Poultry Biosecurity Overview

The risk of disease in your poultry flock is real, whether you produce poultry for a commercial integrator, raise game birds for hunting preserves, or own a few laying hens for eggs. As a poultry farmer you are well aware of many of the common diseases that could potentially affect your birds.

You have probably also noticed that diseases which exist in some groups of birds on your farm do not exist in other groups. For instance, a disease may be present in young birds, but not in older ones, or in chickens, but not in turkeys.

A disease may be present on a neighbor's farm or on another farm in your county or in another state, and your use of sound biosecurity measures may be the only way to prevent the disease from entering your operation.

Remember that the diseases you intend to keep out of your farm can be spread in many different ways. These methods of disease transmission include:

  • Fecal to oral transmission.
  • Fomite transmission, by inanimate objects (such as footwear, gloves, tires, and coops) capable of carrying a pathogen (disease agent) from one bird to another.
  • Vector transmission, in which a living thing (such as a mosquito) carries a pathogen.
  • Beak-to-beak transmission, directly between birds.
  • Airborne transmission.

A flock of white turkeys with red combs.There is no way to tell if a disease agent is being carried by a visitor, animal, or vehicle, so biosecurity rules must apply to all of them, all the time. For instance, a new bird coming to your farm may be carrying a disease without showing clinical signs. If this bird is introduced into your flock without an initial quarantine period, the disease may infect your resident flock. It is important to know that a few birds showing signs of disease may only be the "tip of the iceberg" with many others infected, but still in the subclinical disease state and not yet showing clinical signs of illness.

Because biosecurity is an essential part of maintaining your flock's health as well as the profitability of your operation, an overall biosecurity plan for your farm is essential. Even if you practice some biosecurity measures now, an overall plan is needed to become as safe from disease as possible.

This biosecurity plan will allow you to determine the measures needed to set up a comprehensive biosecurity program to protect your flock m the best way possible. Development of this plan involves all partners and employees. The plan should be in written form, reviewed and updated as needed to keep it current. For the plan to be effective, everyone must be able to understand it, use it, and enforce it. The plan should apply to everyone, everyday.

To design your plan, consider the common ways diseases are spread and include a standard health protocol. This protocol documents standard operating procedures for maintaining flock health, routine husbandry and health procedures, and specific methods to identify, separate and treat sick birds.

Below is a list of biosecurity measures that are categorized under general topics. These are best management practices, and this list can be used to develop your own farm biosecurity plan.

Management Strategies

Poultry Biosecurity Content Source
Choueke, Esmond. 2015. Agroterrorism Prevention Reference Guide (FBI). Boca Publications Group Inc. [email protected]

Poultry Biosecurity Resources

USDA Defend the Flock logo
Defend the Flock

The Defend the Flock program provides information and practical tips for every day poultry biosecurity, with checklists, resource guides, videos, etc.

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A chicken that is showing signs of sickness.
Know the Warning Signs

A brief YouTube video that shows how to know warning signs of illness in poultry, and things to look out for in a flock. USDA APHIS Biosecurity for Birds.

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A flock of brown chickens outside in a field of clover.
Avian Influenza Biosecurity

The Avian Influenza Biosecurity Course is for small flock, backyard, homestead, and hobby poultry owners to become more informed about avian influenza.

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A large flock of white turkeys.
List and Resources About Poultry Diseases

A comprehensive list with descriptions, images and other resources for diseases in poultry, from the Center for Food Security and Public Health.

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Secure Poultry Supply logo
Secure Poultry Supply

Secure Poultry Supply Plan (SPS) includes the Secure Egg (SES), Turkey (STS) and Broiler (SBS) plans forĀ  permitting guidance to avoid animal product movement in the event of a disease outbreak such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).

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Two chickens standing together in a backyard.
Backyard Poultry

Backyard poultry (chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys) is becoming more popular, but they can carry germs that make people sick. From the Centers for Disease Control.

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A flock of dark brown chickens standing close.
Buckling Down on Poultry Biosecurity

Interesting perspectives and information on poultry biosecurity from Poultry Health Today. A news site with articles, interviews and podcasts on poultry health issues.

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A newly hatched chick with the egg shell nearby.
Youth and 4-H Poultry Resources

Resources for youth and 4-H including biosecurity, types of bird breeds, poultry anatomy and more, from the Ohio State Extension 4-H Youth Development Program.

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