Protect Backyard Chicken Flocks From Avian Influenza

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The H5N2 strain of avian influenza doesn’t hurt people, but it can hurt chickens. Backyard chicken owners can bring the disease home to their flock if they are not aware of the potential threats or signs of sick birds.

Here is an article from UGA Extension Agent in Cherokee County Josh Fuder on Avian influenza:

Avian influenza is not a problem in Georgia, yet. Commercial chicken producers are prepared to fight the virus that kills birds, and backyard chicken flock owners should prepare, too.

While the commercial poultry industry in Georgia has the greatest risk in terms of potential for loss, it also has multiple safeguards in place and has limited exposure to migratory birds. Avian flu can more easily be introduced into Georgia through backyard chicken flocks.

There have been no cases of human infection by birds because the H5N2 strain of the virus is not zoonotic, meaning it cannot pass between humans and animals.

To protect backyard chickens, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension offers small flock owners these recommendations.

Keep Your Distance

  • Restrict access to your property and your birds.
  • Consider placing the birds inside a fence, and only allow those who care for the birds to come in contact with them.
  • If visitors have backyard chickens of their own, do not let them come in contact with your birds.
  • Game birds and migratory waterfowl should not have contact with your flock.
  • Keep chickens inside a pen or coop, and do not let them run free.

Keep Clean

  • Wear clean clothes when coming in contact with your birds; scrub your shoes with disinfectant.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before entering the chickens’ pen.
  • Clean cages, and change food daily.
  • Keep stored feed in enclosed containers and protected from wild birds and vermin.
  • Clean and disinfect equipment that comes in contact with your birds or their droppings, including cages and tools.
  • Remove manure before disinfecting.
  • Properly dispose of dead birds.
  • Use municipal water as a drinking source instead of giving chickens access to ponds or streams. (The avian influenza virus can live for long periods on surface waters.)

Don’t Bring Disease Home

  • If you have been near other birds or bird owners, at a feed store or bird hunting, for instance, clean and disinfect your vehicle’s tires and your equipment before going home. Shower and put on clean clothing before approaching your flock.
  • Keep any new birds or birds that have been off-site separate from your flock for at least 30 days.

Don’t Borrow the Virus

  • Do not share tools, equipment or supplies with other bird owners.
  • If you do bring borrowed items home, clean and disinfect them before you bring them home.

Know the Signs of a Sick Bird:

  • A sudden increase in deaths, a clear-sign of the N5N2 strain of the virus
  • A drop in egg production, or eggs that are soft, thin-shelled or misshapen
  • A lack of energy or poor appetite
  • Watery and green diarrhea
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Nasal discharge

Early detection is critical to prevent the spread of avian influenza. If you suspect your flock is infected, call the Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network at (770) 766-6810.

For more information on avian influenza, call the Georgia Department of Agriculture at (404) 656-3667. To learn more about how to care for backyard flocks, see the UGA Extension publications on the topic at

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Late Season Pasture Weeds

Here are some weeds we have seen in pastures the past few weeks. Some of the weeds have toxic properties, so we do need to be aware of these.

Tropical Bush Mint

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Leaves are opposite with serrated leaf margins. Stem is square.

Tropical Bush Mint

This is also called bittermint (Hyptis mutabilis). Originally, we thought this was perilla mint, which does have toxic properties.  We noticed a square stem with similar leaf shape. When we looked close, we could see the leaves appeared smaller than perilla, and the flower arrangement was different. It is in the same family as perilla mint – Lamiaceae. However, there are no known toxicities with this plant.

UGA Extension Livestock Scientist Dr. Jacob Segers reminds us the plants in the mint family are known to cross. This makes ID more difficult, since they all look similar. This is about as far north as tropical bush mint grows.




Showy Crotalaria

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Showy Crotalaria

This is one we need to watch for. This is the time of year when showy crotalaria is blooming and everyone knows this one. It’s a summer annual in the bean family and is a tall growing weed along pastures. It’s leaves are alternate and waxy. Its flower has bright yellow petals, spirally arranged on the stalk. It forms an inflated-looking pod with kidney-shaped seeds. Showy crotalaria is toxic to all livestock. The seeds contain the highest amount of toxins. The leaves also contain enough of the alkaloids to be toxic. The leaves of showy crotalaria are toxic even when dried. Here’s some more information on Showy Crotalaria.





We are also seeing some grass weeds in pastures. Vasseygrass is starting in spots in this Bermuda pasture. This is a perennial grass with a bunch-type growth habit that does not have a significant rhizome system, like Johnsongrass. Vaseygrass is more commonly seen in wetter fields or ditches. It has a seedhead with alternating spikelets forming silky hairs around the seeds. Seeds are produced along the entire length of the seedhead branch, which is not the case with johnsongrass. One thing you will notice are hairs where the leaf and stem meet and toward the base of the plant. It also has a pretty prominent midbrib. Controlling vaseygrass is not as easy, but here is a good source for information on control of grasses in pastures: Identification and Control of Johnsongrass, Vaseygrass, and Guinea Grass in Pastures.



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Grain Sorghum Harvest


We are almost done harvesting milo for grain in Thomas County. This is the first season all of us have dealt with sugarcane aphids from beginning to end. The majority of fields in the county have been treated 4 times for aphids. This does seem like a lot of sprays; however, in these fields, yield reports are good. In these fields, SCA was spotted early and treated at or below threshold.

There was a few fields that were treated late, according to threshold. SCA reached the top of the plant before spraying. A couple of weeks later, the lower leaves completely desiccated due to aphid pressure. These yields are much lower than average. Other reports are were volume is high, 17%-19% moisture, test weight is low. Could this be from SCA?

UGA Extension Entomologist Dr. David Buntin says, yes, this can be the result of SCA. However, test weight be also be related to wet and dry cycles. And this season will certainly be marked by wet and dry cycles. Another issue we have noticed are small heads and large heads. Dr. Buntin says when heads are in two or three different stages of growth, this is result of SCA. SCA don’t have huge phytotoxic effect of feeding, but lots of feeding over time delays heads emerging.

At this stage, we still need to check heads for aphids. Mississippi saw a 20% yield reduction when aphids persisted into the heads.

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Peanut PLC Payments

Here are some more slide from UGA Extension Economist Dr. Nathan Smith on PLC Payments.


Example PaymentYield

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Peanut Economic Outlook

Here are some slides by UGA Extension Economist Dr. Nathan Smith on our current peanut situation. Thanks to Seminole County Agent Rome Ethredge for organizing these slides for use.







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UGA Cotton Marketing News

Here is a recent update from UGA Extension Economist Dr. Don Shurley:



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Commercial Pesticide Recertification

CommercialPesticideRecertificationDo you need recertification credits?

When does my license expire?

Not certain? Find out here at the Kelly Solutions website.

Don’t miss the opportunity to earn 5 hours of commercial pesticide applicator credits good in 15 categories.

Pesticide Safety and Handling Training

Friday, October 23 – St. Simons Island

Earn five hours of commercial pesticide credit in your category:

  • Category 24 – Ornamentals & Turf
  • Category 41 – Mosquito Control
  • Category 21 – Plant Agriculture
  • Category 27 – Right of Way
  • Category 23 – Forestry
  • Category 26 – Aquatic
  • Also…Categories 22, 25, 32, 35, 36, 37, 38 or 39.

Also earn five hours of International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Credit.

Cost is $55 until Thursday, October 15 and $65 afterwards. Lunch & breaks are sponsored by FIS Outdoor, Inc.

For more information:

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