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Protect Against Avian Flu: Biosecurity Measures for Backyard Poultry

By Jackie Nix, Animal Nutritionist, Ridley Block Operations


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As the latest outbreak of Avian Flu continues to spread, the need for biosecurity is more paramount than ever. Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of Avian Flu in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways (migratory bird paths). Avian Flu has been found in wild birds as well as backyard and commercial poultry flocks. While biosecurity is a familiar topic with large commercial producers, owners of small backyard flocks need to familiarize themselves as well.

The Avian Flu is not only a danger to birds, but is potentially a concern for humans as well. The chances for the virus to infect humans is low, but still exists so don’t just casually dismiss symptoms. Symptoms in humans include: cough, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea and in some cases a mild eye infection. If you develop a fever, cough and body aches, immediately see your doctor and be sure to inform him or her that you are in regular contact with poultry.

Unfortunately, the chances that the current Avian Flu outbreak will continue to spread to other areas of the United States is very high. For this reason it is important to keep vigilant watch over your birds and immediately report symptoms to your local or State veterinarian, or USDA toll-free at 1-866-536-7593.

In order to protect your birds, good biosecurity will be key. The following practices are recommended to help limit the spread of Avian Flu:

  1. Restrict access to your property and your birds, from wild animals and other humans. Remember that other animals such as dogs, cats and rodents can spread the disease as well.
  2. Prevent interactions with wild birds. This means limiting or totally eliminating free ranging.
  3. Carefully wash your hands and change shoes and clothes after contact with your birds. It is best to have one set of shoes and clothes that you only wear into housing areas that you immediately remove upon leaving the coop, pen, etc.
  4. Do not permit your bird owning friends to come into contact with your birds. Also, do not share lawn and garden equipment, tools or poultry supplies from other bird owners.
  5. Regularly clean and disinfect areas where birds have access. Avian Flu viruses are inactivated by heat and drying and are very sensitive to most disinfectants and detergents (for example, Dow Chemical’s GS2 or Preserve’s Synergize). Be sure to clear away organic matter prior to disinfection for best results.
  6. Do not purchase birds or eggs from unknown sources.
  7. Report the symptoms listed or unexpected deaths to your local veterinarian, State veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.



  • Sudden increase in bird deaths in your flock
  • Sneezing, gasping for air, coughing and nasal discharge
  • Watery and green diarrhea
  • Lack of energy and poor appetite
  • Drop in egg production or soft- or thin-shelled misshapen eggs
  • Swelling around the eyes, neck and head
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs
  • Tremors, drooping wings, circling, twisting of the head and neck, or lack of movement


In summary, Avian Flu is a very real threat for backyard flocks. Be vigilant for the symptoms of this disease and implement biosecurity practices to help lower your risk. 

Posted on 4/28/2015 by Guest Bloggers  |  Category: Poultry
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Dog Days of Summer Brings Flies By the Number

Summer is fast approaching...and it only seems fitting since our last blog focused on manure management...that we next talk about fly control!  

If you are like most of us and have a few animals around you know you have more flies than your no-animal neighbors.  Flies can at least be pesky to your animals and at worst can carry unwanted germs into your home.  And your neighbors really don’t appreciate your flies. Like the ‘ol saying goes ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure…’. This applies to dealing with flies or I should say getting rid of flies.

First of all a little lesson on the life cycle of flies…yes there are people who study these little pests mostly to understand how to control them.  We chose the common house fly as they are found most everywhere. 

The life cycle of a house fly begins in the egg stage. A female house fly is capable of laying up to 150 eggs in a batch. Over a period of a few days, she will produce five or six batches of eggs producing 800 plus flies. Female house flies prefer to lay her eggs on damp, dark surfaces such as compost, manure and other decomposing organic material; which most of us animal owners have in abundance especially if you have a couple of horses. House fly eggs resemble individual grains of rice. Within a day, house fly eggs hatch into larvae, also known as maggots. Maggots are legless, white insects that feed from the egg-laying site for three to five days. During this time, maggots molt several times. They then choose a dark place to pupate. Over the course of three to six days, the pupae develop legs and wings, ultimately emerging as full-grown house flies. Within two to three days, female house flies are capable of reproduction.

The secret to controlling house flies is to reduce or eliminate the compost, manure and other decomposing organic material where flies choose to lay eggs. Hubbard has a feed-through product for horses and cattle called Easylix® Rabon® Molasses Pressed Block.  This product provides a solid foundation for an integrated pest management program. And since horses and cattle contribute the most waste the Easylix® Rabon® Molasses Pressed Block will make a noticeable difference around your place like it has at mine. You will need to get ahead of the fly problem by starting to feed the pressed block early in the spring. A successful fly control program utilizing Rabon will also include proper sanitation, another form of insecticides (such as pour-ons, fly traps, fly tags, fly zappers, foggers) when adult flies are present and proper management.

At Hubbard® Life, we not only provide your pet with proper nutrition, we share with you the practical day-to-day things that make living with our pets more enjoyable.  For more information about products designed for your animals go to or catch up with us on Twitter or Facebook.  

Posted on 4/22/2015 by Dr. Dave Whittington  |  Category: Equine
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Manure Happens: Now What?

As I was wheeling out a delectable smelling load of horse manure to the pile outside the barn the other day, I was thinking about the old saying…. “There are only two things that you have to do in life: die and pay taxes”.   Well there should be a corollary to this that states “and if you have animals, you will move manure”.

I personally do not mind working in the manure too much because I get to play with my toys (skid loaders, tractors and spreaders).   We try to keep the pile turned over so it ferments into compost to help keep the smell down (Ohio’s weather of rain every other day makes that hard sometimes).  When I get ready to spread it, I make sure my close neighbors are not having any family get-togethers!  Due to all the red clay on my place, I need to make sure the land is dry enough so that I don’t bury my tractor to the axles (did that last year with my tractor/loader and cab weighing over 5 tons, it was not a fun day digging it out).  I try to stay at least 30 feet from any water drainage ditches and  since I fertilize a lot of my neighbor’s gardens, I try to do it early enough that it can dry a little before the rototillers get to work. 

I am very lucky that I have such a small number of “animal units” (this is based on how much manure one animal will produce) that EPA and other agencies normally will not bother me.  However, trying to be a good steward of the land, I want to make sure I am applying the proper amount of “organic” fertilizer in the pasture or crop field.   But how do I know how much manure is added per acre?  I know my spreader is classified at 175 bushels (not heaped) but with my composted manure, how much is that weight wise?  I came across an article from The Ohio State University called Manure Management for Small Farms.  It said the first thing to do is analyze both the manure and soil… ok I can do that.  Next, to determine how much the spreader is spreading, lay a tarp down in the field and spread the manure normally.   Then weigh the tarp with manure and divide by the square footage of the tarp.  Next multiply that number by 21.78 and that will give you the tons per acre.  An example was given that if the tarp with manure weighs 100 pounds and it is a 50 sq ft tarp, then that is 2 pounds per sq foot times the 21.78 resulting in 43.56 tons per acre…petty slick!  Now I can make the adjustments necessary to utilizing the nutrients in the manure properly and with minimal environmental impact.  Contact the OSU Extension Service to get the full article.

Posted on 4/1/2015 by Dr. Ed Bonnette  |  Category: Equine, Poultry, Cat, Dog, Rabbit, Sheep, Goat, Specialty
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