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Utah Chicken Owners Watch For Avian Flu

Recently the Division of Wildlife Resources warned chicken owners to shield their poultry from the avian flu after several wild ducks with the virus were found in northern Utah. Local poultry farms have taken precautions to protect their chickens from the virus.

I’m visiting with Natalie Shepherd in the small town of Nibley, Utah as she feeds her backyard chickens. Shepherd says a lot of her neighbors are also keeping chickens in their backyards.

“So what made you want to get chickens?” “Just a hobby,” Shepherd says. “For the grandkids mostly to come and play with them. It’s fun.” “Have you heard of the avian flu?” “Yes. And does it scare me? Kind of, but I think we’re ok,” Shepherd says. “My husband did some research on it and I think we’re good—we’re safe.”

I ask Tennille Philips, also a Nibley resident, and she says she doesn’t know how she should protect her chickens.

“What do you know about the avian flu?” “That it’s bad. That it kills birds,” Philips says. “That’s pretty much it.” “Would you know what to look for if you saw the avian flu?” “No,” Philips says.

David Frame is a poultry specialist for Utah State University extension. He says, owners should look for sudden unexplained high mortality, unusual neurological signs and swollen faces in their chickens as signs of avian flu. He says owners need to take precautions when they purchase and care for their chickens.

“Some of the things that a homeowner would need to consider, is first of all, purchase your birds from a reputable source,” Frame says. “One thing you should never do is, don’t allow your chickens any access to open water sources like irrigation ditches. The other thing, is keep chickens away from wild waterfowl. Waterfowl are the natural carriers and so you want to keep those separated.”

Frame says to call the county extension office if you suspect your backyard chickens or ducks have avian flu.