Image credit: Biosecurity for Birds/USDA
From virtual chicken-rescue on Facebook to designer chicken coops for urban hipsters, the concept of backyard chicken keeping has really taken off. Now the USDA is calling on all backyard chicken keepers to join the fight against avian diseases—and they are hoping that online forums will help them spread the word. According to a press release from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), chicken keepers are forming communities of like-minded soulds—both online and in the real world—through sites like Meetup. The release claims that while only one Meetup group existed on the topic at the end of 2007, and there were only five at the start of 2009, in the last 18 months, the numbers have soared and there are now 52 groups worldwide with 6,043 members. The USDA is hoping that it is forums like these that will help them to spread the word among backyard chicken keepers about the importance of good hygiene, and keeping an eye on your flock for signs of disease:
"The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has an ongoing public education campaign, Biosecurity for Birds, that is designed to teach backyard poultry and other bird owners how to keep their flocks safe and free from infectious diseases such as avian influenza (AI) and exotic Newcastle disease (END). Meetup groups can play a vital role in teaching members -- many of whom are learning about raising chickens for the first time about how to protect their birds and keep them safe and healthy.Schneider, a national spokesperson for the Biosecurity For Birds campaign, said learning about disease prevention is part of the responsible ownership of chickens. Meetup groups are a perfect setting for that instruction -- and can be a great help in getting the word out if an outbreak does occur."
Chicken keepers and would-be chicken keepers are being encouraged to check out the Biosecurity for Birds website, and to sign up for activities during Bird Health Awareness Week (Nov 1st-7th). They are also encouraged to bring others along for the ride.