Dakota Farmer

Defend your flock from HPAIDefend your flock from HPAI

Follow these tips to protect poultry from highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Sarah McNaughton

May 9, 2023

2 Min Read
a flock of chickens around a feeder
BIRD FLU: The highly contagious strain of bird flu does not threaten consumers; however, just one infected bird can quickly spread the virus to an entire flock.Andy Sacks/Getty Images

The spring wild bird migration has brought highly pathogenic avian influenza back to local poultry producers. HPAI is an extremely contagious strain of the virus, which is often fatal to birds and can spread rapidly in chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and waterfowl.

Follow these recommendations to keep your flocks safe:

Strengthen biosecurity. Practicing good biosecurity can lessen the risk of a disease outbreak in all animal species. Stay away from other flocks whenever possible and minimize any visitors to your birds.

Avoid introducing disease by wearing clean clothes and shoes, and washing your hands before and after caring for your flock. Disinfect shoes and vehicle tires after visiting feed stores or places you may interact with other poultry owners. Disposable shoe or boot covers can keep disease from “walking” into your flock.

Don’t share lawn or garden equipment with neighbors, or use poultry tools that came from other operations. Before adding new birds to a flock, quarantine them for a minimum of 30 days.

Watch for wild birds. Avoid the primary carriers of avian influenza, such as waterfowl, gulls, terns and shorebirds by managing your property accordingly. Clean up any litter, and remove any food spilled or left around flock housing. Remove ground water sources such as large puddles or pools to lessen their attraction by waterfowl attraction.

Stay away from wild birds and avoid contact, because they could be infected without showing symptoms. If sick or deceased birds are found on your property, avoid touching the animal. North Dakota State University says to report sick or deceased birds to Wildlife Services at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or to your local game and fish office.

Spot the signs. Birds infected with HPAI may show one or more symptoms, so monitor your flock often. Symptoms, which can range in severity, may include:

  • diarrhea

  • decreased egg production

  • swelling of head, comb, eyelids, wattles or hocks

  • purple discoloration on wattles, combs or legs

  • sudden death

Following these steps from the USDA APHIS Defend the Flock program are integral to protecting your birds from the latest round of HPAI.

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture communications, along with minors in animal science and Extension education. She is working on completing her master’s degree in Extension education and youth development, also at NDSU. In her undergraduate program, she discovered a love for the agriculture industry and the people who work in it through her courses and involvement in professional and student organizations.

After graduating college, Sarah worked at KFGO Radio out of Fargo, N.D., as a farm and ranch reporter. She covered agriculture and agribusiness news for North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Most recently she was a 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D., teaching, coordinating and facilitating youth programming in various project areas.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, serving on the executive board for North Dakota Agri-Women, and as a member in American Agri-Women, Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, enjoys running with her cattle dog Ripley, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

Sarah is originally from Grand Forks, N.D., and currently resides in Fargo.

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