Keeping all poultry indoors during a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak may be advisable, but it might not be completely necessary.

What is necessary, is to make sure poultry flocks are fed indoors, advised Dr. Carol Cardona, Pomeroy chair in avian health for the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Cardona offered her opinions on the matter during the webinar, “Surviving Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza,” on June 21. The webinar was part of the Balchem Real Science Lecture Series.

As HPAI is frequently spread by wild birds, keeping those birds separated from poultry flocks is truly important. In several European and Asian countries, during HPAI outbreaks, orders to keep poultry inside have been made. And while that hasn’t occurred in the United States, Dr. Rosemary Sifford, the chief veterinary officer of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in January 2022 advised that poultry producers restrict their birds’ outdoor access.

Cardona, too, sees the benefits of limiting poultry’s access to the outdoors, but she added that she is not sure if requiring poultry to be kept inside during outbreaks is “the step that’s needed.”

But she does think that producers need to discourage wild birds from coming near commercial poultry flocks.

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“If you can put them indoors, great. If you cannot, you need to for sure feed them indoors. You need to lock up their feed. You need to not attract any wild birds to your facility,” she said.

Additionally, Cardona recommends that producers cover their chicken yards with netting to keep the wild birds away.

Cardona said the idea of requiring farmers to keep their poultry inside is somewhat flawed, because many of U.S. poultry flocks affected by HPAI in 2022 did not have outdoor access. With that in mind, what might be the most important thing to do is to create a culture of keeping wild birds separate from poultry.

Also during the webinar, Cardona stated her opinions on the use of vaccines to prevent HPAI in poultry. Presently, most countries do not vaccinate over fears of trade restrictions. She said that mindset should change because vaccines can be a very useful tool to keep birds safe and farms populated.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.