Updated on January 30, 2023.
The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI, aka H5N1) turned up in North America last December and is spreading fast from the east coast across the country killing over 58 million birds in the US.
It reached California on July 15th 2022 (cf. CDFW news release) and is spreading rapidly from wildlife to domesticated bird killing more than 781,000 birds in Californian commercial and backyard flocks so far. The current CDFA recommendation is to keep all birds indoors until June 2023.
It's a highly contagious viral disease associated with high mortality in poultry. If one bird tests positive in your flock, your whole flock will be killed by the CDC and you will have no say in it. Check out the USDA website for additional information.
Every chicken keeper (actually every bird owner!) should be extremely vigilant to prevent infection and implement strict biosecurity. Since the disease is spread by wild birds, we need to keep them away from our flock. The birds should be confined to a fenced area where no wild birds can come in, and the top should be covered so no wild birds' poop can fall in.
Below are some examples of how sanctuaries are protecting their resident birds.
Zinger Ranch farm sanctuary added a clear tarp on top of the chicken run to prevent wild birds' poop falling into their chicken area.
Four Roots Ranch & Sanctuary have locked up their birds in their run and added a large insect netting on top to prevent wild birds' poop falling into their chicken area. You will notice they also added lots of enrichment to keep their birds busy and fight boredom while they can't free range. They also wear boot covers every time anyone steps into the run.
Kindred Farm sanctuary wrapped their bird and bunny areas with a netting to prevent any wild birds from entering. They plan to keep it after the outbreak as it also protects their residents from predators.
Herd and Flock animal sanctuary is keeping all their birds in their barns, protecting all their outdoor runs with netting, and implementing a strict biosecurity protocol for everyone who needs to care for the birds.
They recently participated to a roundtable discussion about this outbreak. Listen here.
In short, treat your chicken area as a bubble: nothing in, nothing out.