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Essential Biosecurity for Backyard Poultry

Essential Biosecurity for Backyard Poultry

Chicken Biosecurity - Poultry Disease Control and Prevention

With the global Avian Influenza outbreak, it is a good time to take stock of your backyard biosecurity and put measures in place to protect your poultry from disease.

Since COVID-19, we have become much more familiar with biosecurity practices. Suddenly, common biosecurity measures used on commercial poultry farms, such as boot washing stations and hazmat suits, don't seem quite so extreme. 

While you probably don't need a boot wash next to your backdoor, if you keep backyard poultry then biosecurity practices are important. Good chicken coop biosecurity helps control and prevent disease, protecting both your chickens and those around you. Biosecurity for chickens protects the health of our families too, along with the multibillion-dollar commercial poultry industry.

There are 4 simple steps to biosecurity for poultry which will control and prevent disease:

  1. Prevent disease coming into your poultry coop
  2. Protect yourself and your family by practicing good hygiene
  3. Control disease to keep your flock healthy
  4. Prevent disease from spreading to other poultry

Step 1: Prevent poultry disease coming into your coop

There are many sources of poultry disease. Some can be avoided, and others not so much. Preventing poultry disease is the most important biosecurity measure on a backyard scale. 

Some poultry diseases spread via the air, but most are spread through droppings, and sometimes even feather dander, from infected birds. Insects can also spread poultry diseases.

Here is a basic breakdown of how to avoid the most common sources of disease in chickens and other poultry.

Chickens or Poultry:

New birds and birds that have travelled for shows etc. are the most likely source of disease in backyard flocks. 

Prevent disease by:

Wild birds: 

Contact between your poultry and wild birds poses a high risk for disease transmission. Wild birds often carry diseases that can infect poultry, and these diseases can be passed on through sharing food or water, as well as in their droppings or via parasites like lice and mites.

Prevent disease by:

  • Stopping wild birds from accessing feeders and drinkers 
  • Pest-proofing the coop 
  • Roofing the chicken run 


Rodents can spread disease in the chicken coop, though they pose a lower risk than wild birds or new poultry. Rodents can spread disease through sharing food or water, or via parasites like lice and mites. However, the most common source of disease is through droppings and urine contaminating feed and feeders.

Prevent disease by:

  • Managing infestations through baiting or trapping 
  • Pest-proofing the coop 
  • Preventing access to feeders and drinkers 
  • Removing all feed overnight 


Borrowed, shared or second-hand equipment can be contaminated with poultry diseases. Cages, tools and even vehicle tyres that have been in contact with wild or domestic birds should be considered a risk.

Prevent disease by:

  • Cleaning and disinfecting any equipment that has been in contact with other birds, before using it with your own 
  • Never driving vehicles into your chicken run 


Because disease can even be spread by feather dander, the clothing, shoes and even the hair of people who have been in contact with other birds can carry disease!

Prevent disease by:

  • Ensuring other people (e.g. vets, other chicken keepers) have clean clothes, hands and shoes before entering your coop or handling your birds 
  • Cleaning your clothing, shoes and hair before visiting your coop if you have been in other chicken coops or around large groups of wild birds 


Biting insects like mosquitoes and lice can spread poultry diseases. Ingesting insects like slugs and snails can spread other diseases and parasites. The disease risk posed by insects is much higher in some regions than in others.

Prevent disease by:


Some poultry diseases can remain in the soil/environment for up to 10 years! Ingesting contaminated soil can spread disease, but poses a very low risk except in coops and runs where disease outbreaks are know to have occurred.

Prevent disease by:

  • Never feeding birds directly on the ground 
  • Preventing contamination of feed and water 
  • Not allowing birds to drink from muddy puddles 

Step 2: Protect yourself from poultry disease

Protecting yourself and those around you from illness is simple. In this case, biosecurity relies on normal hygiene. Yet you’d be amazed how many backyard chicken keepers fail to practice it!

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling poultry, their equipment or eggs
  • Avoid bringing birds into the house
  • Avoid close contact with sick birds; wear a mask and gloves if you are unsure what the illness is
  • Wear a mask when cleaning the coop and wet down litter and droppings so there is no dust
  • Always wash clothes and hair after cleaning the coop
  • Thoroughly clean clothing, shoes or equipment that has been used with birds before using it for anything else
  • Never eat eggs or meat from a bird that might be sick
  • Always properly compost manure and bedding before using them on gardens
  • Do not allow indoor pets into the coop or run
  • Do not eat in the coop or run

Step 3: Control disease in your flock

Like humans, chickens and poultry pass diseases and parasites back and forth among themselves. The best thing a backyard poultry keeper can do to control the spread of disease in their flock is to keep their coop clean and their flock healthy. This means:

Step 4: Prevent disease from spreading between flocks

What we do at home makes a difference to other poultry keepers and the commercial poultry industry, which employs thousands of people across the USA. That is why backyard biosecurity is so important to the control and prevention of chicken and poultry disease.

It is simple to prevent spreading diseases off your property:

  • Keep your birds at home unless absolutely necessary, e.g. to visit the vet
  • Be aware of common poultry illnesses and their symptoms, including notifiable diseases that must be reported 
  • Do not wear contaminated clothes or shoes off your property
  • Avoid contact with other poultry and birds
  • Clean and disinfect any contaminated equipment, especially tyres, before leaving the property
  • Dispose of dead birds and other waste responsibly
  • Do not swap, sell or give away birds that you believe may be carrying diseases. Once birds are exposed to some illnesses, they will carry them for life.

Remember, what we do at home matters. Good biosecurity measures in backyard poultry coops all over the USA are key to the control and prevention of poultry diseases in our own flocks and in the community.

Happy chicken keeping!

Rachael at Dine a Chook

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