USDA Calls for Newcastle Disease Vigilance

John Maday

Clinical signs of virulent Newcastle disease include swelling around the eyes and respiratory distress. ( USDA )

Animal health officials have confirmed two cases of virulent Newcastle disease in backyard poultry flocks in southern California, raising concerns the disease could spread to commercial operations. The disease has not been confirmed in commercial poultry in the United States since 2003, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

While not a food-safety threat, humans can contract a usually mild form of the disease from exposure to infected birds. In unvaccinated poultry flocks though, the virulent disease can cause up to 100% mortality.

The two California cases, one in San Bernardino County and one in Los Angeles County, were confirmed over the past two weeks in backyard poultry flocks. APHIS now urges poultry owners, especially in southern California, to adopt biosecurity measures to prevent spread of the disease. These include:

  • Wash hands and scrub boots before and after entering an area with birds.
  • Clean and disinfect tires and equipment before moving them off the property.
  • Isolate any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock. Limit visitor contact with their birds, and do not let anyone else who owns birds come in contact with their flock to avoid potentially sharing/spreading germs between flocks.
  • Report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Clinical signs of virulent Newcastle disease include:

  • Sudden death and increased death loss in the flock.
  • Sneezing; gasping for air; nasal discharge; coughing.
  • Greenish, watery diarrhea.
  • Decreased activity.
  • Tremors; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck.
  • Circling; complete stiffness.
  • Swelling around the eyes and neck.

Images of some of these signs are available here.

Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at the USDA’s Biosecurity for Birds website.

Additional cases will be reported on the APHIS website as they are confirmed.


Parasite in your Flock

LANCASTER, Pa. — Do you find yourself throwing away eggs after treating your flock for internal parasites? Although it’s nearly impossible to keep your chickens completely worm-free year-round, proper management can help prevent parasite issues in your flock.

Why should you care about worms in your birds?

Worm, or parasite, infestations can cause poor growth, decreased egg production and in severe cases, death. Internal parasites can also make a flock more susceptible to diseases or make existing diseases worse.[1]

Backyard birds can easily ingest internal parasite eggs while scratching the ground and foraging for bugs, including snails, slugs, grasshoppers, ants and earthworms. Insects can also harbor parasite eggs, which infect your birds when ingested.

If your birds are not behaving normally and seem distant from the rest of the flock, it could be a sign of parasites causing illness. Pay close attention to your birds for additional symptoms of internal parasites:

  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Watery droppings
  • Dehydration
  • Hens stop laying
  • Separation from the rest of the flock
  • Balance and coordination loss due to weakness
  • Poor feather quality
  • Dull combs, wattles and eyes

While parasite infections can be serious, being proactive can help prevent parasites from ever becoming an issue. Here are nine ways to help keep your birds happy, healthy and parasite-free:

  1. Avoid overcrowding – Give birds plenty of room to be comfortable. Overcrowding can cause an abundance of germs in a small area.
  2. Clean coops at least once a week – Cleaning and adding fresh bedding prevents infected droppings from accumulating.
  3. Avoid introducing infested chickens to the flock – Purchase your chickens as newborn chicks. If you purchase adult birds, quarantine them for a minimum of two weeks to monitor their health and assess for potential disease and parasite symptoms.[2]
  4. Avoid giving feed or treats on the ground – Ground pecking for feed and treats increases the risk of your flock consuming parasitic bugs and encountering droppings from contaminated birds.
  5. Keep chickens off freshly tilled ground – Chickens love to eat bugs and freshly tilled ground turns up insects possibly hosting parasite eggs. Keeping your flock away from freshly tilled areas can help limit their exposure to an overabundance of tasty bugs.
  6. Keep wild birds away from your flock – Wild birds could be infected with parasites and shed parasite eggs through their droppings.
  7. Use integrated pest management (IPM) practices to control insect populations – IPM practices are an eco-friendly way to eliminate or control factors required for pests to survive.
  8. Test and sanitize drinking water –  One sick bird can infect the rest of the flock simply by contaminating the waterers. Test and sanitize the water, and keep waterers and feeders cleaned to help control or reduce the chance of spreading infection.
  9. Target worms – Use an all-natural supplement to help breakdown the natural defenses of intestinal worms and their eggs. This makes parasites more susceptible to attack by the bird’s immune system, stomach acids and bacteria in the gut.

