UACES Facebook Incoming cold front may raise the risk of wildfowl-borne avian influenza for backyard Arkansas poultry flocks
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Incoming cold front may raise the risk of wildfowl-borne avian influenza for backyard Arkansas poultry flocks

“We have a cold front coming in a few days and that will push migrating birds south. We need to be prepared.” — Dustan Clark

By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Oct. 24, 2023

Fast facts

  • Small/backyard/hobby flocks kept outdoors are vulnerable
  • Forecast cold front may intensify fall migration
  • Four webinars being offered to help owners of small flocks
  • Register for biosecurity webinars online

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A change in the weather may intensify the fall migration of wildfowl and poultry flock owners will need to redouble their biosecurity efforts to stave off potential infections of a deadly type of bird flu, said Dustan Clark, extension poultry veterinarian for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Flock of backyard chickens getting an early start on a farm in western Arkansas. (U of A System Division of Agriculture image by John Lovett)

“Geese, ducks and other wildfowl are already making their way south along the Mississippi Flyway,” Clark said on Tuesday. “And we know that wildfowl play a role in moving avian influenza around the Western Hemisphere.”

At issue is highly pathogenic avian influenza, H5N1, which has beleaguered poultry owners since 2021, affecting millions of birds on five continents and last year, helped drive up egg prices. This fall, 10 states have had confirmed infections, with Oregon being the most recent, Clark said.

“We have a cold front coming in a few days and that will push migrating birds south,” he said. “We need to be prepared.”

Arkansas is located squarely in the Mississippi Flyway and the lakes and agricultural fields of the Delta a stopping point for millions of ducks, geese and other birds.

“Three of the states, Minnesota, South Dakota and Utah, have confirmed cases in turkey flocks,” Clark said. “The remaining seven states reported the highly pathogenic avian influenza infections only in backyard, hobby and small flocks.

“Because small flocks tend to be outdoors, there’s a higher risk of exposure to infected wild birds,” he said. “It’s important that our small flock, backyard flock and hobby flock owners be informed about disease recognition and prevention.”

Webinars for poultry owners

Biosecurity webinar graphic
The Cooperative Extension Service is holding four webinars to help owners of backyard, hobby or small flocks to protect their poultry from avian influenza. (U of A System Division of Agriculture image)

Clark is offering four biosecurity webinars for small flock owners at 6 p.m. each evening of Nov. 2, 7, 9 and 16. There is no charge to attend. Registration is available online.

“While biosecurity may sound complex, there are some simple, inexpensive ways for small flock owners to protect their birds,” he said.

  1. Keep birds in pens covered with roofs or tarps to prevent exposure to wild bird feces and to keep poultry away from any pond or other water source that wild waterfowl may visit.
  2. Keep facilities and equipment clean and in good repair. Change feed and water frequently.
  3. Quarantine and isolate any new or sick birds from your other poultry for a minimum of three weeks.
  4. Keep unnecessary visitors away and keep a record of all necessary visitors. Do not let them come in contact with your flock. If you visit an area where there are waterfowl or poultry Do Not Visit your poultry until you change clothes/ shoes and wash your hands.
  5. Recognize signs of illness in poultry and report unusual signs to your local veterinarian, local county extension agent, extension poultry veterinarian, state veterinarian, USDA hotline at 1-866-536-7593, or Arkansas avian influenza hotline, 501-823-1746.

Find other information about biosecurity on the extension service website

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on X and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on X at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on X at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

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