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Troup County Extension agent: Small flocks and avian flu

Brian Maddy

Contributing columnist

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It’s been in the news that the avian influenza has caused price increases in eggs and other poultry products.

What you don’t necessarily read about is that it is responsible for the death of 46 million chickens in 14 western states. That’s a lot of chickens.

This virus not only infects chickens but also turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks, geese and guinea fowl as well as a wide range of other birds. The incidence of avian influenza infecting humans is quite low.

Migratory waterfowl have proved to be a natural reservoir for the HPAI, highly pathogenic avian influenza. The letters and numbers that follow like H5N8 are the strains.

It was first detected in small flocks in South Africa in 1961. It has now infected flocks in Europe and Asia. It has been found in three of the four major flyways in the United States, the Pacific, the Central and the Mississippi flyways.

The flyway that it has not been detected in is the Atlantic flyway which affects Georgia. Researchers have captured and confirmed the infection in the migratory birds in the three western flyways. It may be only a matter of time before the infection spreads to the Atlantic flyway.

These type A influenzas are spread and maintained among wild birds by fecal-oral routes of transmission. The most common time that the virus is spread is when the birds begin to migrate during late summer and fall.

It is next to impossible to control the virus in the wild flocks. How do we protect this 28 billion dollar industry in Georgia? The first line of defense is to prevent the entry of the virus into the poultry flocks to begin with.

The first step is to move all poultry with outside access into housing immediately. Restrict access to your property and create a barrier to your birds. Do not allow people who have chickens or other types of fowl near your flock.

Step two is to keep everything clean. Wear clean clothes, scrub and disinfect your shoes before entering your coop. Have a shoe trough filled with a bleach solution as you walk in and out of the coop.

Clean out the cages and change the food and water daily. Clean and disinfect your equipment and cages that come into contact with your birds or their droppings. Remove manure before disinfecting.

The third step is not to bring disease home from the feed store, sale barn or fair. Clean and disinfect your vehicles including tires, cages and equipment. Quarantine any new birds at least 30 days before introducing them to your flock.

Step four is not to use or share any equipment from your neighbor. This includes lawn and garden equipment, tools and poultry supplies. If you do, clean and disinfect them first.

Step five is to know the warning signs. The warning signs are:

• Sudden increase in bird deaths.

• Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing and nasal discharge.

• Watery and green diarrhea.

• Lack of energy and poor appetite.

• Drop in egg production or soft or thin shelled misshapen eggs.

• Swelling around the eyes, neck and head.

• Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs.

The final step is to report sick birds. Don’t hesitate to call your vet or the extension office if your birds are sick or dying. The USDA operates a toll-free hotline (1-800-536-7593) at no charge with veterinarians to help you.

Remember, you are the best protection your birds have.

What’s going on in Extension?

Jefferson Street Market begins Saturday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to noon at 625 Jefferson St. just off of Dallis Street.

Sept. 15: Troup County Cattleman: Forages and Nutrition; Dr. Lawton Stewart, guest speaker; 7 p.m. Tuesday; program will start at 7:30 p.m. The $6 meal will be served at 7 p.m. Ag Center.

Sept. 15-16: Georgia Grazing School; Carroll County Extension Office; cost is $150 for the first person and $75 for second person from the same farm. Visit: www.georgiaforages.com or call the office for more information.

Sept. 21: Troup County Association of Beekeepers; 7 p.m. at the Ag Center.

Sept. 24: OSHA Chainsaw Class, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call the office for details.

Oct. 29: Small Flock Management Class. Cost is $10; lunch provided. Call the extension office to sign up.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.

Brian Maddy is the ANR Agent for Troup County Extension. The Troup County Extension office is located at 114 Church St. in LaGrange and may be reached at 706-883-1675, Monday–Friday 8 a.m.–noon and 15 p.m.