Biosecurity for Poultry

You may notice a lot of the below is based on large scale operations, it is still important for those with birds at all levels to have some form of biosecurity policy in place.

Anyone who rears, works with or handles poultry, game birds or any animals en-mass should have measures in place to safeguard the health of their flock. Maintaining high biosecurity standards can help keep birds healthy and disease free. It will also reduce the spread of disease, keep disease control costs down (as things can get very expensive if you find a major outbreak on your hands), reduce losses within your flock, as well as protect you, your neighbours, the public and the countryside as a whole. It can also reduce the chances of you or employees catching zoonotic disease (diseases that affect humans and animals alike), as well as stopping the spread of diseases in plants too. These measures should always be kept even if there is no specific threat or outbreaks are reported so that you are not caught unawares.

Personnel, People & equipment

Hands/gloves, clothes, boots, vehicles and equipment can carry disease to or from your flock. There are less controllable factors which can also spread disease ie wildlife and through the air. It is important to control the spread of disease as and where you can.  The easiest way to do this is to limit contact between your flock and humans or any other animals wherever possible. This means keeping visitors away from your flock, as well as setting up a controlled entry point; this can include foot dip trays and other disinfection measures before reaching your birds. When it comes to neighbouring animals; make sure you maintain your fences. Be sure to wear protective clothing which is either disinfected before and after entry or disposed entirely upon leaving.

Keep the movement of people, vehicles and equipment into any areas where animals are present or present at times (fields, sheds, holding areas) to a bare minimum. This minimises the amount of contact between materials that carry disease (manure/slurry/used bedding/their produce ie eggs/other) and those who may then spread it. Pressure washers, brushes, hoses, water and disinfectant should always be at hand to keep things as clean as possible. Equipment for injecting or dosing should not be shared with others though if this is unavoidable; disinfect these fully.

On-site

Keep your site clean and tidy to avoid attracting wild birds and animals that may be carrying poultry diseases. Be sure to check outbuildings and other structures for roosts or nests of wild birds and signs of rat intrusion. Treat common land as you would any other premises where animals are present but should generally be avoided as you don’t know what may be present here. Clean and disinfect crates, containers and other equipment before and after use especially if you move it to a new permanent location. Any damaged eggs, dead birds, litter and manure should be disposed of promptly and properly.

Vermin Control

Vermin species are notorious for carrying various pathogens & diseases. Limit their presence on or around your premises by being vigilant and looking for signs of their intrusion. On discovery of such an intrusion, it is recommended to enact a vermin control system to quickly remove them from the area. Upon the dispatching of any vermin; ensure their bodies are efficiently disposed of. Where you believe ground vermin is carrying a disease; it is recommended to use snap traps in tunnels for instant kills and to keep birds away from bodies.

Birds

When it comes to purchasing new stock; ensure you use reputable sources to avoid the chance of receiving birds carrying infections. Isolate new birds from the current flock by keeping them in separate facilities you know to be clean and safe. This should be the procedure for new birds and birds returning from off the premises before re/integrating them with the rest. Discuss with your vet how long you should keep these birds separate from the rest of the flock. Use separate equipment when handling these birds and always work under the presumption that they could be infected with an unknown pathogen. Diseases & other infections may not be immediately apparent especially in its early stages. The basic signs of disease include: increased mortality rate, drop in egg production, weight loss, erratic or unexplained behaviour and respiratory problems.

Bird identification should be accurate and up to date as it helps you to identify the source of problems and effectively gauge the size of any problems.

Feeding and Drinking

When it comes to feeding and watering birds; do so indoors wherever possible to avoid them mixing wild birds. Avoid having standing water, feed spilled or feed easily accessible to birds or animals other than the ones you indeed to feed. Water lines and drinkers should be flushed through and cleaned regularly to avoid the build of any bacteria. For free-range birds, restrict access, where possible, to water sources uncontrolled by you and used by wild birds (especially standing water). Feed bins, hoppers, feeders and feeding equipment should be cleaned and maintained regularly. Feed bins, silos and containers must be well sealed to keep wild animals from contaminating feed. Feed should be obtained from mills and supplies that operate in accordance with DEFRA and Agricultural industries confederation codes of practice.

Taking heed of the advice above you can dramatically cut down the potential for loss at the hands of diseases and pathogens, both foreseen and unforeseen.