H7N9 is Over; New Discoveries About the Bird Flu

The H7N9 (Bird Flu) virus is a concern, although none has been reported in the United States.  World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan stated the H7N9 outbreak is over.  No new cases are being reported in China.  Dr. Chan said,

“At the end of March this year, China reported the first-ever human infections with the H7N9 avian influenza virus. Within three weeks, more than 100 additional cases were confirmed. Although the source of human infection with the virus is not yet fully understood, the number of new cases dropped dramatically following the closing of live bird markets,”

Swift action on the part of the Chinese government, and the voluntary actions of the farmers before the government inspectors arrived on scene are to be credited for the short duration of the epidemic.  Farmers were so frightened at the possibility that their flocks might have  H7N9 that they destroyed their flocks without prodding by the government.  As government health officials announced the regions where infections had been found, farmers quickly responded.

Chinese officials are working closely with the World Health Organization and other international experts to attempt to find answers about how this particular outbreak started and ways to prevent future outbreaks.  They are also looking into it’s unique genetic sequence.

Migratory birds blamed for H7N9 Bird Flu

Studies of the virus bring to light additional concerns about H7N9.  Arising out of the H7N9 outbreak is that the virus is resistant to Tamiflu and that the human immune system does not strongly fight the virus.  Also concerning is that 21% – 24% of those infected were fatal cases.  Other findings include the disease is spread by direct contact with the virus and less effectively by breathing the same air as those infected.

Even though the outbreak in China is seemingly over, they believe it was caused by migratory birds.  There is no guarantee that wild birds are not carrying the virus.  Since wild birds migrate from China to the U. S. west coast, the article by Stephanie Gayle is worth a look.

References:

The Asian Scientist

World Health Organization

NBC News

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Weekly Reports)

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

 

Keeping Predators Away from Your Chicken Flocks or Other Birds

No matter where you live, if you have livestock, there are predators.  Well, okay, there might be some places where predators don’t go, but even dogs and cats can be considered predators if you live inside city limits. The way to protect your flock is to fully understand each species your birds are likely to encounter and act on that knowledge.

Skunks like chicken or other bird eggs.Because humans have encroached so far into the habitat of wild species, many towns now have a showing of skunks, opossums, raccoon, snakes, predatory birds, coyotes, bob cats, foxes, alligators, and last but certainly not least, bears.  To this list of native North American species add the list of exotic species in Florida and other states where such things have escaped and made their home.

Many species of wildlife carry deadly rabies, lice, fleas, ticks, and other unwelcome parasites that can be spread to other living creatures such as your birds and you.  The less exposure they have to these things, the better.  Ever since the discovery that you don’t have to get bitten by, or even seen, a rabid animal to get rabies, it should cause everyone to stop and think about how they manage their animals.

Lets start with the smallest of creatures and work our way up to the biggest.  Snakes.  Make sure you know what species of snakes live in Snakes love chicks and eggs.your region and what they like to eat.  All parts of the U. S. has some form a rattlesnake and most of the country has cotton mouth snakes (also called water moccasin) .  Some non-venomous snakes are also predators and will enjoy your flock as much as you do.  Snake are interested in eggs and baby chicks.  Many move so slowly into the hen house that hens don’t notice them until the snake is in the nests waiting for his dinner.  When gathering eggs, make certain there isn’t a snake in the nest BEFORE you put your hand in there.

If a snake is in one of the nests the birds won’t have laid any eggs in nests near the snake.  Which means they will be fighting amongst themselves to use the other available nests.  You might even hear the commotion from a distance.  The snake is only interested in the food it can eat, eggs and chicks.  It usually won’t bother a hen if the hen does not act aggressive towards the snake.  The snakes wait until the nests are unattended and slither over to enjoy an egg.  He then slithers back to the other nest and lays down for a nap until next meal time.

To keep snakes out of the hen house make certain there are no holes a snake can fit through.  Cover openings with wire mesh with a small enough grid to prevent snakes from entering.  Check from floor to ceiling.  If you see daylight, cover it up!  The good news is that what will keep out snakes will also keep out skunks, raccoon, opossum, foxes and coyotes.

