Biosecurity Tips for Backyard Chickens
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
When I started back up with raising my current flock (I took a couple years off), I was pretty set on only having 6 chickens. Now, fast forward almost 3 years and my flock is up to 40! Hahaha! If you know what chicken math is, that’s why!
I am part of a number of backyard chicken groups on social media and it seems there are always people selling or giving away chickens or looking to add adult birds into their flock. As tempting as some of these beautiful birds are, I always decline. Some of the best advice I ever received was from Dr. Bob Stock, a brilliant poultry nutritionist. He told me that if I wanted to add to my flock, just add them as chicks. Obviously, there’s a process to adding to your flock that way and you can read my other blog here about integrating your new chicks into your current flock.
He said this to me because historically, adding adult birds into an established flock can invite more problems than one might consider. For example, disease, lice, mites, etc. are all things that can join the coop when new adult birds do. So, you might ask, is biosecurity limited to adding mature birds to a flock? The answer is no. To start, let’s answer the question, “What is biosecurity?”
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, biosecurity simply means “security from exposure to harmful biological agents” and “measures taken to ensure this security”. Meaning, when we talk about biosecurity, it’s the processes we have in place to ensure the optimal health of our flock. It’s a fancy word for keeping our flocks as safe as possible.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT THREATEN BIOSECURITY?
As I mentioned above, adding mature birds to your existing flock can cause a “security breach”. If you must add a mature chicken to your flock, it is necessary to quarantine the bird for 30 days before introducing it to your flock. I have a friend who has done this a time or two and has done just fine with it. However, a couple of the times, the new chickens were infested with lice. She was able to quarantine the new chickens long enough to deal with the lice infestation so as to not infect her current flock. Once these gross little bugs get into your flock, they’re hard to exterminate. I have heard horror stories of chicken keepers getting a chicken from another flock and spreading disease and then losing the majority of their flock. It’s best to check them over very well before introducing, or simply don’t add mature birds in. I choose to not add mature birds, and I haven’t had any trouble with sickness or disease.
Another security threat to your flock can actually be people's shoes! Our shoes are walking through a lot of dirty stuff and we can pick those things up and bring them into our coops if we’re not careful. I wear the same pair of shoes into the coop. I have a winter pair and a summer pair. I don’t wear any other shoes in the coop. And, if I visit a friend or family member with chickens, I do not wear my chicken shoes! I also ask that they don’t wear their chicken shoes in my coop. I don’t want to risk bringing something to my girls that could harm them or jeopardize their health.
Believe it or not, another risk to the biosecurity of your flock are wild birds or rodents. Lice and mites and disease can live on these little animals and if your run and coop aren’t secure, you could have a problem. I have not had trouble personally yet. However, my run isn’t covered and it’s something I think about quite often. Cute little birds can fly in and leave little pests I’d rather not deal with. I choose to keep our chickens inside our run and rarely free range. That way, they get into less as well. We live on an acreage with a lot of predators. We also have Labrador retrievers who are hunting dogs, so you can put 2 and 2 together. For our family, a large run works perfectly. But it’s important to secure the coop and run as best as you can.
Biosecurity can sound like an overwhelming word to new backyard chicken keepers. Again, these are just a few of the tips to ensure your flock stays as safe as possible. The bottom line, you have to do what works best for your family, and then of course, what’s best for your flock!
As always, making sure your chickens are receiving the proper diet and support (Chicken Essentials!) will help their immune systems fight off unwanted disease and pests as well.
Until next time,
--The Wing Lady