DARD Management Notes: Poultry

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Bio-security and hygiene on poultry sites: Hygiene and bio-security are of vital importance when trying to protect the health status of any poultry flock.

The recent Avian Influenza outbreak in Scotland brings to the forefront the importance of maintaining stringent bio-security measures to minimise the risk of disease entering your site. If a disease enters a flock it can have a huge financial impact, not only on the farm affected, but also for surrounding poultry farms. By evaluating the potential risks to your flock throughout the production cycle hygiene and bio-security measures can be identified and put in place to minimise these risks.


Thorough cleaning and disinfection of the whole poultry house when empty is necessary to reduce any pathogens being passed from one flock to the next. This is extremely important irrespective of the production type.

Blow down all the dust and debris and remove all litter before washing. The use of a detergent on all surfaces is necessary to remove grease and debris stripping it back to the original surface. Wash all removable equipment before setting up in the house prior to disinfection.

Before disinfection is complete check the washing standard; splash-back on feeders, drinkers and other surfaces reduces the effectiveness of disinfection. Place foot dips at the entrance to sheds after washing and before disinfection. Following disinfection houses should be closed to allow the chemical time to work and minimise recontamination. Always follow safe re-entry procedures following disinfection. Ensure water lines are drained and cleaned during every turnaround as this can be a hidden source of infection.

All chemicals must be used at the recommended rates in order to achieve best results and the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn at all times when handling or using chemicals.

Before placing

Check that any bedding is of high standard prior to spreading it in the unit. Before housing birds ensure all hand soap and sanitizer points are working and full and covered foot dips are in place at the entrance to sheds.

The wheel spray at the site entrance must be checked to ensure it is working and that the chemical is at the correct dilution.

Before placing it is still important that all visitors are provided with site specific footwear, PPE and they sign the visitors’ book before entering the site not after the visit has taken place. Ask visitors where they have been as anyone planning to enter the bird area must be ‘clean’. Source all feed from accredited suppliers and sample water every year (twice annually for bore hole supply). During the delivery of the birds make sure trolleys and vehicles are clean and adhere to all bio-security measures.

Throughout flock

Only allow essential visitors access to the site. Try to minimise foot traffic between houses - keeping house specific boots and overalls in each control room is good practice. Replenish foot dips twice weekly - outdoor foot dips that are not lidded require more frequent changing. To maintain a clean water supply monitor bio-film build-up in the drinking system and treat as required.

Ensure all vehicles are clean prior to entry to the site and that all wheels and arches are sprayed. If you have a breeding or commercial laying farm check the egg trolleys and trays arrive clean before allowing them into the egg store.

Keep all outside areas well maintained, cutting tall grass and weeds that make ideal coverage for rodents, which are a major disease carrier. Ensure a robust rodent control programme is in place as per your company guidelines. Also keep all areas clean, tidy and free from debris/rubbish. Any dead birds must be taken from the house and put in enclosed bins before collection or incineration.

The above steps are the minimum bio-security measures required to keep your flock safe. Please look at your own site and assess the threats to your birds. These procedures are applicable to any type of poultry production and crucial to a successful flock. For further information, contact myself or your processor/packer.