Need to treat backyard poultry? Start here.

Published on March 27, 2017
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Backyard Chickens 101 What every veterinarian needs to knowAVMA members report that many companion animal veterinarians are increasingly being called upon to look at backyard poultry. The popularity of raising backyard chickens and other poultry is increasing, and the Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) Final Rule that took effect January 1 provides additional incentive for poultry owners to get veterinary care for their flocks.

Do you know how to respond to a call for assistance with backyard poultry?  Do you know what medications you can and cannot use to treat these birds, which are regulated as food-producing animals even if they are kept as pets?  Do you know how to issue a VFD if one is needed? Do you know the reportable diseases that may impact poultry?  If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” or you need additional information, the AVMA has resources.

Backyard Chickens 101

If you could use a refresher course to help navigate the complexities and nuances of treating backyard poultry, you’ll find it in Backyard Chickens 101: A Quick Guide to Urban Poultry for Small Animal Veterinarians. This suite of resources includes information on common poultry diseases, the legal complexities of treating poultry, animal welfare issues pertaining to backyard flocks, credentialing, CE opportunities, and more. Developed by the AVMA to assist veterinarians in serving this growing clientele, it is available exclusively to AVMA members.

VFD Basics

The VFD rule, administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, regulates how medically important antibiotics — medications important for treating human disease — can be administered to food-producing species in feed and drinking water. The VFD removed production indications (growth promotion and feed efficiency) from the labels of medically important antibiotics and transitioned these products’ availability from over the counter (OTC) use to requiring either a VFD (for feed-administered products) or a prescription (for water-administered products).

Access to these antibiotics requires veterinary oversight whenever they are administered to any food animal species via feed or water, even if the animals are not intended for food production. Whether backyard poultry are kept as pets, 4-H projects, or as supplemental food sources, including for eggs, they’re regulated as food-producing species by FDA and as livestock species by USDA.

Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) Basics offers a one-stop location connecting you with all the information you need to understand and comply with the VFD rule, including a downloadable VFD form and step-by-step instructions to fill it out properly. You’ll also find links to AVMA PLIT’s information regarding veterinary liability associated with the VFD, as well as the FDA regulations pertaining to the VFD.

Certificates of Veterinary Inspection

Certificates of veterinary inspection (CVIs), and the official tests, vaccinations, and other items associated with them, are key components to help with animal disease surveillance, prevention, traceability, and control. The AVMA’s CVI Quick Reference provides a complete range of resources related to disease traceability as well as interstate and international transport of animals, including backyard poultry.

Disease Resources

Clients who raise live poultry should be educated about disease risks that can be associated with such birds. Our Avian Influenza resource includes client FAQs and additional scientific information for veterinarians. Chicks, Ducklings and Salmonella provides information you can share directly with clients to guide them in proper hygiene and sanitation to prevent the spread of Salmonella.

Additional Information
The following organizations and government agencies provide additional information that can help companion animal veterinarians who are called upon to treat backyard poultry:


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