Naturally preventing diseases before they start is the best strategy to support the immune system of your birds, prevent expensive, time-consuming veterinarian visits and maintain a happy, healthy flock. For more information about poultry health, visit and “like” the Healthy Flock Facebook page.

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Bird Flu

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama officials have confirmed bird flu in two poultry flocks, just a week after three commercial breeders had to kill their chickens across the state line in Tennessee.

The state veterinarian announced that chickens are under quarantine after testing positive for the disease at a commercial breeding operation in Pickens County near the Mississippi line.

Dr. Tony Frazier’s statement says the disease also was found in a backyard flock in Madison County, near the Tennessee line.

Agriculture officials say this strain of avian flu poses no risk to humans and has not entered the food chain.

The Alabama Poultry and Egg Association says poultry is Alabama’s largest agriculture sector, generating about $15 billion in annual revenues and employing more than 86,000 people.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Canadian Press.

For more articles concerning bird flu, click here.

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U.S. bird flu cases have local farmers on guard

Delaware poultry farmers are on alert after a recent outbreak of bird flu devastated a Tennessee farm.

More than 73,000 birds on a southern Tennessee farm that supplies chickens for Tyson Foods were killed after federal officials identified a case of deadly bird flu in the flock.

For Delaware poultry farmers, this is a wake up call that the virus could be nearby.

“The Delaware Department of Agriculture has really been preparing for Avian Influenza since the last time we had it back in 2004 and we haven’t stopped preparing because the chicken industry is such a large part of our economic impact in Delaware,” said Stacey Hofmann, a spokeswoman for the department.

Hofmann said the path migratory birds take through Tennessee is not the same as the one birds use in Delaware, but they eventually meet at their Arctic breeding grounds. Once they leave during the fall, that’s when it’s possible the virus might spread down the Mid-Atlantic.

State officials and industry groups say farmers should remember to wear disposable clothing inside chicken houses to prevent the spread of the virus. Hofmann said farmers should also limit the amount of visitors to the chicken houses.

A turkey farm in Wisconsin also reported a less serious case of bird flu, but it didn’t require the culling of an entire flock.

Avian Influenza

You may have noticed that the price of eggs have increased in the past couple of weeks. The main reason is due to a shortage of eggs coming from major egg producer states. The United States is home to roughly 280 million laying hens that produce around 75 billion eggs a year. Iowa is the largest egg producing state with over 58 million hens in production. According to the American Egg Board the 2014 per capita consumption of eggs in the United States has increased to 263 eggs. Of that 60 percent of the eggs produced are used by consumers, 9 percent used in the food service industry leaving 31 percent of the eggs being used in egg products like cake mixes and mayonnaise. The main reason for the increase in egg prices is due to a decline in laying hens that have contracted Avian Influenza.
Avian influenza (AI) is the bird flu. Just like humans there is a flu that affects birds. AI is a virus that naturally occurs in wild birds such as geese, ducks, shorebirds and can spread to domestic poultry like chickens and turkeys. Unlike humans wild birds cannot go to the doctor if they have the flu and from what I have been reading the last human flu shot was only 19 percent effective. AI is primarily spread through direct contact between healthy birds and infected birds. The virus is excreted through the feces of infected birds and is the most common cause of transmission. The issue is that our major egg producing states are on flyways for ducks and geese that migrate during certain times of the year which puts our hens in jeopardy.
The signs of illness of birds infected with AI typically have decreased food consumption, coughing and sneezing along with decreased egg production. However, there is no need to panic if you have a back yard flock. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed recommendations that may prevent a poultry disease outbreak.
1. Restrict access to your property and your birds.
2. Keep your clothes, shoes, equipment and hands clean.
3. If you have been near other birds or bird owners, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before going home and follow number 2.
4. Don’t borrow tools and poultry supplies from other bird owners.
5. Know the warning signs such as sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, lack of energy, poor appetite and sudden increase in mortality.
6. Sick or dead domestic birds, including backyard flocks and commercial poultry, should be reported to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section, (302) 698-4500 or (800) 282-8685.
7. To report groups of dead or sick waterfowl, shorebirds or gulls, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wildlife Section-Wildlife Disease Program at (302) 735-3600.
In summary proper biosecurity measures can prevent disease outbreaks. Isolating your birds from wild birds is key in the fight against AI. If you have any questions stop by the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office located at 461 Wyoming Road in Newark, Delaware, or phone 302-831-2506 for more information. For comments or questions email me at or follow me on twitter @DanSeversonUD.

