Friday, July 1, 2022

Summer is here, but bird flu hasn’t flown the coop

Karla Salp

Chickens not confined to a covered shelter are
at greater risk for contracting bird flu
It’s been a bad year for bird flu across the country, even though it was only first detected in Washington in early May. At the time, state veterinarians were hopeful that Washington would scrape by without any cases or, once it arrived, that we would be over the worst of it by the end of June. Unfortunately, neither happened.

Washington’s backyard flocks and wild birds are still contracting highly pathogenic avian influenza, with the first detection in Kitsap County happening only this week. The prolonged period of detections has backyard flock owners asking when they can relax the biosecurity measures they have been taking to protect their flocks.

The short answer is: not yet.

Given the number of detections still occurring, Dr. Amber Itle, Washington State Veterinarian, continues to recommend that owners keep their birds isolated until 30 days after the last detection in the state.

While this may be challenging for owners, what they are doing is working! All of the flocks that have had detections have had contact with wild birds, especially wild waterfowl.

Keeping your birds covered and confined is best, but if you can’t, then here are some steps you can take to reduce your risk:

  • Separate domestic birds from wild birds
  • Separate domestic poultry from domestic waterfowl
  • Discourage wild birds from coming near your flocks
  • Only feed domestic birds indoors and remove feed at night (when wild birds often feed)
  • Lock up your flock’s feed in containers with lids
  • Remove bird feeders that might attract wild waterfowl
  • Fence off the ponds
  • Cover the chicken yard with netting·

Direct and indirect contact with wild waterfowl
has proven to be one of the greatest risk 
factors for a flock contracting HPAI this year
Most flock owners have been doing a tremendous job protecting their birds. And even though there have been several detections in backyard flocks, efforts by backyard flock owners, commercial flock owners, and state and federal officials have thus far prevented infection in commercial flocks, which would have a significant impact on the food supply and Washington’s poultry industry. (Did you know eggs are frequently one of Washington’s top 10 commodities?)

It may be tempting to just let your birds run loose as the weather warms, but biosecurity is still as important now as it was two months ago when bird flu was first confirmed here. Hopefully, warmer summer weather will help lighten the virus load and cases will begin to decline.

This outbreak has been tough on flock owners, veterinarians, and especially our birds who have been isolated and unable to run free. Hang in there, and reach out to friends and fellow flock owners for support during this difficult time. A BIG thank you to all our flock owners who are doing everything they can to protect their flocks and the surrounding flocks.

  Visit for more information, including the latest detections in the state.