for Small Flock Poultry Owners
People who raise "backyard flocks" - poultry or gamebirds
for personal or limited commercial purposes - should be aware of
the risk to their birds, and to commercial poultry, from diseases
such as avian influenza virus. Preventive measures taken to minimize
the introduction and spread of diseases and other hazards are referred
to as "biosecurity." The following simple, inexpensive
biosecurity recommendations can be very effective in preventing
a serious disease outbreak.
Restrict visitors and observe proper hygiene
Contaminated equipment and people can introduce many disease-causing
agents, such as bacteria and viruses, to your flock. These microscopic
organisms can be carried on boots, clothing and vehicles, even if
they appear clean.
- Restrict contact with your birds to those people caring for
them. If you allow visitors, provide them with clean coveralls
- Do not allow people who own their own birds, or who have recently
been in contact with other birds (e.g., visiting another flock
or attending a bird show) near your birds. To reduce the risk
of introducing diseases to your flock, ensure that people caring
for your birds (staff or volunteers) do not have birds of their
own or attend events where birds are present.
- Wear separate clothing and footwear when dealing with your birds.
Keep them at the entrance to the structure or enclosure.
- Wash and disinfect boots and any equipment that comes in contact
with the birds or their droppings, such as shovels, scoops and
brooms. Clean cages, food and water surfaces daily.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after dealing with your
Prevent contact with wild birds
Wild birds carry many diseases, including avian influenza. Minimizing
contact with wild species and their droppings will help protect
your birds from these diseases.
- Keep your birds in a screened-in area or preferably an enclosed
structure where they do not have contact with wild birds. Screen
all doors, windows and vents, and keep them in good repair.
- Do not use water that may be contaminated with wild bird droppings,
such as pond water, for your birds. Test your water at least once
a year and use appropriate water sanitation such as chlorine.Keep
feed in a tightly sealed container, protected from wild birds.
Practice proper rodent control
Rats and mice can spread disease to your birds, spoil feed, cause
property damage and kill chicks, poults and other young birds. Mice
can enter an enclosure through a hole the size of your little finger,
and rats through a hole the size of your thumb.
- Monitor your enclosure regularly for signs of rodents, such
as droppings or chewed equipment. Mice will live in buildings
once they gain entry, while rats live outside and enter looking
- Clean up all garbage and debris surrounding your birds' enclosure,
and keep tall grass and weeds mowed.
- Store feed in tightly sealed containers that a rodent cannot
chew through, such as a steel garbage can with a tight-fitting
lid or an old freezer.
- Place bait stations around the exterior of your poultry house
to help control rodent populations.
Don't bring disease home
Mixing birds of different species and from different sources increases
the risk of introducing disease to your flock. It is preferable
to keep only birds of similar age and species together (all in/all
- If multiple ages and/or species are kept, minimize contact between
groups by keeping them in separate locations.
- If new birds are added to your flock, make sure that you get
their complete background information, including a history of
any diseases and vaccinations. Some vaccines, including some of
those used to control infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT), can
cause disease in unvaccinated birds. Consult your veterinarian
regarding proper vaccination procedures.
- Keep new or returning birds separate (quarantined) for at least
2-4 weeks after returning home, and monitor them for signs of
illness. Clean and disinfect cages and equipment used for these
birds. Use separate clothing, footwear and equipment for quarantined
birds, and handle them last. If the same equipment and clothing
must be used, clean and disinfect them before and after handling
- Avoid sharing equipment and supplies with other bird owners.
If this cannot be avoided, clean and disinfect the equipment before
and after each use.
Recognize and report any illness
Early detection is critical to successfully dealing with a disease
- If your birds show signs of disease, such as depression, abnormal
egg production or feed consumption, sneezing, gasping, a discharge
from the nose or eyes, diarrhea or sudden death, call your local
- Dispose of dead birds quickly using an approved method, such
as burial or composting. Consult your veterinarian first, as he
or she may wish to collect samples for laboratory diagnosis. Proper
disposal methods and options can be found on the OMAFRA website.
Raising poultry species, either for food or as a hobby, is part
of Ontario's agricultural heritage. However, to minimize the risks
this poses to food safety and to the commercial poultry industry,
bird owners should recognize and follow good biosecurity practices.
Biosecurity: Health Protection and Sanitation Strategies for
Cattle and General Guidelines for Other Livestock (Order
Deadstock Disposal Options for On-Farm (Order No. 09-025)
Rodent Control in Livestock and Poultry Facilities (Order
This Factsheet was originally authored by Dr. Babak Sanei, Lead
Veterinarian, Disease Prevention Poultry, OMAFRA, Guelph, and
Dr. Paul Innes, Lead Veterinarian, Provincial Biosecurity, OMAFRA,
Guelph. It was updated by Al Dam, Provincial Poultry Specialist,
OMAFRA, Guelph, and Laura Bowers, Poultry Specialist Assistant,
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300