Protecting your Poultry

This video will walk you through the many responsibilities that go along with a poultry project such as keeping your birds healthy, happy, and free from harm.
Protecting your Poultry - Videos


The Penn State Extension 4-H Biosecurity Team will show you how to identify the warning signs of diseases, such as avian influenza, and biosecurity measures that will reduce the risk of disease.

The information is designed for a youth audience with simple biosecurity concepts pertaining to prevention, observation and action steps associated with best management practices. Biosecurity planning is the best defense against avian influenza.


Biosecurity and Animal Welfare; Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Development/4-H
Biosecurity Curriculum Animal Well-being 4-H Youth Education Quality Animal Management

More by Capri Stiles-Mikesell 

View Transcript

- Hi, I'm Erin Greenleaf.

And today I'm gonna talk to you about protecting your 4-H poultry.

Choosing a 4-H poultry project is an exciting time for a young 4-H member.

Many responsibilities go along with this project such as keeping your animal healthy, happy, and free from harm.

Knowing the warning signs of diseases such as avian influenza can help you birds live a longer and healthier life.

It is important to remember to be wise when it comes to biosecurity threats on your farm that could cause illness in your poultry.

Watching your animals daily is the best defense when it comes to catching diseases early.

It is important to look at all of your birds and monitor them daily.

Knowing the behaviors that are normal for your poultry will help you better detect when one or more of your birds may be ill.

Having the same person observe the animals several times a day is key to picking up on the disease processes early.

It's important to know the clinical signs of illness as this can help you protect your poultry and neighboring poultry if signs and symptoms are caught early.

An observed decrease in egg production is sometimes seen in birds with avian influenza.

A purple discoloration in the shank and comb is another classic sign of avian influenza in poultry.

Unfortunately, since the avian influenza virus is so contagious and the symptoms are so devastating, oftentimes the only symptom that you will see is the sudden death of your birds.

If more than one of your birds are deceased and you notice any of these symptoms or any other symptoms that concern you, you will need to get help from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture immediately.

All suspected cases of reportable avian diseases need to be reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture immediately.

A delay in reporting could cause the unnecessary loss of more of your birds or spread the disease to neighboring flocks.

All cases should reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture veterinary hotline at the number listed on the screen.

If birds in your flock are deceased and you suspected avian influenza as the cause, it is important to follow the proper procedures for testing.

It is important to not freeze the poultry carcasses with suspected avian influenza as freezing them destroys the tissues and can delay diagnosis.

Birds should be double bagged and refrigerated away from consumable food and beverages until they can be sent away for testing.

It's important to isolate any sick or new birds to your farm.

Birds should also be isolated for at least three weeks after returning from shows or fairs.

Living things that spread diseases are known as vectors.

Humans, poultry, wild birds, rodents, and insects are all considered vectors of the avian influenza virus.

Keeping domesticated poultry away from wild waterfowl is a key in helping to prevent the spread of avian influenza.

Wild waterfowl are silent carriers of the avian influenza virus and they can spread it to domesticated poultry even if they do not come into direct contact.

All measures should be taken to limit wild waterfowl access to the environment in which you keep your poultry.

The avian influenza virus is often transferred during the migration season.

Birds will migrate from their homes and go to their wintering sites and are more likely to encounter the avian influenza virus during this time.

It is common for birds to migrate to other countries without surveillance like we have in place in the United States.

The virus is then spread to other waterfowl when the birds are returning to their homes after the winter months.

Testing and monitoring of birds in all flyway zones is constantly taking place.

Experts are monitoring the situation daily and continue to take samples from birds and educate poultry owners on what their role is in the event of a disease outbreak in Pennsylvania.

You should always assume that any visitors that come to your farm could have traveled through a contaminated area.

These areas such as golf courses, parks, and streams are easily accessible to wild waterfowl and your birds could become ill if they come in contact with fomites or wild waterfowl that have traveled through contaminated areas.

A fomite is any nonliving item that can move the disease from one area to another such as boots, tires, and farm equipment.

If you have been to any of these areas, it is important to change your shoes and clothing before entering the area where you keep your poultry.

4-H members should avoid live bird markets and sales if possible.

With all different species of poultry being brought to the market, it is very easy for disease to be transmitted or brought home to your flock.

If you must attend the market or sale, make sure you practice good biosecurity measures, change your clothes, and treat your vehicle and boots with disinfectant to protect your poultry from disease.

Avoid the commingling of birds as this is the easiest way for disease to spread among them.

Adult or mature birds should not be introduced into your existing flock.

Jeopardizing the health of your existing flock is not worth the risk.

Adding new chicks is the preferred method of growing of your flock as long as the chicks are coming from a reliable and reputable source.

Access to surface water, ponds, or streams for your poultry should be avoided if at all possible.

The avian influenza virus can live in cool water for up to three weeks and can infect domestic poultry even if they do not come into direct contact with the waterfowl.

Mixed flocks are highly discouraged for many reasons, the biggest of which being the spread of disease from the waterfowl to the domestic poultry.

Sanitizing is a key component to stopping the spread of disease.

Removing organic matter, sanitizing, and drying any fomites are all key components.

Having a biosecurity plan in place is the best way to prevent the spread of disease on your farm.

Traffic onto and around the farm should be limited and monitored.

Keeping a log of who has visited your property is a good practice to keep.

This way, you will know who had access to your birds and who you should alert in case of a disease event.

Creating a line of separation to prevent disease is the best course of action as well as sanitizing everything between uses or visits to other farms, fairs, or shows.

Biosecurity is the only defense against disease entering your flock.

All farms should have a biosecurity plan in place and ensure everyone on the farm implements that plan.

All family members and workers should be trained in biosecurity procedures and know what is expected of them on a daily basis.

Education is a key component to solving any problem.

Being educated gives you the knowledge to know what to look for in your flock and identify a problem before it becomes a crisis.

Knowing where the resources are for poultry producers and 4-H members is vital to the health of your flock.

The PennState Extension Poultry team has many great resources for producers and they have recently published an article on best management practices in regards to the recent outbreak of avian influenza.

To read this article and for other resources, please visit for more information.

In late 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture launched a program to help producers protect their flocks from avian influenza.

Defend the flock is an online toolkit with different resources for poultry owners about biosecurity practices and how to keep your flock healthy.

For more information, please visit

It is important to remember that poultry products continue to be safe.

As long as meat and eggs are cooked properly, there are no health risks to the general public.

It's important to remember to not just be wise, but to be wiser.

Watch, isolate, sanitize, educate, and report.

Do your part to protect your poultry and agriculture in Pennsylvania.

Reporting is an essential step to stopping the spread of a disease.

If you suspect you have avian influenza in your flock or any other reportable avian disease, it is vital that you report it to the Department of Agriculture and the State Veterinarian's Office immediately.

Experts will be able to advise you on vital first steps and help you through the process.

If you have any questions or need resources, please contact your local county extension office for more information.

For more information regarding biosecurity and animal wellbeing, you may contact myself, Erin Greenleaf, or Capri Stiles-Mikesell as we are the biosecurity and animal wellbeing team for 4-H youth in Pennsylvania.

We would like to give a special thanks Phil Clauer, the PennState poultry specialist for his contributions to youth across Pennsylvania as well as lending his expertise to this video.

As a final reminder, the number to the State Veterinary hotline through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is listed here.

If you suspect your birds have avian influenza or any other reportable disease or you need advise from an expert veterinarian, please feel free to contact them at the number on the screen.


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