5 questions before you get chickens

From Mother Earth News, here are five questions to ask before you decide to get chickens. Generally, the information is good and helpful. The only one we question is the one on chicken health. We agree with all the recommendations, but the USDA has not found avian flu or similar diseases to be a problem with backyard flocks around the Midwest. In fact, the avian flu has affected primarily commercial flocks, often jumping from flock to flock despite stringent biosecurity measures.

Millions of chickens have been killed in an effort to suppress the flu, but it’s very unclear how many have actually died from avian flu, or whether they would have died at all. The reason for that is that commercial growers automatically kill all the birds in a flock if one bird gets avian flu.

There’s economic logic behind the killing. The taxpayers (that’s you and me) pay the growers for all the living birds they destroy; they get nothing for birds that die of the flu. The result is that we’ll never know if some portion – maybe even a large portion – of the birds would have been resistant or even immune.

So, far from being the cause or vectors of avian diseases, backyard chickens that are exposed to low levels of disease all the time, may point the way toward a way to handle poultry diseases without destroying millions of birds.