To Feed Or Not to Feed: What to Do about Avian Flu?

Bulletin: April 26, 2022—Highly Pathogenic Avian Flu (HPAI) is giving a lot of poultry farmers headaches this spring, whether they run huge operations or just raise a few chickens and ducks in their backyards. A few cases of this deadly flu have been identified in New York State, though none of them are in the greater Rochester area.

People who raise poultry or waterfowl have been urged by Cornell Cooperative Extension to stop feeding wild birds in proximity to poultry, as the flu can be passed between bird species. Some raptors in New York have contracted the flu in this manner, though cases in songbirds have not been identified to date.

So should you stop feeding your backyard birds? Cornell recommends that if you raise poultry at home, you should take the extra step to prevent transmission to songbirds by taking down your bird feeders immediately. “It is uncertain as to when it will be safe to put feeders back out, but scientists believe that caseloads should decrease over the summer months,” said Ann Barkley, Livestock and Beginning Farm Specialist with the SWNY Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Madison County, NY, in an article on the Morning Ag Clips website.

Northern Flicker on Feeder © Nic Minetor

Northern Flicker on Feeder © Nic Minetor

If there is no poultry in your neighborhood and you do not live near a pond or stream where waterfowl congregate, your songbirds are unlikely to contract the flu at your feeders. You can be extra safe by cleaning all of your feeders thoroughly in a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach, along with some mild dishwashing liquid.

  • Make sure to remove all of the solids from the feeders first, especially any wet or moldy seed.
  • Give the feeders a good soaking in soapy water with bleach for 10 minutes or more.
  • Rinse them thoroughly.
  • Let the feeders air-dry completely before refilling them.

If the advice for bird feeders changes, we’ll post it here. Happy migration!

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