A backyard flock owner enjoying a coffee while watching his chickens

Backyard flocks can be a source of great entertainment. This backyard flock owner likes to have a cup of coffee while watching the antics of his chicken flock. Photo by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

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NEWS UPDATE: USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in a commercial broiler flock in Fulton County, KentuckyA commercial flock of turkeys has also been confirmed with HPAI in Webster CountyIn addition, 2 dead snow geese tested positive in Ballard County, 4 hunter-harvested gadwalls tested positive in Henderson County and 4 live mallards tested positive in Meade County.

USDA APHIS | 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza

Anyone involved with poultry production from the small backyard to the large commercial producer should review their biosecurity activities to assure the health of their birds. APHIS has materials about biosecurity, including videos, checklists, and a toolkit available at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/avian/defend-the-flock-program/dtf-resources/dtf-resources.

In addition to practicing good biosecurity, all bird owners should prevent contact between their birds and wild birds and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593. Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov.

Bird flu - Information for hunters and taxidermists

Bird flu - Identification and reporting

Bird flu - Considerations for pets and non-farm animals

Bird flu - Cleaning and disinfection

Bird flu - Biosecurity and Prevention

There are many reasons an individual or family may want to raise poultry:

  1. For-profit through the sale of meat, eggs, and/or chicks.
  2. For family consumption of meat and/or eggs
  3. As a control for pests
  4. As a hobby and/or for poultry exhibitions
  5. As a 4-H or FFA project

A small poultry flock is relatively inexpensiverequires less space than most animal enterprises, and doesn't require much time. In addition, raising a small poultry flock is a good way to introduce youth to animal agriculture (for food or fiber) and to help build a sense of responsibility (since animals need to be taken care of 365 days a year).

There are some important things to remember though. Every year CDC reports multi-state outbreaks of human salmonellosis linked to contact with backyard poultry. It is important to wash your hands after handling poultry or anything that they have come into contact with. Keep an eye on any young children handling poultry to make sure they don't kiss the birds or bring them near their faces. Make sure they don't put their fingers in their mouths. 

Safe handling of chicks

Wally Cat poster for kids on the safe handling of chicks (University of Kentucky)

Growing a Nation: A history of American agriculture (Ag in the Classroom)

A history of agriculture (History of worldwide agriculture by Crest Capital)