Avian Influenza

Avian flu no threat to Delaware poultry yet

DOVER — Even though no avian influenza has been reported in Delmarva or even on the East Coast, Delaware is taking no chances.

Since December 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways — the paths used by migratory birds. The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people to be low and no human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada or internationally.

Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry, said in an email last week the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the 1,600 Delmarva families who raise chickens and all the poultry-related industries are concerned about the possibility of avian influenza viruses reaching the peninsula.

“We are not in a panic mode,” he said, “but are working to make sure the virus is kept away from our commercial chickens and to be prepared in case it is discovered.”

Delmarva’s chicken industry is geared toward producing meat, not eggs, he said. Delaware is ranked 10th among the states in the pounds of meat chickens produced in 2013. More than 1.5 billion pounds were produced.

Poultry and related industries contributed $3.2 billion to the Delaware economy in 2011, according to the University of Delaware.

Mr. Satterfield said efforts continue to improve biosecurity, update prevention and response plans and ensure resources are in place to deal with the potentially devastating disease.

“The three diagnostic laboratories for Delmarva are gearing up in case there are suspicious or confirmed cases of avian influenza,” he said.

Planning exercises also are in the works.

On Monday, the Delaware Department of Agriculture announced it is prohibiting waterfowl entries in the poultry competitions at the Delaware State Fair, July 23-Aug. 1 in Harrington, in order to protect against avian influenza.
Ducks and geese won’t be exhibited. Exhibitions of chickens, quail, pheasants, turkeys and other birds will take place, but all birds will be tested for avian influenza by the Department of Agriculture personnel before the fair begins.

“This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution to guard against the spread of avian influenza,” said Delaware state veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst.

Since many species of wild waterfowl can carry and shed influenza virus in feces without showing any signs of illness, Dr. Hirst said it is important to keep domestic birds separated from wild waterfowl and to keep domestic birds off waterways where wild waterbirds live.

Avian influenza spreads bird-to-bird through saliva, feces and other bodily fluids.

Biosecurity measures recommended by the department include isolating birds from visitors and other birds; keeping shoes, tools, equipment, vehicles and cages clean when entering areas where birds live; avoiding tracking wild waterfowl feces into domestic bird living areas; avoiding sharing equipment and tools with neighbors; watching for warning signs of disease; and reporting sick or dead birds.

Sick or dead domestic birds, including backyard flocks and commercial poultry, should be reported to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section, (302) 698-4500 or (800) 282-8685.

To report groups of dead or sick waterfowl, shorebirds or gulls, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wildlife Section-Wildlife Disease Program at (302) 735-3600.

For more information on avian influenza, visit


Bird Health

From Delmarva’s Morning Ag Clips:

Maryland’s agricultural officials are taking their fight against bird flu to festival grounds across the state.

The state Department of Agriculture announced Monday that any poultry, whether from the state or elsewhere, must be tested for the flu at least 10 days before entry in any Maryland fair or show. The only exception are birds that originate in a National Poultry Improvement Plan clean or monitored flock.

In addition, all waterfowl are banned from entry.

The current strain of H5N2 avian influenza isn’t suspected of posing a threat to humans. The Midwest-centered outbreak has spread to more than 30 million poultry since last December.

It has not been detected in Maryland, Delaware or Virginia

Avian Flu

WASHINGTON — While U.S. poultry producers enjoyed one of the most profitable years on record in 2014, averaging margins of 13 percent before interest and tax, concerns are mounting within the industry as Avian influenza (AI) continues to spread worldwide, including to a number of states in the U.S.

Though the current outbreak of AI in commercial flocks is unique to poultry producers, pork producers who have suffered problems related to porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus, and cattle raisers who have confronted a number of animal disease problems including Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), hoof and mouth disease and Texas cattle fever, are reminders of how deadly pathogens can become a game spoiler if producers let their guard down or fail to respond to a potential animal health crisis.

