Extension office to host backyard bird health talk

Published 10:02 am Monday, October 19, 2015

No one wants a sick chick.

That’s why MSU Extension Poultry Science Professor Dr. Tom Tabler is holding a discussion on Avian Flu and the role of backyard poultry flocks in preventing the contraction and spread of the virus.

Participants will have the opportunity to learn about the appropriate biosecurity measures that should be taken when working with backyard flocks at the discussion, which will be held Thursday at the MSU Extension Office, 1100-C Grove St.

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“Right now no one knows what the bird flu situation will be this fall,” Tabler said. “Avian influenza acts kind of funny. There’s several different varieties — like strains of flu people get.”

Tabler said they do not know right now what strain they will have to deal with this fall and they will not know that until the weather gets a little cooler and the ducks and the geese that are on their nesting grounds come back south.

“It could be that it’s the same strain as last year and we may have trouble with it again this year, but it also could be that the virus mutated all summer long and isn’t bad,” he said. “The avian influenza virus does not like hot weather. That’s why we haven’t seen new cases in summer.”

Tabler said it is impossible to eliminate the threat of avian influenza but taking certain precautions can lessen the threat.

“Right now from the standpoint of what people can do, biosecurity is the best influence against avian influenza,” he said. “People get tired of hearing the word biosecurity because people preach biosecurity to them all the time, and if nothing ever happens people tend to get a little complacent, but they don’t need to get complacent now.”

Biosecurity is basically taking all the precautions you can to keep the virus out of your chicken pen or chicken coup, Tabler said.

“You need to be careful,” he said. “If you go to town and you go to the feed store or the co-op or somewhere to buy parts, those areas are all risk areas because everyone does conglomerate there and you don’t know who’s been around what and you have no way of knowing.”

In addition to picking up the virus from other people, chicken owners can also track the virus in just by walking straight into their coup or house, he said.

“Wild birds carry it all the time, but they rarely get sick or die from it,” Tabler said. “The way they spread it is in the manure. The main threat is that someone is going to track avian influenza virus into their house.”

Tabler said it is a good idea to have designated rubber boots or plastic boot covers for dealing with the chickens.

“Take extra careful biosecurity practices,” he said. “If you do go to town and you go to the co-op or the feed store, do not wear the same shoes and clothes into your chicken pen.”

The avian influenza virus can have huge implications for the state, Tabler said.

“In terms of agricultural commodities in Mississippi, the poultry industry is the largest in the state. If there’s a break within the state of the avian influenza, that’s going to shut down trade barriers and add restrictions to sell chicken overseas.”

Tabler said if an outbreak does occur, it is not an easy fix.

“There is no cure for avian influenza at this time,” he said. “If there is a break the farm that does break will have to be humanely euthanized. There will be folks from the board of animal health who will check on this stuff. They’ll have to be the ones in charge of deciding how big of a perimeter is set up around a farm that does break and how long restrictions are in place after.”

They have to confirm that there is no trace of the live virus before any birds are allowed back on the farm, he said.

“If it’s more than just one or two farms, it’s going to be a huge strain on people in the state who work with this kind of operation to make sure nothing has fallen through the cracks.”

Tabler said he plans to discuss the avian influenza virus, precautions and implications in his speech Thursday.

He said while anyone is welcome to come, meetings like this one are geared more toward backyard chicken farmers.

“The big corporations, they’re already having meetings with their growers about biosecurity,” he said. “We’re working toward the backyard people. This one in Vicksburg on Thursday night is the first one, but the board of animal health has six or seven more meetings around the state doing the same thing.”

It is best to take precautions, Tabler said.

“Nobody wants to be the person who makes the mistake and tracks it in somewhere,” he said. “We need to take every precaution to make sure nothing happens with the avian influenza in this state, whether it’s backyard people or commercial.”

For more information call 601-636-5445 or email warren@ext.msstate.edu.