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Poultry Welfare Tips for the High-Risk Avian Influenza Season

Although necessary to control the spread of Avian Influenza, you’ll be aware that restricted access to the range can pose additional challenges to maintaining a flock’s welfare. The sudden change in environment and routine can create increased frustration and stress in free-range birds.

There are, thankfully, some steps you can take to mitigate these problems. For example, biosecure winter gardens or verandas are great ways of providing birds with natural light and fresh air. Also, additional litter space can reduce stocking density in the house and provide more enrichment areas.

Here are some more tips from the RSPCA’s poultry welfare experts, which we hope you’ll find a useful reference:

Promoting Foraging

The free-range area provides birds with a choice of substrates to forage in - so if they have to be kept indoors, additional enrichment inside the shed can help them perform this important natural behaviour.

  • Alfalfa or lucerne hanging in hay nets or pecking blocks offer birds a reward for interacting with them
  • For laying hens and turkeys, scattering feed or insoluble/soluble grit on the litter can also provide interest and stimulate natural foraging behaviour
  • Hanging enrichments encourage interaction as birds are attracted to the movement
  • To avoid introducing AI to the shed, remember to check enrichments are clean and have been stored under cover.
Encouraging Dustbathing

When birds have access to the free-range area, they have a choice of different dustbathing sites and materials.

It can help them express this natural behaviour, maintain feather condition and remove parasites if they’re given a variety of dustbathing materials inside the shed.

  • Introducing materials with fine particles can encourage birds to dust bathe whilst living indoors
  • A depth of 10cm is ideal
  • Materials can be added to specific dustbathing box sites.
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