Rent Backyard Hens Policies and Procedures for Potential Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Infection

You’ve probably seen in the news and on social media that Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) outbreaks have occurred throughout the United States affecting both commercial and backyard chicken flocks. The highly contagious avian flu virus was first detected in the US in 2014 and as of January 2023 has affected millions of birds in at least 47 states.

Infected birds can shed avian influenza A viruses in their saliva, nasal secretions, and feces. Susceptible birds become infected when they have contact with the virus as it is shed by infected birds. They also can become infected through contact with surfaces that are contaminated with virus from infected birds.

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Although the CDC indicates the avian flu virus does not normally infect human populations, sporadic human infections with bird flu viruses have occurred.

Therefore, it’s essential that while in possession of the hens, you understand the signs to look for and the steps to take to protect yourself if you suspect our hens may be infected with the avian flu virus.

And... if at any time during your rental period you feel nervous or uneasy about the potential threat of avian influenza in your area (i.e., you hear about an outbreak in your county or city), please contact us and we will arrange to pick up the hens and rental package. We may offer a fair refund for the early return which will be determined by Rent Backyard Hens. 

Signs of Infected Birds

According to the CDC, infected birds with avian flu virus may show one or more of the following signs:

  • Sudden death without clinical signs,
  • lack of energy and appetite,
  • decreased egg production or soft-shelled or misshapen eggs,
  • swelling of head, comb, eyelids, wattles, and hocks,
  • purple discoloration of wattles, comb, and legs,
  • nasal discharge, coughing, and sneezing,
  • incoordination, or
  • diarrhea. 

What Are Steps To Take to Protect Yourself?

If you suspect the hens may have contracted the avian flu virus, please contact Rent Backyard Hens immediately and describe what you are observing. We will report it to the California State Veterinarian and/or the US Department of Agriculture and seek further guidance. With agency guidance and recommendations, we will retrieve the rental package from your property. 

In the meantime: 

  • Do not touch the sick or dead birds, their feces or litter, or any surface or water source (for example, feeders, waterers, buckets, pans, troughs) that might be contaminated with their saliva, feces, or any other bodily fluids without wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Wear PPE around the sick or dead birds. PPE may include safety goggles, disposable gloves, rubber boots, an N95 respirator, coveralls, and head or hair covering. 
  • As best as possible, during depopulation and while cleaning and disinfecting contaminated premises, avoid stirring up dust, bird waste, and feathers to prevent virus from dispersing into the air.

Once bird flu infection is confirmed within a flock and premises, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recommends that backyard owners continue to wear PPE when in contaminated areas until there are no longer infected birds, eggs, feces, or contaminated litter on the property. The recommendation to wear PPE when in contaminated areas (primary poultry housing: coops, runs, barns, etc.) depends on whether a 150-day fallow is used for virus elimination after flock depopulation.

The USDA has information on cleaning and disinfecting or fallowing of premises that were contaminated with highly pathogenic avian influenza virus and information on good biosecurity practices: click here.