Dear Neighbor,

As you may have heard, the avian flu or bird flu has caused the egg industry to euthanize millions of chickens. Last update,  it was three million chickens, down from the estimated five million they originally reported. Regardless of the number, the loss of these chickens has already affected the egg supply, as well as the meat supply. The meat industry will recoup four times quicker and if you love your eggs for breakfast, brace yourself for rationing and skyrocketing prices.

How can you prepare? Store eggs. In my letters about freezing eggs, I mentioned that you can freeze two eggs in plastic sandwich bags or one and a half dozen eggs in canning jars.

If you have your own backyard flock, there is some good news: like most other agricultural animal diseases, avian flu is spreading mostly in highly populated commercial chicken farms and the  homestead flocks are not being highly affected.

Protect your thriving flock!

  • Do you need to deworm? Look for worms in their feces and if you see some, deworm immediately! While parasites are not as prevalent in home flocks, they eat off the ground and thus can pick up parasites.
  • Free ranging is ideal but if that is not possible, make sure they have a dust bath. Tires make great dust tubs. Fill the tire and let them at it!
  • If they do not free range, start feeding them fermented food. Fermenting food increases the absorption of nutrients and makes them healthier. I suggest this for kept birds because if your free range birds are like mine, they don’t eat much feed at all and fermenting would be a waste of time.
  • Treat them with fancy bird seed instead of “scratch.” Bird seed is  very nutritious and is a nice treat for chickens. Sunflower seeds and millet, which is one of the most nutritious seeds (why humans don’t eat it is a mystery) are in bird seed where scratch contains too much corn, which really isn’t beneficial to chickens .
  • Keep chicken manure cleaned from the floors.
  • Be careful bringing new birds to your homestead and buy from reputable sources, when you do. There are several foot spread diseases that one can bring from one coop to another (Coccidiosus and avian flu are two of them.)
  • Keep water clean and available.
  • If the chickens aren’t free ranging, share your weeding rubbish with them. Chickens love greens and if you garden without chemicals, any greens you pull can go right to them. They will love you for it.
  • Stop feeding wild birds. While wild birds, especially water fowl can carry the avian flu in their feces, according to the CDC, they are unlikely to contract it. Inviting more wild birds into your world than is natural increases transmission chances.

Since we are still paying higher beef prices due to the drought forced cull two years ago , I wonder if the egg industry will ever return to what they are now.  Either way, it’s time to prepare, just in case.

Happy Homesteading! ~ Scarlett