NewsCovering Kentucky


Protecting backyard flocks from the bird flu

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Posted at 4:39 AM, Feb 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-25 06:49:53-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Outside his backyard chicken coop, Travis Robinson greets his flock.

He’s known as the Happy Farmer, and we reached out to him because he’s in charge of a co-op dedicated to urban chicken keeping in Lexington. In fact, he’s cared for chickens in his backyard near downtown Lexington for 12 years.

“It's just a matter of keeping them safe and giving them the best life they can have,” he told LEX 18.

Living their best life includes keeping chickens free from diseases like the bird flu. That’s why Robinson took certain steps to protect his poultry, even before a recent outbreak was detected in two Kentucky western counties.

“One of the things that has me less concerned is taking the proper biosecurity measures in my backyard,” Robinson said.

For example, Robinson has one pair of shoes that never leave his backyard to avoid tracking in the virus from the outside. His bird feeder also sits empty so sparrows don’t congregate in his yard and potentially infect his chickens.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has the same advice. So far, Kentucky officials say avian influenza has only been detected at poultry facilities in Fulton and Webster counties. But because this disease can be deadly for domesticated birds, they want chicken keeps across Kentucky to pay attention and report birds if they’re sick, to the sick bird hotline: 1-866-536-7593.

Back at this urban farm, Robinson isn’t overly concerned. But he also knows that when it comes to his chickens' health, he can’t just wing it.

“I want to make sure nothing happens to my birds, which would be a total flock loss basically,” he said. “I also don't want to spread it to other people's birds.”

Learn more about the bird flu in Kentucky here.

Signs of bird flu include:

  • Sudden death without clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of head, comb, eyelid, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs
  • Nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing
  • Incoordination
  • Diarrhea

The list of biosecurity measures from the Department of Agriculture includes:

  • Establishing an “all-in, all-out” flock-management policy
  • Preventing exposure to wild birds or water or ground contaminated by wild birds
  • Closing bird areas to nonessential personnel or vehicles
  • Providing employees with clean clothing and disinfection facilities and directions for their use
  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting equipment and vehicles (including tires and undercarriage) when entering or leaving the farm
  • Avoiding the borrowing or lending of equipment or vehicles
  • Limiting visits to other poultry farms, exhibitions, fairs, and sales or swap meets (if visits must occur, change footwear and clothing on their return)