Biosecurity risks to poultry farms
Infectious diseases and food safety pathogens can enter or spread within a poultry farm in many ways.
The main methods of disease spread on or between poultry farms is through:
- contaminated people
- contaminated vehicles and equipment
- wild birds
- feral animals, domestic animals, insects and vermin
- other poultry
- feed and water
People who visit your poultry farm and enter the production area (including sheds and free-range areas) can potentially be carriers of disease and food safety pathogens that may threaten the health and productivity of your flock.
Diseases or food safety pathogens may be carried in a person's:
- hair and hands
- personal items such as mobile phones and jewellery.
Visitors can include neighbours, contractors, suppliers, vets, delivery drivers, maintenance and service personnel.
To reduce biosecurity risks from visitors you should:
- shut the gate to your property and lock whenever practical
- place a biosecurity sign at the entry gate that contains information on how to contact the farm manager before entry
- check where your visitors have been and if they have had any contact with other poultry or birds in the last 2 days. If visitors have been overseas this may increase to 7 days.
- keep a visitors log outlining details of visitors' name and date and recent contact with poultry
- restrict access to your poultry unless necessary
- provide protective clothing, footwear and handwash for visitors that come inside your production area
- ensure that visitors sanitise their hands, wear protective clothing and clean and dip each foot in a footbath containing disinfectant before entering sheds and range areas
- ensure to replace the footbath when dirty.
Showering before entry and changing into freshly laundered clothes and farm boots, and then showering out, is the highest level of protection for poultry production facilities. If visitors have had recent contact with other poultry, this option should be used.
Contaminated vehicles and equipment
Vehicles and equipment are a high risk for spreading pathogens. To reduce this risk:
- only have 1 entry point for vehicles
- have a designated visitors parking area that is well signed and located outside of the production area
- don't share equipment between properties—if this is unavoidable, make sure that ALL equipment is cleaned (removing all visible dirt) and disinfected before and after use
- never share or re-use cardboard egg fillers or cartons
- don't allow delivery vehicles to come inside the production area—if this is necessary such as for feed and gas deliveries, then drivers must NOT enter sheds or ranges
- thoroughly clean and disinfect all housing, sheds and equipment between batches
- clean and flush drinkers and feeders regularly
- clean and disinfect egg grading and washing equipment after use.
Wild birds and waterfowl can be carriers of diseases and food safety pathogens, such as avian influenza and salmonella. Keeping a poultry farm free of wild birds may be difficult.
To make the property unattractive to wild birds:
- only plant trees and shrubs that are non-flowering or non-bird attracting
- limit the amount of surface water on the farm
- make sheds that house poultry wild bird proof
- only provide feed and water for your flock indoors.
Feral animals, insects, vermin, domestic livestock and animals
Insects, such as darkling beetles, and rodents can be carriers of infectious diseases and food safety pathogens such as campylobacter and salmonella.
In all poultry farms, it is important to:
- have a rodent control plan in place that is regularly monitored and baits replaced as required. Bait stations should be positioned around the outside of the sheds and range areas and should not be accessible by other animals
- clean up any feed spills as soon as possible and keep the property neat and tidy with grass mown around sheds and range areas
- store feed and bedding in a vermin proof area to avoid contamination from rodents and wild birds
- treat insects with approved chemicals
- fence the range area with stock proof fencing to keep out livestock and feral animals.
- allow domestic animals inside poultry sheds or range areas. If using guard animals in free-range situations make sure they have been tested to ensure they are not carriers of disease before placing them with your flock.
- graze livestock immediately surrounding the poultry sheds and range areas.
New birds are the most common way to introduce disease into your flock. To reduce disease coming in with new birds you can take the following measures.
- Have an all-in and all-out policy (single-aged flock). This allows time to clean and disinfect all housing and equipment before new birds come in.
- Obtain new birds from a reliable supplier of healthy stock and request vaccination certification.
- Only buy young birds, as older birds are more likely to carry disease.
- Dispose of dead birds in an environmentally approved method. If collected from a contractor, have your storage and collection point located as far away from the sheds and range as possible so that the collection vehicle does not enter the production area. Never feed dead poultry to domestic animals.
- Quarantine new birds from your existing flock for at least 1 month as you may spread disease from one to the other. Watch for any signs of illness, lice or mites.
- If exhibiting birds, make sure you do not take any birds to a show if there are any signs of illness in your flock, even if the birds you are taking appear well.
Feed and water
Feed and water can also be a source of contamination. Disease carrying rodents or wild birds may contaminate feed, while droppings and excretions from wild birds or waterfowl may be the source of contamination for open water sources such as dam, tank and river water.
Any water used for drinking, shed cooling and range irrigation on a poultry farm must meet the microbiological standards specified in the National Water Biosecurity Manual for Poultry Production (PDF, 1.8MB). All surface water and any other water that doesn't meet this standard must be appropriately treated, for example by chlorination.
To reduce biosecurity risks associated with feed and water contamination:
- always source feed from reputable suppliers
- have all water used for poultry tested
- treat all surface water and once treated, store it in a closed system, from the point of treatment to the drinker to prevent re-contamination
- check and record chlorine and treatment levels daily.
Find out more about poultry feed, nutrition and water.
Litter can introduce food safety and disease pathogens onto a property. In particular, wet litter can encourage the growth of food safety pathogens. To reduce the risk of litter being a source of disease:
- purchase litter from a reputable supplier and have it delivered in clean, disinfected trucks
- don't source litter from treated timber
- source litter from a clean, dry, biosecure storage site, free from contamination by rodents, birds, animals and residues
- reduce wet litter by managing drinkers, ventilation systems and working litter as necessary.
Having a good buffer distance between other poultry farms and piggeries will help to reduce any impact from airborne spread of disease. The minimum distance should be at least 1km between other poultry farms and at least 5km from breeder farms.
Planting non-bird attracting trees and shrubs as strategic windbreaks can also act as a barrier.
- Read the National Farm Biosecurity Technical Manual for Egg Production (PDF, 2MB).
- Read the National Farm Biosecurity Manual for Chicken Growers (PDF, 2MB).
- Find out about Environmental Guidelines for the Australian Egg Industry.
- Read about the National Environmental Management System for the Meat Chicken Industry - Version 2.
- Learn about farm biosecurity from Biosecurity Queensland.
- Find out about farming practices for healthy flocks.
- Farm biosecurity posters are available from the Australian Egg Corporation Limited (refer to 'Biosecurity posters' at the bottom of the page).