Of all the things that bird farms fear when they go to sleep at night, one of the biggest has to be avian influenza. A.I. spreads quickly and can decimate a flock. But it’s not the only disease game birds are susceptible to, and with a farm the size of MacFarlane Pheasants, we’re especially vigilant in protecting our flocks so that nothing interrupts our supply of healthy, vigorous adult pheasants and day-old chicks.
It starts in the barns, where our pheasants spend the first seven weeks of their lives. All barn workers must wear booties, which are scrubbed first with a disinfectant. Every barn also has its own footbath and boots, so employees moving between barns don’t cross-contaminate should an outbreak occur. Once inside, staff also switches footgear when moving between rooms. For varieties of birds that have a weaker constitution, such as our Hungarian partridges, we bump up our protection another notch: in the hun barns, our staff wears uniforms, which protect their clothing from picking up anything.
Another best practice we’ve developed is working from youngest to oldest. When our staff tackles their daily chores, they begin with the youngest birds, which are most susceptible to disease. They work their way up from youngest to oldest because it’s less likely that a mature bird will catch a disease from a younger bird—their immune systems are more developed. Our staff also starts with the young birds first thing in the morning so that there’s not a day’s worth of possible bacteria they’ve come in contact with. Finally, if we do have a sick flock, we’ll work with that barn or room last, again to minimize the chance of exposure to healthy birds.
We take pest control very seriously because of the range that rats and mice travel. Baiting and checking traps, spread throughout the farm, is a daily chore. If we see rat activity, including their telltale piles of loose dirt around fresh-dug burrows, we address it immediately with burrow baiting. It’s important to act early, because whatever diseases vermin bring with them stay on the farm until the vermin are gone. Our goal is always to be a hundred-percent free of them for that reason, and it requires consistent attention.
Finally, the best defense starts at the castle walls, and all visitors wear foot gear. We additionally screen for those that have been in contact with other livestock farms, including poultry, pig, and cattle. All the trucks that deliver our birds’ food have their tires sprayed before they enter the farm.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to keep ourselves safe and keep the company going,” says Brooder Manager Brian Davis. He and the rest of the MacFarlane Pheasant staff are working daily to ensure our flocks are safe so that you receive your birds on time, healthy and ready to grow.