Keeping backyard poultry
Keeping backyard poultry is a popular and productive hobby for many Victorians. If you keep a few chickens at home, maintaining good biosecurity practices will help to protect your birds and your family’s health as well as Victoria’s agriculture industry.
Protecting against disease outbreaks
By following these simple steps, you can help to keep your birds healthy and help to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza and other bird diseases:
- Regularly clean your chicken coop including feeders, drinkers and equipment.
- Frequently replace nesting materials.
- Always wash your hands with warm water and soap after handling birds, eggs or other materials in the coop.
- Try to avoid contact between chicken and wild birds, rodents or pets.
- Keep your bird’s feed and water clean of any droppings or animal waste.
- Your birds should drink the same water as you — town, bore or tank water. Keep them away from potentially contaminated water sources such as streams, dams, ponds and even puddles.
- Feed your birds good quality feed from a reputable feed-mill.
- Keep new birds separate from your existing flock for 14 days after they arrive on your property.
- Keep records of where you buy poultry from and if possible, their vaccination history.
- Keep records of who you sell birds or eggs to. This information is useful for disease tracing.
- If you attend bird shows do not allow your birds to mix directly with others. Then, keep them separate from the rest of your flock for 14 days when you return home.
- Minimise visitor contact with your birds. If visitors need to handle your birds make sure they wash their hands with warm soapy water before and after handling. Visitors should cover their footwear before handling birds.
- If you are selling or giving away eggs, use new cartons if possible or keep reused cartons clean and away from birds.
- Know the signs of disease and immediately report large or unusual numbers of dead or sick birds or sharp drop in egg production to your vet.
Know what to look for
Outbreaks of avian influenza and other bird related diseases are uncommon in Victoria, but it is important to be aware of the signs. Early detection and reporting may help to prevent a large-scale outbreak.
Signs of a sick bird include:
- ruffled feathers
- unusual head or neck posture
- inability to walk or stand
- loss of appetite and reluctance to drink
- droopy appearance
- swollen head, wattle or comb
- drop in egg production
- breathing difficulties
- sudden death.
What do I do if I suspect my birds are unwell?
Poultry farmers and backyard flock and bird owners are urged to report any cases of unexplained bird deaths or sharp drop in egg production to the 24-hour Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline on 1800 675 888, or to your local vet or to Agriculture Victoria animal health staff.
Property Identification Codes (PIC) and Permits
A PIC is a property identification code that helps us contact you to assist in the event of a fire, flood or outbreak of an animal disease, such as avian influenza. PICs are free and they are easy to obtain through Agriculture Victoria.
Anyone with more than 50 poultry must have a PIC but small producers and even backyarders, are welcome to get one too. See our page on PICs for more information and how to apply for a PIC.
A planning permit from your local council is required for land used to keep or breed poultry in the following Victorian planning zones:
- Farming zone
- Rural activity zone
- Green wedge zone
- Green wedge A zone
- Rural conservation zone
- Rural living zone
- Urban growth zone
The permit triggers are:
- more than 100 poultry
- more than 10 emus or ostriches.
Keeping or breeding a poultry flock large enough to require a planning permit is prohibited in residential, commercial, industrial and urban floodway zones.
Check with your local council about any specific permit conditions.
Distributing or selling eggs
An egg producer with 50 birds or more must mark individual chicken eggs with a unique identification code before distribution.
In Victoria, we use the PIC register to provide producers with their egg stamp code.
You don't need to stamp eggs from birds other than chickens. For more information see complying with the egg production standard.
For more information see food safety for egg producers.