Disaster Preparedness Manual
Melissa J. Nixon, DVM

Poultry includes "farm" birds like chickens, ducks, and geese. We have had them living in the evacuation shelter too! In fact, during the 49er fire, our gaggle of 7 geese were on the evening news several times, as their constant noise tended to attract reporters and photographers looking for a good story.

Signs of illness in these birds are similar to those listed for cage birds: trembling, fluffing, sleepiness, lack of appetite, depression, diarrhea, paralysis, twisted neck, difficulty breathing, discharge from eyes or nose, weight loss, noisy breathing, and of course sudden death.

California has a large poultry industry, and there are always concerns about such diseases as Exotic Newcastle Disease and Avian Influenza. It is very important that you wash your hands after handling poultry, report any signs of illness in the birds to the veterinary crew, and report any respiratory or "flu" signs in yourself to the human first aid team. Do not mingle birds from different premises.

Geese and roosters can be quite aggressive. In some cases, it may be more feasible to "shoo" them into an enclosure rather than try to individually catch them. Roosters can have a very sharp barb near their ankles. Even relatively comical birds such as turkeys and ducks can inflict harm on an unsuspecting volunteer! Take appropriate precautions, and always defer to the people with experience with birds. NO ONE should handle wild birds, such as birds of prey or water birds (such as pelicans, cranes, or egrets) without learning how to handle these specific species!

In the demonstration, we will show you how to grasp the legs and hold the wings to minimize injury to yourself and the bird. Protective goggles are a wise idea to protect your eyes, especially if you are fairly new at handling poultry.

Chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl are omnivores. They like bugs, and they can eat grain and veggies as well.

Roosters will fight with each other, so keep them apart. Be aware that in California and some other states, illegal fighting roosters are a reality. These birds are bred to fight to the death.

Moscovy ducks are not water birds; other ducks will appreciate a wading/swimming pool but it is not essential for them to have it during evacuation.

Geese are strict vegetarians. If we do not have any other chow for them, penning them during the day in a grassy area will allow them to graze; they are actually excellent lawn mowers. While they will appreciate a wading pool, it is not essential for them. In the wild geese mate for life, and evacuated domestics will be happier if we can house family groups together.

Laying hens in our care should have their eggs collected daily lest they develop the terrible habit of egg eating. There is some risk of salmonella from unwashed eggs, so do wash your hands after handling.

Fresh drinking water is a must for poultry. If we have crushed oyster shell or other grit available, that should be made available to them as well. We should not leave poultry outside at night due to risk of predation from land and air.

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Melissa J. Nixon, DVM

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