Biosecurity for the Backyard Chicken Hobbyist

by Caitlyn Andrews June 24, 2015

Biosecurity Tips for Backyard Chicken Hobbyists

Biosecurity- What is it and how does it apply to me?

If you raise chickens in your backyard as a hobby then you may not think biosecurity applies to you. However, with the recent outbreaks of avian influenza, now is the perfect time to look at your backyard flock and see what you can do to protect them.

What is Biosecurity?

Biosecurity is defined as "procedures intended to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful biological agents". What it means is doing everything in your control to keep your flock happy and healthy, by potentially stopping the spread of disease before it even starts.

Maybe the word "biosecurity" seems a bit... daunting. We get that. It does sound like something only large scale operations would consider. Why then would you need to follow biosecurity practices if you only have, let's say, three hens in your backyard? The reason is because every bird can get sick.

Let me repeat that- every bird can get sick.

Did you know that strains of avian influenza can be transmitted by migratory waterfowl? Other poultry? Other farms? Or even beetles and pests?

Diseases can be transmitted to your backyard, whether you like it or not. That's why it's best to take safety precautions now to lower your birds' risk of catching the flu or any other contagious disease just waiting to get at your flock.

Backyard Chicken Biosecurity Steps

Following the steps listed below will keep your hobby farm biosecure and help prevent the transmission of disease to your flock:

  1. Keep it clean. This may sound obvious, but it's often overlooked. Be sure to disinfect and sanitize all equipment, cages, and vehicles going in and out of your farm. Wear clean clothes and wash your hands. Clean cages and change food and water daily. Properly dispose of dead birds.
  2. Be offensive. No, don't offend people. Go on the offense. Enforce a pest control program against mice, rats, and bugs to stop an infestation before it becomes a threat to your bird.
  3. Quarantine. Keep any new birds in a quarantine area before introducing to your flock, such as a basement or garage, for at least 30 days. Only buy from reputable sources. 
  4. Restrict access. Only allow those that are caring for your birds to handle them. Restricting who can be near your birds can help reduce their exposure to germs. Make sure that those that are allowed around your birds know to properly clean up before and after handling them.
  5. Not sharing is caring. This one is the opposite of what you learned in grade school, but it can save your chicken's life. Don't share equipment with other bird owners. Wooden flats, pallets, and egg cartons are particularly susceptible to carrying disease because of their porous design.
  6. Know the signs and act fast. Keep an eye out for early signs of sickness in your flock. Lack of energy, soft or misshapen eggs, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and lack of coordination are all signs of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza. If you suspect your birds have been affected with HPAI do not hesitate to call the USDA Veterinary Service office at 1-866-536-7593.

Poultry Biosecurity Resources

For more information check out our pages on biosecurity and avian influenza. You may be thinking that this is all a big inconvenience. However, taking precautions now is much better than losing your flock down the line to a disease that could have been prevented. Take care of your flock today and make sure your backyard is biosecure.

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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