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Bird Health and Disease Management

Biosecurity is a term given to the practice of protecting the entry of diseases or viruses to your farm.  It is extremely important that all growers practice biosecurity protocols on their farm to protect the flock and your investment.
Here are biosecurity best practices for protecting chickens.
  • Ensure that you do not bring contaminants to your chickens
    • Avoid contact with other birds, poultry
    • Wash hands, change boots and clothing before doing your daily chores
    • Restrict the number of people who have access to your flock
  • Prevent contact with wild birds and other animals
    • Feed and water should be protected from access by wild birds
    • Ensure rodents cannot access stored or spilled feed
  • Clean between flocks
    • Bacteria and viruses can live in the pens, soil and range area the chickens lived in after they have left
      • Wash and disinfect or allow for a period of downtime before re-populating
    • Eliminate rodents as they can harbour diseases
    • Dispose of any dead chickens promptly
    • Give new flocks fresh bedding
  • Observe the flock for abnormal behaviour or appearance
It is extremely important that birds are observed frequently to ensure that they are healthy and growing.
Here are the key signs of a healthy chicken:
  • alert and active
  • once fully feathered, feathers should appear smooth and orderly. Rough feathers may occur during dust bathing, but will return to a normal appearance once the activity has ended
  • eyes will appear round and clear
  • nostrils should be open and clean
  • wings close to the body. Birds will raise their wings to cool themselves during periods of high heat.
  • dry vent area
  • comb should be red
  • shanks (legs) should be fleshy
 Here are some key signs that a bird may be sick:
  • lack of energy, movement or appetite;
  • decreased egg production;
  • rough feathering
  • runny eyes
  • swelling around the head, neck and eyes;
  • coughing, gasping for air or sneezing;
  • nervous signs, tremors or lack of coordination;
  • diarrhea; or
  • sudden death
 If the chickens appear sick, here are the next steps:
  1. First call should be to your vet. If the vet is not familiar with chickens, they can reach out to a poultry vet or the Animal Health Lab in Guelph.
  2. Call the CFO Disease Hotline at 1.877.767.2973 even if you just suspect a disease
    1. You will be contacted by CFO Field Staff that will assist you
  3. Restrict access to the property
  4. Isolate the chickens from other livestock, chickens, wild birds and waterfowl
  5. Give your vet, CFIA, and OMAFRA permission to share information with CFO for disease management