Keeping Chickens and Other Poultry Healthy:
What you need to know
Have you been enjoying farm fresh eggs from your backyard flock for some time? Are you an aspiring poultry keeper that doesn’t know where to start or what to expect? Then this post is for you!
Complying with Local and State Laws
The first step before bringing your birds home is to ensure you have met the regulations required. In Weston, you must obtain a Permit to Keep Livestock from the Board of Health and also have a yearly inspection done by the Animal Health Inspector.
The inspection is a requirement of Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR) and the information collected aides in developing a response plan to an emergency and implementing it. Knowing where animals reside, what the species are, and how many are kept is vital information in the event of a communicable disease outbreak or a natural or man-made disaster.
Testing Your Flock
Salmonella pullorum is a potentially harmful bacteria that is known to affect poultry and the eggs they produce. All birds that are coming or going from your flock must be tested for Salmonella pullorum, according to MGL Chapter 129 Section 26B, and should be accompanied by a certificate with test results. Birds staying in your flock should be tested annually. Birds must be over 16-weeks of age and older to be tested. Salmonella pullorum and Avian Influenza testing is provided for FREE from MDAR.
Chickens being added to your flock should be kept separated for a 10- to 14-day quarantine period. During this time, it is important to observe the new birds for any signs of illness or disease that could be spread to the rest of your flock upon introduction.
If any birds in your flock begin to show signs of illness or you’re experiencing a high mortality rate from an unknown cause, MDAR should be notified immediately in the occurrence it is a communicable disease. Additional information on protecting your backyard flock and Backyard Biosecurity are available from MDAR.
Healthy hens will produce higher-quality eggs and with more frequency. Proper shelter, quality nutrition, and clean water are all factors that contribute to optimal egg production.
Time and temperature are major components to ensuring eggs are fresh. Best practice from MDAR's Safe Egg Handling for Backyard Egg Producers is to collect eggs twice per day and to store them between 33 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent spoiling. It is not necessary to wash eggs, but if you do, keep the water running over them. Soaking eggs in water could allow bacteria to penetrate the shell.
For additional information check out, MDAR’s Poultry Program, Poultry Best Management Practices, or reach out to your Animal Control Officer/Animal Health Inspector at 781-786-6210 or firstname.lastname@example.org