Biosecurity and Poultry
Chickens are big business on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland. There are many poultry houses and land farmers that spread manure. As such, cross contamination is always a concern. Before entering the farm, vehicles stop at our biosecurity station where they must spray their tires with a bleach solution. In fact, we keep a logbook at the entrance where visitors to the farm provide the date and reason for their visit. This provides a record for tracking possible outbreaks or contamination of chickens. One year, we were forced to incinerate an entire flock. It was extremely heart wrenching and an awful experience for us. However, it was a costly lesson in biosecurity, reminding us that no one is exempt from disease. Poultry farmers need to be ever vigilant of illnesses that can effect fowl. All birds can carry germs and diseases, even pets and wild birds. Sacrifices for poultry farmers include avoiding zoo fowl and never owning domesticated birds. Many farmers are friends, but we cannot visit one another at our homes because of the chance of cross contamination.
At our farm, we are very careful about our biosecurity practices, and the first step to ensure that we do not risk carrying germs between our chicken yards is that all employees must wear different work boots for different yards and barns. Further, these boots are housed on the premises. We do not risk germs being carried in from outside sources or vise-versa. When working on the farm, we clean our boots in bleach footbaths before entering any chicken yard or barn. This kills germs and viruses that may be present and prevents them from being transferred from one barn to the other. Further, we do not wear our dirty boots into the egg washing area.
As an added piece of security, visitors who tour the farm are asked to wear masks that cover their nose and mouth. Many diseases are carried on nostril hairs. A person can pick up a disease at the local zoo and carry it to any farm or home. These diseases can remain for up to 4 weeks on human hair, even after bathing. Booties worn over a guest’s footwear protect us from unexpected manure droppings from geese or other wild fowl that often carry diseases to free range farms.
If you have further interest in biosecurity, peruse the United States Center for Disease Control website at
Until next time.