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Farming practices for healthy flocks

Good farming practices are the first line of defence to help prevent disease affecting your flock. It is important to keep your flock in a clean environment with minimal stress. Always provide sufficient feed for the age and production status of the birds and plenty of cool, clean water.

The following list of farming practices will help you maintain the health of your flock.

Biosecurity planning

  • All poultry farms should have a biosecurity plan.
  • Implement on-farm biosecurity practices to limit the ways that disease can spread.

Manage human contact with birds

  • Always start work with the younger stock and finish with the oldest.
  • Check where your visitors have been - have they been in contact with poultry in the last 3 days or have they recently been overseas?
  • Prevent anyone who has had recent contact with other poultry from working with your flock until they have followed strict biosecurity measures as required for your property.

Identify, prevent and control disease and parasites

Quarantine new and returning birds

  • Always isolate sick birds from the rest of the flock. Have a qualified person diagnose and treat them for illness.
  • Ensure new birds are separated from the flock for a month. Watch for any signs of sickness, lice or mites.
  • Always source birds from a reputable supplier.
  • Keep exhibition birds returning from shows separate from the main flock for at least two weeks.

Provide clean and appropriate housing

  • Allow enough floor, feed and water space, and shade for the species requirements and poultry welfare code.
  • Ensure perches are smooth and at a height suitable for the breed.
  • Cover concrete floors with bedding material such as sawdust, pine shavings, straw or sand; these coverings are drier and easier to clean than dirt floors.
  • Keep pens well ventilated and free from dampness and draughts.
  • House fowls, ducks, turkeys and peafowl separately as each can carry diseases that can make the others sick.
  • Provide housing that will prevent contact with wild birds.
  • At the end of each batch or production cycle:
    • wash and spray the shed with a disinfectant and insecticide
    • remove the old litter, rake over dirt floors and spray with disinfectant or sprinkle with slaked lime
    • take out, clean and disinfect all moveable objects
    • try to leave sheds empty for at least 10-12 days
    • if re-using litter, windrow for at least 5-6 days between batches
    • if sheds and pens are used continuously, aim to do a complete clean and disinfection at least once per year.
  • Regularly clean and flush water bowls, lines and feeders.
  • Regularly clean nest boxes, remove dirty litter and avoid using mouldy bedding material.
  • Fence off range areas to reduce the impact of predators.

Equipment

  • Don't share equipment between flocks or properties. If this is unavoidable, only share essential equipment and make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use.
  • Routinely clean and fumigate poultry incubators.

General poultry farm hygiene

  • Maintain a continuous vermin control program.
  • Keep the area surrounding sheds and range areas clean and tidy. Keep grass mown and remove all rubbish.
  • Remove and dispose of dead birds daily. Never feed dead birds to cats or dogs.
  • Store feed in a cool and dry vermin proof area to maintain freshness, prevent mould growing and prevent contamination from other animals.

Brooding

  • Clean each shed or pen before new batches of chickens arrive. Whatever the brooding system, the birds need heat, water, feed, light and good management.
  • Observe chicks regularly. You can tell when chickens are too cold or hot by watching their distribution or the sounds they make.
  • Recognise early signs of disease by regularly observing poultry and practising good animal husbandry and stockpersonship procedures.
  • Use fresh bedding in the brooding area, sourced from a reputable supplier.

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