As part of Bird Health Awareness Week, USDA recently hosted a webinar on “Growing Chicks into Healthy Chickens.” Dr. Martin Smeltzer, Andy Schneider (aka the “Chicken Whisperer”) and Dr. Claudia Dunkley spent an hour helping backyard bird owners learn more about keeping their flocks healthy. Around 300 people participated in the webinar, most of who are just getting started with backyard birds.
The goal of Bird Health Awareness Week is to help protect backyard birds from disease. The webinar focused on the cute little baby birds known as chicks. Now, I am not a poultry person, but I love eggs, so I thought this would be something interesting to learn. I found out that raising backyard poultry is a growing trend. People like to raise chicks into adults for their eggs, and for the entertainment value of having birds in their backyard.
I didn’t know there were so many rules when it comes to starting a flock. You need to think about why you want to raise backyard birds and what you intend to do with them. You also need to find out if it is legal where you live – check city and local ordinances and find out if you need a permit. If you have one, you should also check with your Homeowners Association. Look to see if inspections or other steps are required to start a flock, and be sure to buy chicks from a National Poultry Improvement Plan- approved source to ensure they start out healthy.
I was surprised to find out that young chicks must be separated from older birds, for them to be secure and safe from disease. Let chicks grow into birds in a separate, clean environment before introducing them into your flock that contains older birds.
There are two major diseases that can threaten backyard birds – Avian Influenza and Exotic Newcastle Disease. The webinar discussed six simple steps to help protect your birds from disease. We also learned what potential signs of illness might include and what to do if you think your birds might be sick.
Are you considering raising birds or want some tips for adding to your current flock? The full webinar is available online, including nutrition tips and other information to help you grow a healthy and happy flock in your own backyard!