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Have Backyard Chickens? UC Scientists Say To Check Them For Signs Of Avian Flu

Dan Hatton/Creative Commons/Flickr
Backyard Chickens

The University of California is urging poultry farms and people with backyard chickens to pay attention for signs of a sickness their flocks can catch from wild birds. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports.

A flock of 73,000 chickens in Tennessee was recently found to be infected with the avian influenza.This strain doesn’t harm humans, but makes birds very sick and can kill them. In response UC scientists like Maurice Pitesky are asking farmers and people with backyard chickens to limit exposure to wild birds.


"The kind of free range and backyard type approach, there’s advantages to those systems, but one of the disadvantages is that it is much more difficult to prevent exposure and transmission of disease to those birds," says Pitesky.


California poultry is at risk, because birds from around the world fly along the Pacific Flyway and make pit stops here. When they migrate they’re exposed to birds from Asia. Beatriz Martinez Lopez with the School of UC Davis Veterinary Medicine says people who own poultry should look for signs of sickness in them.


“That’s the most important thing," says Martinez Lopez. "So for example is their any morbidity or depression or mortality that is unusual."


Bird owners who find illness or death among their flocks should call their veterinarian or the California Department of Food Agriculture sick bird hotline at (866) 922-BIRD (2473). For more information on raising backyard chickens visit the UC Cooperative Extension Poultry site.


Ezra David Romero is an award-winning radio reporter and producer. His stories have run on Morning Edition, Morning Edition Saturday, Morning Edition Sunday, All Things Considered, Here & Now, The Salt, Latino USA, KQED, KALW, Harvest Public Radio, etc.