Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Truth About Bird Flu in Backyard Birds

 "Backyard birds are more immune to the Bird Flu than factory birds. Really not a worry if your birds free range most of the time."  - Statement found on Chicken Whisperer Facebook page in response to information posted about the dangers of backyard bird feeders on March 26 2016.

There are no breeds or strains of domestic poultry that are resistant or immune to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).  That being said there are breeds (most famously the Egyptian Fayoumi) that are known to have greater disease resistance than other breeds.  For example, the Fayoumi breed has greater resistance to coccidiosis but conversely they appear more susceptible to infectious bursal disease.  Fayoumi also have lower hatchability rates.  The point being that there is no perfect breed or strain of chicken.  Researchers may identify local breeds of chickens or cross-breed different breeds of chickens that have unique traits including disease resistance, but to believe that backyard and free-range birds offer a "genetic panacea" that would allow us to ignore biosecurity as the primary method of reducing mortality related to HPAI is unfortunately not accurate.

Answer provided by Maurice Pitesky DVM, MPVM, DACVPM
Veterinarian/Assistant Specialist in Cooperative Extension
Poultry Health and Food Safety Epidemiology
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California