Prevent backyard chickens from spreading disease

backyard chickensMore consumers are keeping chickens in their own backyards, but the desire for fresh eggs can come with some risks.

It’s important that owners know the signs of two deadly poultry diseases—exotic Newcastle disease and avian influenza—as well as basic biosecurity steps to protect their birds.

“For those people thinking of getting into raising backyard chickens, there is a lot more to know than just letting your chickens run around in your yard,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Chickens can spread serious infections, especially to children, the elderly and individuals with compromised immune systems. So safety is of the utmost importance.”

By following good biosecurity practices, backyard chicken owners can reduce the risk of an infectious disease being carried onto their property.

Important preventive steps include isolating your chickens from visitors and other birds and keeping your distance from them as well. Keep poultry areas clean to prevent germs from spreading, and always clean your shoes, tools and equipment.

If your birds are sick or dying, call your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office, local veterinarian, the office of the state veterinarian or U.S. Department of Agriculture Veterinary Services office. USDA operates a toll-free hotline with veterinarians to help aviary owners at 866–536–7593. There is no charge for this service.

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service also has information and resources available on its website at You can find images of what signs to look for in a sick bird on that site.


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