Is this raccoon just coming out of a hen house? Skunks, raccoon  and opossums bumble along and pretty much eat what ever they find.  But they do hunt for eggs, among other things.  However, if a skunk were to wander into a chicken yard during the daytime, the chickens will peck it and the rooster will spur it.  At night, chickens are almost helpless because that is when they are their most docile.  Raccoon and opossum will kill your birds as well as eat the eggs.  If you find any of these in your hen house, culling them is the best solution because they will return.  Since they already know where the good stuff is, the animals might work until they get a hole in the screen or even the wood.  For this reason, inspect the hen house every day as you feed and water the birds or collect eggs.  Which brings us to the issue of pen or no pen.

If you do not have a pen for your birds, since they are free to come and go from the coop as they wish, so can other animals.  The only way to keep out invaders is to have a pen enclosure.  Animals that can’t get into the pen will not be able to get into the coop.  If you are concerned about your hens having a large enough area to roam, just make the pen bigger.  It’s our opinion that it’s not worth letting them roam free if it means they will attract predators and get killed, or worse, a human tending them gets injured or sick from wild predators in the coop.

Alligators… yikes!  Just because you live in an area with alligators doesn’t mean you can’t have chickens. If someone tries to tell you Alligators won't go very far from water to find food.different, walk away.  We had a six foot alligator in our pond for almost two years.  He was happy there too.  He ate all my ducks and geese. Then he ate my cat and any dog or other creature that went to the pond.  Never once did he come out of the pond and wander around the property.  However, we never did know how he got there.  He could have been there a lot longer than two years and was just not noticed until he was big enough to see from a distance.  Just don’t put your chickens near the alligator habitat.  It’s their home and anything you put there should be considered food for them.

This hawk is eating a bird.Now that all the four legged and slithering creatures have been dealt with, it’s time to turn our attention to flying predators.  Hawks, eagles, owls, osprey and other predatory birds enjoy chicken, chicks, ducks, eggs and other prey they can find.  They even eat other birds of any species.  There are hawks and osprey who like to bring their meals to our back yard to eat them.  When they have killed a bird or squirrel and left the feathers or skin and bones on the ground below, it really upsets our dogs.  But, it serves as a reminder that even flighted birds can’t escape from the swiftness of their predator.

To protect your flock from predators, cover the pen with chicken wire or any other light weight fencing.  Depending on the size of the pen enclosure, it might be necessary to place posts under the fence in places to make sure it remains suspended.  It works and it’s easy.

Foxes are just like any other egg sucking dog.Which brings us to coyotes and foxes.  These critters will dig a hole under the fence to get to your flock.  The easiest way to make sure they don’t get to them is to close the hen house at night.  Simply shut the door.  Just remember to open it in the morning.  Chickens want to go outside at the crack of dawn and go to roost at sunset.  Coyotes and foxes like to show up when the birds are sleeping.  They will circle the coop to look for vulnerabilities.  Any thing they can dig or pull to make a way inside.  This is why you inspect the screen you put up to keep out snakes.

Our solution was to simply pour concrete in the areas of the barn floor where you could see daylight.  Since the barn does not have a floor, it’s fine.  We put chicken wire and wire mesh in areas prone to other critters.

Where we live, there are no bears.  However, in parts of Texas, small bears are reported.  Bears are Black bear scrounging in the dump.  Dumps are not far from human habitats.common in many areas of the country, so take them seriously.  Just because you have never seen one in your area does not mean that you won’t ever see one.  If you get a report that a bear has been sited within a reasonable distance from your property, take action.  Male black bears have been known to wander a 15 to 80 square mile territory.  Bears will tear down your chicken coop and fences.  They will eat your birds and eggs.  If you try to defend them, they might attack you too. Once they know there is food there, they will come back for more.  Momma bears will bring her cubs along on the second trip.  So far, the only effective deterrent seems to be an electric fence outside the perimeter of the coop and chicken pen.

