10 tips to help prevent your backyard flock from getting bird flu

To protect poultry from bird flu, backyard flock owners are being advised by the Department of Agriculture to prevent birds from coming into contact with potentially infected wild birds, their faeces and other secretions.

Good biosecurity measures will reduce the risk of introduction of avian influenza, it is advising.

Disease control in small backyard flocks across the country is not only important to those small flocks, but also to protect the high health status of the larger national flock.

In the event of an outbreak of avian influenza in a backyard flock, potentially damaging disease movement restrictions will apply for all poultry in the surrounding areas, and the ability of commercial companies to export poultry or poultry products may be affected, it warns.

If you work on a commercial poultry farm, it is advised for you not keep poultry at home, as you could spread the disease from one flock to another.

What are the most important bio-security measures you can take to prevent avian influenza?

Comply with the Avian Influenza (Precautionary Confinement of Birds) Regulations 2016 by housing your birds and taking key bio-security measures, including:

  • Preventing direct wild bird contact with poultry. For example, the use of netting.
  • Prevent wild bird contact with poultry feed and bedding.
  • Provide potable drinking water (not water that could have been contaminated by wild birds e.g. lake or pond water).

The Department of Agriculture has provided further bio-security measures to help prevent your flock contracting the disease:

1. Clothing

When looking after birds, flock owners are advised to use designated clothing and footwear.

2.Wash your hands

Backyard flock owners are being advised to wash and disinfect their hands before and after looking after their birds.

3. Species separation

Different poultry species should be separated, with the Department warning that in particular, ducks and geese should be separated from other poultry species.

4.Cover housing

Direct contact of poultry with droppings from flying wild birds should be prevented. The advice here is to cover poultry housing with canvas or tarpaulin.

5. Environment cleanliness

Backyard flocks owners are advised to keep the environment around your birds clean and unattractive to wild birds. This can be done by keeping grass cut and using scarecrows.

6. Unnecessessary contact

Rodents, pets and unnecessary personnel should be prevented from having contact with poultry.

7. Signs of illness

Flock owners should check birds regularly for signs of illness.

8. Buying birds

A reputable source should only be used if owners are thinking of buying birds. Any newly introduced poultry should be isolated for two weeks if possible.

9. Equipment

Any equipment being used should be clean and disinfected before use.

10. Commercial feed

Backyard flock owners should be providing only commercial feed to their flock and any food spills should be cleared up.

The Department advises that it is illegal to feed farmed animal species with food waste.