with potentially infected waterfowl or other poultry, or contaminated surfaces.
  • Avoid attracting wild birds and waterfowl by feeding your chickens in the coop and cleaning up any spilled feed. Chicken feeders can be placed into the chicken coop to offer them greater protection from potentially infected birds.
  • Fill in low-lying areas that could puddle and attract waterfowl, like ducks and geese, that can harbor the virus.
  • Do not transport flock to another farm or location.
  • Quarantine any new birds to observe for signs of potential Avian flu.
  • Limit -- or for safer measures, no longer attend -- shows or sales with your birds. 
  • Continue learning about poultry health, with this information on highly contagious Marek’s disease. Just getting started with raising chickens? Read this how-to guide on raising chickens for beginners to find information on poultry supplies needed, general advice on poultry health, and more.

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