From The Memsahib: Asian Avian Flu and the Home Poultry Flock

Tuesday, Oct 25, 2005

Here at the Rawles Ranch the chicken-loving Memsahib couldn't help but be dismayed when her DH suggested the immediate sale of her sizable flock of terribly cute and tame chickens.  So off to the internet in search of answers...

Wild birds can be the carriers of Avian Flu to domestic chickens and turkeys.  Bird flu can be spread from country to country by migratory birds.  Waterfowl can carry avian flu without clinical signs of infection. With that said, how can any government in the world keep the Avian Flu from reaching their shores? To prevent Avian Flu infecting your home poultry flock, your fowl must be protected from coming into contact with the saliva, respiratory secretions and feces of wild birds.  Furthermore you must prevent wild bird saliva, secretions, and feces from contaminating the food and water of your poultry flock, or contaminating your poultry equipment. This means here at the Rawles Ranch, letting the chickens have free range is a thing of the past. We have to redo our chicken housing too.  First, the poultry wire will be replaced with much smaller mesh so that small wild birds can't enter the pens. Next, all parts of the pens will have solid tops so that if wild birds do perch on the top their feces cannot drop into the pen.   

It appears that all humans who contracted Avian Flu had direct contact with live birds.  Transmission occurs when human breathe in droplets of secretions or dried feces of infected birds.  There is no evidence that suggests the virus is transmitted by consuming poultry products.  Reducing your exposure to the birds' secretions make sense.  How about nest boxes with doors to the outside so that you can collect eggs without entering the coop?  How about food hoppers and waterers that can be filled from outside the coop?  (But make sure they are covered and that wild birds can't contaminate them.)  What about keeping the chickens in raised pens and letting their feces drop below into bins with earthworms to compost it ? 

To be frank, not being able to let my chickens free range spoils it for me. I built my flock up to about 30 laying hens, so that I would have plenty of eggs to share. The cost of the extra feed was offset by their ability to free range for grasshoppers and other chicken treats in the pasture.  But if all of the feed has to be store bought, then the feed costs really start adding up in a hurry, not to mention taking up storage space!  So in the end it seems more logical to cut the flock waaaay back to just enough laying hens to provided eggs for family use and to put up more storage food for people instead of chickens.  That's too bad, because I really enjoy the pastoral picture of my contented chicken catching bugs in the barnyard.

Copyright 2005-2012 James Wesley, Rawles - All Rights Reserved