In the very least, animal health issues should remain a real concern for agricultural producers as research indicates certain credible biosecurity threats could be near the top of the list of potential vulnerabilities to national and International security, especially given the current global climate of terrorists threats and problems related to domestic insurgency.

— Logan Hawkes

Southwest Farm Press

Starting a Small Flock of Chickens

An Article from Purina dealing with A backyard chicken flock.

SHOREVIEW, Minn. — Families across the country are joining the backyard flock revolution. With a coop, some chicks and a long-term plan of action, a backyard flock brings families fresh, wholesome eggs and the enjoyment of watching a baby chick grow into an egg-laying hen. The first step in establishing a backyard flock is creating a plan.

“We can gain a lot from a backyard flock,” says Gordon Ballam, Ph.D., director of lifestyle innovation & technical service for Purina Animal Nutrition. “Chickens can produce truly fresh eggs and flavorful, healthy meat. And we’re able to enjoy watching birds from our back porch and teaching our children responsibilities and how animals grow.”

Before buying new chicks this spring, Ballam encourages six tips in flock planning.

1. Select the breed that’s right for you.
Poultry breeds come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Families looking to produce eggs or meat are encouraged to start with common breeds of chickens.

“Determine what you’d like to gain from your flock,” Ballam recommends. “If you want fresh eggs, consider: White Leghorn hybrids (white eggs), Plymouth Barred Rocks (brown eggs), Rhode Island Reds (brown eggs), Blue Andalusians (white eggs) or Ameraucanas/Easter Eggers (blue eggs). Cornish Cross chickens grow quickly and are best suited for meat production. If you’re hoping to produce both eggs and meat, consider dual-purposed breeds like Plymouth Barred Rock, Sussex or Buff Orpingtons. Exotic breeds are best for show or pets.”

2. Determine the number of birds you’d like.
The number and gender of birds in your flock may be determined by local ordinances and your flock goals.

“Remember that young chicks grow into full-grown birds,” Ballam says. “Create a budget for: the time you are able to spend with your flock; the housing the birds will require; a plan for how you’ll collect and use eggs; and what you’ll do with the birds after they retire from laying eggs. Then start small with a flock of 4 to 6 chicks.”

3. Research a reputable chick supplier.
Purchase chicks from a credible U.S. Pullorum-Typhoid Clean hatchery. To prevent potential disease problems, ensure the hatchery vaccinated chicks for Marek’s Disease and coccidiosis.

4. Prepare your brooder.
Keep baby chicks in a warm, draft-free shelter, called a brooder. The brooder should: be completely enclosed with a bottom surface that can be covered with bedding; and have a heating lamp. Avoid square corners in the brooding area to prevent chicks from being trapped in the corner should the birds huddle in one area.

“Each chick needs at least 2 to 3 square feet of floor space for the first six weeks,” Ballam says. “Set the brooder temperature to 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the first week and then gradually reduce heat by 5 degrees Fahrenheit each week until reaching a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to have a spacious, clean coop ready for the chicks once the supplemental heat source is no longer required. Through all stages, always provide plenty of fresh clean water that is changed daily.”

5. Focus on sanitation.
Before new chicks arrive – and throughout the growing process – be sure to keep their environment clean. Young chicks are susceptible to early health risks, so disinfect all materials prior to use and then weekly.

“The correct household disinfectants can work well,” Ballam says. “Make sure to read the directions to ensure your disinfectant is safe to use and doesn’t leave a residual film. A mixture of 10 percent bleach and 90 percent water can work well, if the cleaner is rinsed thoroughly following cleaning.”

6. Create a long-term nutrition plan.
A healthy full-grown bird begins on day one. Provide a balanced starter diet to new chicks, based on their breed traits.

“For chicks who will later lay eggs, select a feed that has 18 percent protein, like Purina® Start & Grow® Crumbles,” Ballam recommends. “For meat birds and mixed flocks, choose a complete feed with 20 percent protein, like Purina® Flock Raiser®Crumbles. Transition layer chicks onto a higher-calcium complete feed, like Purina® Layena® Crumbles or Pellets, when they begin laying eggs at age 18 to 20 weeks.”