There is another purpose for protecting your flock in a responsible manner.  Wild animals tend to be executed because they managed to find their way into human and livestock habitats.  By using barriers to protect your flock, you are also protecting wildlife from becoming endangered or extinct.

 

 

Keep Your Flock Healthy

It is important to be sure your flock is well cared for, receive appropriate food and water and have ample space to remain healthy.  Clean the water and food containers daily to prevent disease.  If birds are housed in a building, it will be necessary to clean and disinfect the floors often or daily.  Housed animals of all kinds need adequate fresh air.  

Those who allow their animals in the barnyard to roam about and forage have healthier birds.  This is how most preppers raise their birds.  We know how important it is to treat the animals with regard to their health instead of only trying to get the biggest meat birds or most eggs.  There is a trade-off, but it is worth it to make sure the flock and humans are healthy.  The consequences of not providing proper care to the flock can be costly.

Which brings us to the concept of putting distance between the home and the flock.  It is important to keep the flock in a location as far away from the home as is possible.  If you have to take a little hike to look after them, good.  It is better for you and them.  If you want to see what they are doing and if they are safe, add one or two security cameras to the pen and barn.  Then you will know if there are foxes in the hen house day and night.  The distance from the coop and good hygiene and safety practices will help prevent the risk of salmonella or other livestock related diseases.

Let’s not let prepper flocks become a source of concern as the global poultry industry, including China’s recent H7N9 outbreak that caused many farmers to panic and destroy their flocks.

Last month’s news about H7N9 virus (avian flu) in Chinese flocks brings to light the differences between a family farm and a commercial operation, not only in China, but around the world.

Given that commercial farms often raise fowl in large buildings with little wiggle room, it is no surprise that diseases spread through a flock quickly.  The fear of H7N9 virus infecting humans who tend them and then spread through the human population caused Chinese farmers to decide to destroy their flocks of chickens, ducks, and all manner of fowl.

The possibility of finding H7N9 in the Chinese farmers’ flocks seem to bring panic to these farmers with good reason, as you will see in the following video.

  It seems they have good reason to act out of fear.  Make sure you read the subtitles clear to the end.  You may have to click pause to read all of them since they go by at the speed of the speaker.

Raising Turkey for Meat

Preppers overlook turkey as poultry to raise for meat.When considering fowl for meat, people often overlook raising turkey.  Most people, preppers included, only prepare the obligatory holiday bird for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  What a shame!  More shameful is the fact that turkey, like all livestock, is better when you raise it yourself.

There are several varieties of turkey from which to choose.  The “modern” breed of white turkeys is the most common in grocery stores.  However, other breeds produce good meat as well.  Choosing to keep turkey will provide a great source of protein with a unique flavor compared to commercially produced birds.

Turkey, like other creatures, need to be handled when young and through out their life so they are not fearful of you.  All birds will try to protect their homes from invaders.  The trick is to get them to see you as a friend.

When deciding which turkey breeds to raise, it is important to know if you plan to use the birds for breeding.  Some varieties, like the Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey, can’t naturally breed.  If you want them to breed naturally, consider the Standard Bronze Turkey instead.

Also, consider the skin color of the birds you choose.  The dark skin of the Broad Breasted Bronze Turkey isn’t as pretty to look at as the modern white breeds when on the table.  But the taste is amazing.  If you think your family can get used to a different appearance, you will be better off in the long run.

The males of both varieties can reach 30 pounds while the females reach 12 to 15 pounds.    Given these are good meat producers, don’t limit your selection to the most popular.  Take a look at heritage turkeys.  These birds are beautiful and some of them reach weights of 36 pounds.  A quick search for “Heritage Turkey hatchery” will bring up several options.  Try to choose a hatchery close to home.

Our favorite choice for looks is Royal Palm Turkeys *Heritage Breed.  But we will choose for meat production and the ability to reproduce.

If you are going to order turkeys, plan ahead.  They will need about six months before butchering.  Some people want to wait a year to gain the most fat and juicy meat.

Have you raised turkey?  Please tell us about it!  Post a comment!