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Bird flu and backyard poultry

Three chicks in green grass.

May 20, 2022—Bird flu, or avian influenza, is a form of flu that can spread between birds. Currently, the H5N1 bird flu is spreading through the United States and other countries around the world.

So far, the risk to humans is low. But the flu can spread from wild birds to domestic poultry. So if you keep backyard chickens, ducks or geese, it's important to take steps to prevent the spread of germs. Close contact with sick birds can spread the flu to humans. And backyard birds can carry other germs, such as salmonella.

If you are raising chickens or other birds at home, consider this list of do's and don'ts to help prevent bird flu, salmonella and other diseases.

Do's

  • Wash your hands after any interaction with your animals. This includes picking up or handling birds, collecting eggs, or cleaning out their coop or living area.
  • Choose a pair of shoes to use just for taking care of your birds—and keep those shoes outside your home.
  • Pick eggs carefully and store them in the fridge. Throw out any cracked eggs. Cracks in an eggshell can let germs into the egg itself.
  • Clean dirt off eggs with a brush, cloth or fine sandpaper.
  • Build a coop to protect your birds from predators and disease.
  • Clean your coop regularly. First, clean out debris with a brush soaked in warm water and soap. Then use a commercial disinfectant made for this purpose to clean all surfaces your birds have touched. Follow the label instructions for preparing and using the disinfectant.
  • Keep new birds apart. If you're adding to your flock, keep any new birds separate for at least 30 days before letting them mingle with the others.
  • Tell your vet if your birds show signs of illness.

Don'ts

  • Do not let children under 5 years touch poultry. Young kids are more likely to get sick from germs like salmonella.
  • Do not let poultry into your home.
  • Do not wash eggs. Washing eggs can increase the chances of bacteria getting into the egg through pores in the shell.
  • Don't kiss or snuggle chickens or other poultry. Avoid touching your face or mouth after handling them.
  • Don't eat or drink in areas where your backyard flock lives. This can increase the likelihood that you will come into contact with germs.
  • Do not let other pets interact with your poultry. Bacteria like salmonella can be passed on to cats, dogs and other animals.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture

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