Healthy chickens are happy chickens. The best way to keep your flock healthy and thriving is to maintain biosecurity. While biosecurity may sound like a term from a science fiction novel, it is critical to the health of your birds, and often just involves using common sense.
As your chickens’ home, the coop is the main location of most biosecurity hazards. We have put together five ways to keep your flock healthy and thriving.
1. Keep your coop rodent free.
Mice and rats are the top offenders when it comes to rodents that try to get into your coop—and sometimes leave evidence of their visit behind in the form of feces. Make sure to regularly check for rodent droppings, especially around feed areas. A clever way to detect rodent issues is to sprinkle flour on the coop floor at night. Check in the morning for any rodent tracks in the flour.
Be sure to protect your chicken feed from rodents by storing it in a trash can, tote, or other container with a lid. If your rodent problems are serious enough to cause you to consider using rodent poisons, be aware of their dangers and consider alternative approaches first.
2. Make it part of your daily routine.
One of the easiest biosecurity methods is to visit your birds in a particular order each day. If you have birds of different age groups, always be sure to visit the youngest ones before the older groups. Use the same routine morning and night. Wear clothing that can be cleaned weekly, including shoes, jackets, and hats. Designate one pair of shoes to wear in the coop, and do not wear them anywhere else so you don’t track pathogens into your coop. Be sure to use hand sanitizer before and after you handle your birds. Park vehicles away from your coop, as they will carry any manure or other debris that becomes stuck in the tire treads.
Related Article: Biosecurity For Free Range Chickens
3. Have a plan.
Eventually, one of your birds will be sick or injured, and it is good practice to have a plan in place before that happens. How will you handle needing to isolate one of your birds from the rest of the flock? Will you call a vet for advice? Are you prepared to track information about any treatments given to a sick or injured bird? Put together a list of standard operating procedures for just such an incident, and review it quarterly.
4. Wild birds and chickens don’t mix.
Wild birds are an obvious source of potential pathogens that can impact your chickens. An easy way to keep your flock healthy is by making sure that wild bird feeders are set up far away from your chicken coop. If new birds are added to your flock, they need to be in quarantine for 30 days before mixing with the rest of your birds to ensure that all of the new additions are healthy.
5. Limit Contact with Visitors
As much as possible, keep other people away from your flock. You may want to fence off the area around your coop to prevent anyone from getting too close. Only those who care for your birds should come in contact with them. If you do allow visitors to be in contact with your birds, make sure they wash their hands and shoes (or use shoe covers) first. Any visitors who have their own birds—of any kind— should be kept away from your flock to prevent contamination.
Biosecurity may sound challenging and complicated, but it really does help to maintain your flock’s health. For more information on keeping your chickens healthy and thriving, subscribe to Chicken Whisperer Magazine.