Small poultry flocks provide many benefits to those who keep them. There are some things to know and do to help you raise your chickens. Learn about Poultry.
This comprehensive guide is for small flock, backyard and urban chicken owners. Poultry health topics covered include: regulations, basic chicken needs, chicken house design and sanitation, egg management, care of chicks, care of chickens during the winter, flock health and disease, and biosecurity.
Did you know that even healthy birds, their eggs, and meat can all be sources of bacteria that can make you sick? With some basic hygiene and handling practices you and your family can care for your birds safely.
Whether you are adding to a recreational flock or a breeding line or getting layers or broilers, new additions to the flock can bring joy, but also disease. Protect your existing flock with simple steps outlined in this fact sheet.
Contact with live poultry can be a source of germs and infections, even if a bird appears healthy and clean. There are things you can do to help keep yourself, your family and birds safe.
Alberta Farm Animal Care offers introductory webinars and other resources for urban chicken owners.
Measures taken to prevent or reduce the introduction or spread of animal diseases are an important part of each farm’s livestock biosecurity plan.
- When disease enters your flock
- Biosecurity: Keeping small flocks healthy (PDF, 851 KB)
- Biosecurity for Overseas Travelers
- Cleaning and disinfecting backyard poultry flock premises
- University of Alberta Poultry Research Centre – Video series
- National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard
Some poultry diseases can have a devastating impact and must be reported to the province for monitoring and disease control. Work with a veterinarian to report reportable and notifiable livestock diseases.
Producers or veterinarians can also submit bird carcasses for testing at a provincial laboratory. Find out about the small-flock disease investigation program.
Looking for veterinary care for your flock? The Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (ABVMA) hosts a current directory of registered veterinarians.
A partial list of veterinarians practicing small flock medicine is available at Alberta Farm Animal Care.
Serious poultry diseases
Avian influenza (AI), also called ‘avian flu’ or ‘bird flu,’ is a contagious viral disease that affects the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous systems of many bird species, including domestic poultry and wild birds. AI is a provincially and federally reportable disease.
ILT is a provincially reportable respiratory disease of chickens, pheasants and peafowl. It is highly contagious and is spread either by infected birds or other birds through mechanical means. Clinical signs of the disease include general unthriftiness, decreased egg production, watery eyes with conjunctivitis, swelling of the sinuses, persistent nasal discharge, coughing and sneezing.
Newcastle disease is a highly contagious and fatal viral disease affecting the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems of birds and poultry. The disease is so lethal that many birds may die without showing any clinical signs. Newcastle disease is a provincially and federally reportable disease. While it has never been reported in domestic poultry in Canada, a small number of cases of Newcastle disease have been detected in Canada's wild bird population.
- Sick chickens? Here’s what to do when disease enters your flock
- How to prevent and detect disease in backyard flocks and pet birds
- Bird health basics
- Salmonella and Salmonellosis
- Food safety tips - poultry
Protection from predation
As the number of small flocks in Alberta increase, the number of negative encounters with bears and other predatory animals has also increased. By taking proactive steps you can protect your animals, property and family. Learn more about protection from predation.
Raising poultry in bear country? have you considered installing an electric fence to protect your yard? This provincial program offers proactive measures to reduce negative encounters and protect your animals, property and family.
Electric fences are an important tool for protecting livestock in Alberta. Such fences have been used in the province to protect livestock from predators for more than 2 decades.
This publication is designed to help poultry producers reduce or prevent predation by improving or extending care and management of their flocks.
Euthanasia and disposal
Small-flock poultry owners may have to end birds' lives because of disease, welfare, or other issues. It is the owner’s responsibility to correctly euthanize their birds, and dispose of or store them until they can be permanently disposed. Learn more about Livestock mortality management.
Euthanasia is the ending of the life of an animal in a way that minimizes or eliminates pain, anxiety and distress. Euthanasia means a good death for the animal. Proper euthanasia, done at the right time, reduces suffering due to disease, pain from injury and distress from ill thrift.
Produced by the Poultry Industry Council, this manual offers science and research-based guidelines and description of different on-farm poultry euthanasia methods.
Poultry mortalities can be composted, incinerated, buried, rendered or naturally disposed. Today, animal agriculture is challenged to discover innovative ways to dispose of livestock and poultry mortalities. Composting of livestock mortalities is one option.
Agricultural producers have developed a learning tool to demonstrate their good environmental stewardship. The AEF website helps producers start or renew their small-flock poultry environmental operation plan. This includes assessing the environmental risks associated with the poultry operation.
Egg Farmers of Alberta along with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry completed a study to better understand and quantify the environmental impact of egg production in Alberta, covering all lifecycle stages of production. Learn more about sustainable egg farming.