We take precautions to protect our health every day. We wash our hands, throw out expired food, and stay home when we are sick. But what about the health of our flock? That’s where bird biosecurity comes in. Biosecurity is vital to ensuring that your flock — no matter their size — stays healthy. For bird owners, it is especially important to have proper biosecurity measures in place given that diseases can quickly spread through one’s flock. Let’s shed some light on the importance of biosecurity and what you can do to help.
What is biosecurity?
Biosecurity refers to measures designed and practiced to prevent the spread of disease onto your property and into your flock. In simpler words, biosecurity includes any action that helps protect the health of your flock, such as maintaining coops and pens or giving yourself a footbath when visiting your flock. Biosecurity typically follows three steps:
- Isolation: keeping your birds in a controlled environment and away from other animals
- Traffic control: limiting human and equipment that enter and exit your birds’ area
- Sanitation: disinfecting hands, clothing, and shoes, as well as materials, and equipment that come into contact with your birds’ area
A good biosecurity plan for your property will not only improve your birds’ wellbeing, but it can also cut veterinary costs, reduce bird losses, and help maintain improve productivity. It is one of the best defenses against disease but and most importantly, it requires a consistent team effort! Similar to how it only takes one person not covering their cough to threaten the health of several others, it only takes one breach in biosecurity to threaten the health of your flock.
Biosecurity may sound complicated, but it can actually be achieved with just a few, cost-effective adjustments.
- Give them space: While it may be fun to take your friends and neighbors on a tour of the coop, you should limit access to your birds. Fence off the area where your birds are kept to mark which areas are clean and which are dirty. Consider posting signs at the entrance and around the perimeter of your farm to remind others of your goal.
- Clean it up: Keep cages clean and dry and frequently change food, water, and bedding. Clean out soiled bedding and nesting at least once a week. Wash your hands before and after seeing your birds as well as disinfect your shoes or wear shoe covers. Having dedicated footwear and clothing for bird activities is ideal. Want to learn more about how to keep a clean coop? Read up about it in this blog post and download some useful cleaning checklists here.
- Disinfect, Disinfect, Disinfect!: Vehicles, clothing, cages, and other equipment can all carry disease. Therefore, it is best to disinfect their surfaces before bringing into the birds’ area (especially after returning from a feed store). Consider using a disinfectant foot bath with a scrub mat at the entrance of your bird area and make sure to change the disinfectant in it regularly. The contact time needed for a disinfectant to be effective may vary by the brand- make sure to read your manufacturer’s label.
- Keep out critters: Make sure that pets, as well as other wild animals such as wild birds, rodents, and insects, do not go into the birds’ space. You can keep your birds in a screened area to reduce contact.
- Don’t bring it home: Be sure to always purchase new birds from reputable sources. Isolate new birds for 30 days to prevent the spread of disease and to allow you to monitor for any signs of disease. If you have attended an event with your birds, also isolate them and disinfect the cages used to transport them.
- Other bird enthusiasts: Don’t share birds, equipment (such as cages and feeders), tools, or supplies with other bird enthusiasts. It is also best to avoid contact with other people’s birds and to restrict visitors (especially those who own birds) to your birds.
- Vaccinations: Vaccination is another biosecurity tool to protect your birds. Your local agricultural extension office, veterinarian, or feed stores that sell vaccines in your area can give vital information on the proper vaccines for your birds, based on local conditions. Also, when purchasing a new bird, remember to ask if they have been vaccinated or not.
- Know the signs: Train all caretakers of the birds to recognize the signs of disease. If you want to learn more about this make sure to read our article about early signs of illness.
- Keep a record: You know your birds best, so log information about their appearance, behavior, and eating habits to help detect any changes in the future. If there’s sudden death in your flock or an unusually high number of sick birds, it is critical that you report it. Call the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s sick bird hotline on (866) 922-2473.
Biosecurity can’t be achieved in just one change — it requires careful, repeated, and daily effort. We’re all on the same team, so let’s follow the rules to keep our flocks healthy. For more information about biosecurity, check out the National Poultry Improvement Plan Program’s standards.