Keeping your flock disease free at a swap

Due to the recent spread of Avian Influenza (H5N2) I have decided to rewrite this post. Because AI is spread through close contact with infected birds many poultry shows have been cancelled this season, some for the year. Here in Pennsylvania the shows have all been cancelled for the rest of the year because of the very real threat of bird flu. 

Poultry swaps though are a smaller scale and there has been no official word on them as of yet. If you go to a poultry swap, auction or show you probably know about practicing good biosecurity. But did you know that you should be doing the same things if you go to the feed or farm store? 

disease prevention chickens

When you think about it, if someone has an infected flock and drives off their property they carry the disease with them. It's on their shoes, tires and possibly their hands. When they drive onto the parking lot, walk into the store, touch the cart etc etc...they can be spreading the disease. 

Then you come along and drive onto the lot, walk into the store, grab a cart etc etc. You could very well be picking up that disease and taking it home with you! Normally I'm not all fanatical about this but with the recent outbreaks of Avian Influenza you just can't be too careful! Simply washing your hands and rinsing off your shoes and tires can prevent the spread of any bacteria they may have picked up.

Here are the steps I take whenever I attend a poultry swap or show. These are steps that I believe we should all be following to keep our flocks safe. These are 'rules' that I've came up with and stuck to for the last 3 years and they've worked so far....knock wood! lol
associate policy

1) Sanitizer:
Hand sanitizer. Bring the kind with a pump top and use it between people or birds. Shake someones hand? Sanitize after. Pick up a bird to look at? Sanitize again. Don't forget to use it before entering your vehicle after leaving the feed store. 

I also carry the little pocket containers, but after holding the bottle, flipping open the top, squeezing to get the stuff out...the bottle now has germs on it and do I really want to put that back in my pocket? I will if I have to, but I prefer to use the pump bottle that I leave sitting on the truck tailgate. 

You can buy these at dollar stores. The active ingredient is alcohol, which is cheap anyway so brand name doesn't usually matter.

Biosecurity, pet chickens

2) Shoes and tires:
I always wash them before I go home. Everybody drives their vehicles on their own property, right? Tires pick up dirt, mud, poo....whatever they drive through. Shoes accumulate germs and yuck also. It's safe to say that if a flock has a disease in it there will be germs on their property. If somebody drives through something nasty on their property, then I drive after them at the swap or feed store parking lot it is possible to pick up whatever they may have. It's a long shot, but it's possible. 

Also, I have seen birds running around at swaps, people take them out to look at them etc. If I walk through some bird poo then whatever that bird has is coming home with me. No thanks! Another reason to visit the car wash. I either wear boots I can scrub off, or flip flops I can take off as I get back in the truck. I stick the flip flops in a plastic bag and scrub with bleach when I get home. (in the sink, not the hose!) 

3) Tarps: 
Always, ALWAYS put a tarp down before you put a cage on the ground at a swap. Do you have any idea what was in the last cage that was put in that spot? Or the one before that? Of course you don't. Better safe then sorry. 

You can buy the small 5'x7' tarps for less then $3 at the home improvement store. I've found those and painters tarps at dollar stores also. Generally, if I use these I just throw them away after. You can buy a larger tarp at any big box store. These I wash at the car wash before I get home (wash again with Oxine or bleach solution at home) 

Always roll your tarp inwards when you clean up. Take your birdy poo with you. Also, keep the tarp folded under the cages as much as possible. Too much tarp and people are walking all over it and you have no idea what they've been stepping in!

farm show tarps

4) Tubs:
Rubbermaid tubs that is. I suppose metal tubs would work too, but they are heavier. Whichever you choose, if you can't put a tarp down make sure there is a solid bottom between the birds and the ground. 

These also can be washed at the car wash on the way home. They contain poo well, but should only be used for chicks or ducklings that cannot fly yet since you'll need to leave the lid off. 

5) Trucks:
I always take the pickup truck. I put the tailgate down and put the cages of birds across it. I know what the truck has been exposed to, so I know the cages aren't touching something gross. It also makes it super easy to spray the cages down at the car wash on the way home.

6) Empty cages/full boxes & signs:
I come to the swap with empty cages. The birds are all in boxes in the back seat of the truck. I take out some of each breed to put in the cages and replenish as needed. If someone asks I tell them what else I have. 

I also have a small dry erase board and I write what breeds I have and their and prices on it. The birds that never leave the boxes in the truck cab are never exposed to anything and can be returned to their home brooders if they don't sell. The ones that make it into the cages either need quarantined when they get back home.....or better yet, sell them before I leave! 

Yes, sometimes I make deals at the end of the day to save myself the issue of quarantine. Unsold birds get put back in boxes *together* for the ride home. They are never mixed with the ones that didn't make it to the cages.  (the liquor stores will give you all the boxes you need if you call ahead and ask when you can pick up)

cages farm show

7) Change your clothes:
When I get home that is. At this point I've driven through the car wash, hosed off my cages, and disposed of my tarps (or pre-washed the big ones). If I wore boots, I take them off in the driveway. I go into the house and change and throw those clothes in the washer before touching anything. 

8) Putting it all away clean:
After I'm all changed, I put away the birds that never left the truck cab and set up the quarantine area. Then I put on rubber gloves and take the boxes of birds that had made it to the cages and put them in quarantine. I burn the rubber gloves and the boxes those birds used. 

I take everything out of the back of the truck and put it in the driveway. Spray down the tires, cages and big tarps with Oxine or bleach solution, let sit for about 15 minutes then hose off. Don't forget to do the flip side. 

If I wore boots (and pre-washed them at the car wash) they also get the cleaning solution and wash. If I took off my shoes when I entered the truck they get washed in the laundry tub with bleach.

"Wow...what a pain in the butt" you're saying. I can't blame you. It is! I operate with the 'better safe then sorry' motto. (and my husband has a little OCD about germs lol) To us these steps make perfect sense. It really only takes a few extra minutes and hey, my truck is always clean! 

Have a lovely spring!


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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer

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  1. Great advice. No sense taking a chance when a few things can prevent problems. Thanks for sharing this on The Maple Hill Hop!

  2. I remember the avian flu sweeping across Pennsylvania years ago and we didn't see pheasants and quail for years. I thank you for your prevention of it. Best wishes!

  3. We lost a whole flock of chickens one time and its no fun. Thanks for the great tips!

    This post would be a perfect addition to the new Our Simple Homestead Hop if you would like to share it with us!

  4. Thanks for sharing at the Homestead Blog Hop! Hope to see you again this week. :)

  5. Thank you for sharing this great advice and tips with us at Good Morning Mondays. I really appreciate that you take the time to link up. Blessings