Backyard Chicken Owners Urged to Implement Biosecurity Measures to Combat Bird Flu

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Chicken farmers are urging backyard poultry owners to adopt stringent biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of bird flu and protect the egg industry. This call to action comes in response to the nation’s largest outbreak of avian influenza, which has led to the culling of hundreds of thousands of chickens and the establishment of quarantine zones around five farms in Victoria.

Despite recent purchasing limits on eggs by Coles, industry leaders assure consumers that egg shortages are unlikely, as the outbreak has affected only about 4% of Australia’s egg-laying hens.

Boyd Carmody, owner of Creswick Open Range Eggs near Ballarat, has taken extra precautions to safeguard his low-density flock. Although his farm is about 70 kilometers from the nearest bird flu detection, he is concerned about the risk posed by nearby backyard chickens. Carmody has implemented enhanced biosecurity measures, such as restricting farm access to regular staff, sanitizing vehicles, and using guard dogs to deter wild birds. He emphasizes the need for more government-led education on proper poultry care for backyard owners.

Victoria’s chief vet, Graeme Cooke, advises bird owners to remain vigilant as avian influenza is present in Australian wild birds and can spill over into domestic poultry. Over 100 agriculture department staff are working with farmers to control the outbreak through testing, depopulating affected farms, and conducting wildlife surveys.

Cooke recommends that backyard chickens be housed or at least separated from wild birds to minimize risk. He also stresses the importance of hygiene when handling poultry and advises that visitors cover their footwear if they have been in contact with other birds.

At Creswick Open Range Farm, although there are no official movement restrictions, Carmody has imposed additional biosecurity protocols. These include limiting property access, treating drinking water with chlorine, and fencing off areas with standing water and trees to deter wild birds.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has allowed producers within the controlled region to maintain “free-range” labels on eggs even if they temporarily house their birds indoors to prevent disease spread. Additionally, anyone with more than 50 poultry must obtain a free Property Identification Code (PIC) to assist Agriculture Victoria in the event of an outbreak.

By implementing these measures, both commercial and backyard poultry owners can help curb the spread of avian influenza and protect the nation’s egg supply.