The “Waterfowl Flu Season” and Your Small Flock of Poultry

Being aware of the “flu season” for migratory waterfowl and shore birds can greatly decrease the chances that your small flock of poultry will become infected with avian influenza.
The number of waterfowl infected with avian influenza increases dramatically during the fall when large numbers of both young and mature migratory ducks and geese mix together in areas.
The number of birds infected and shedding the virus in their feces increases dramatically during the September to November time period.
While good biosecurity is a year-round practice, extra vigilance during the fall waterfowl migration will protect the health and welfare of your flock.
Due to cooler temperatures, the virus survives much longer in pond water and bird droppings in the fall compared to the summer. At 5ºC, the virus can last for weeks and below freezing it can survive until spring. This period in the fall of high virus shedding in migratory birds and prolonged survival of the virus in the environment, has been shown to be the highest risk period for an outbreak of avian influenza in poultry. The risk is greatest for flocks that are housed outdoors during this time due to the increased contact with wild waterfowl and other migratory birds.
Wild waterfowl and shore birds are a concern because they are the main reservoir for avian influenza. Wild ducks, geese, and many shorebirds are usually well adapted to the virus and can appear healthy even while they are shedding the virus in their droppings on the ground and in water sources, such as ponds and dugouts.

How to Prevent Avian Influenza in Wild Waterfowl from Infecting Your Poultry Flock

1.     Market your meat-type chickens and turkeys before August 31st and avoid the flu season in wild waterfowl. Your birds cannot be infected after they are in your freezer! If you get your chicks or poults at the start of May, it is easy for them to reach slaughter weight by the middle of August. Consult the Manitoba Agriculture website for guidelines on effective feeding of small poultry flocks.
2.     House your laying hens indoors from September 1st until winter arrives to keep them isolated from outdoor waterfowl during the high-risk migration period.
3.     Although the spring migration is less risky than the fall migration, avian influenza and other diseases are a risk year round and keeping your birds indoors until the end of May is recommended.
4.     Barns that house the flock should be big enough to hold both the type and amount of birds you have, year round if necessary.
5.     In addition to your flock, you and all farm workers should also avoid contact with waterfowl. Hunters and bird-watchers must be especially careful and should avoid any direct or indirect contact with your poultry (ex: if you are a hunter or bird watcher, have designated clothes for these activities that are separate from your barn clothes).
Follow the complete list of biosecurity guidelines for small flock biosecurity.


For more information, or if you suspect any animal health related concerns, please contact the Chief Veterinary Office or call 204-945-7663 in Winnipeg.