BIOSECURITY RISK: Keeping chickens at home can come with the risk of spreading disease.
BIOSECURITY RISK: Keeping chickens at home can come with the risk of spreading disease. Contributed

Don't let your crook home chooks spread disease

NOOSA'S growing band of home-based chook keepers are being cautioned about the need for "biosecurity” to avoid the spread of disease.

Australian Eggs' managing director Rowan McMonnies said the CSIRO's recent warning about risks to animal and human health was timely and local backyard owners needed to understand their responsibilities.

"People need to realise that once you're a suburban 'egg farmer' there are important biosecurity risks to protect against,” MrMcMonnies said.

"Strains of avian influenza can occur naturally in populations of wild birds and if a wild duck comes into contact with a domestic hen the virus can be transferred.

"Diseases spread quickly and widely and potential transfer from backyard to commercial flocks can put food security for the broader community at risk.

"It's understandable that people think backyard farming is clean and natural but these set-ups can pose significant problems because of how accessible they are to wild animals,” he said.

Below, Australian Eggs has issued a list of measures backyard poultry owners should follow to reduce biosecurity risks:

1. Always wash hands after handling chickens or eggs.

2. Keep chickens away from ponds and rivers as water birds are known carriers of avian influenza.

3. Ensure that wild birds cannot access the chickens' feed or water.

4. Keep other animals like domestic geese or turkeys, and even cats and dogs, well away.

5. Use safe water sources such as town water, good-quality bore water or sanitised surface water for chickens to drink.

6. Provide a secure rodent-proof enclosure for poultry as rats and mice are known carriers of disease.

7. Any kitchen scraps fed to chickens must be free of meat.

8. Check hens regularly for anything unusual such as coughing, diarrhoea or swollen eyes.

9. If a chicken is showing signs of sickness, isolate the sick animal from the others and seek veterinary advice.

10. If concerned, call Animal Health Australia's emergency disease watch hotline on 1800675888.

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