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South Africa has diverse production systems ranging from subsistence and small commercial farmers to large commercial entities with multiple sites. Regardless of the size of the enterprise, biosecurity remains pivotal to the successful rearing of birds.


It is important because it prevents chickens from being exposed to germs that can cause diseases. It does this by reducing the risk of these germs from coming onto the farm (introduction of pathogens) or leaving an infected house or farm and spreading to other houses or farms.


It is also important because preventing diseases from entering farms is better than having to deal with the consequences of an infected farm. It is cheaper to implement biosecurity measures than to lose a flock to avian influenza and have to pay for the cost of depopulation, disposal as well as cleaning and disinfection of the houses afterwards. 


Biosecurity measures focus on a number of different factors which when implemented or put together reduce the possibility of introducing a disease on to a farm. A number of factors are looked at when we develop a biosecurity plan for a farm. Although the principles are general their importance will differ from farm to farm. It is therefore important to consider your farm’s unique circumstances when developing a plan.


key considerations when developing a biosecurity plan

The factors to consider and their importance are outlined below however in a nutshell these have been reduced to these areas so that it can be easy to remember.


  1. Farm
  2. Water, Feed and Litter
  3. People
  4. Vehicles and Equipment
  5. Chickens


  1. Conceptual Biosecurity: This is the first rung of biosecurity to consider. It deals with where the farm is situated e.g. is it next to a busy road, is it amongst many other poultry farms, etc. We usually cannot change this aspect and have to build our biosecurity plan around it. If planning to a new farm however one can plan around these factors and make sure that the risk they pose is reduced e.g. plan to have your free range farm away from an area that has many other farms.


  1. Structural Biosecurity: This is the second rung of biosecurity and deals with how the farm is structured. This includes issues like layout, type of housing is it fenced, where re the silos situated, etc. Again all of these factors are important to maintenance of biosecurity and need to be considered I the planning phase where possible.


  1. Operational Biosecurity: This is the third and last rung of biosecurity and deals with people and other the procedures used on the farm to prevent introduction of diseases or its spread.


All these aspects need to be taken seriously and everyone involved needs to be trained at least every year on implementing these measure to ensure that the farm remains protected.


There are many biosecurity assessment templates. The PDMA has also developed one. You can use it as a start to assess your farm and thereafter develop your farm’s biosecurity plan. This is not a static document as it changes from time to time as operations change, production capacity increases, etc.

It is thus advisable to review your plan whenever there are significant changes to your operation or at least once a year.

It is also advisable to involve your veterinarian when developing your biosecurity plan.

Below are some of the key factors to consider when developing a biosecurity plan. Not all factors and actions needed are included here, just some key factors to help you along.



Location and infrastructure

  • Farms close to dams are at high risk of diseases such as avian influenza. Dams should be at least 5 kms away.
  • How far your chicken houses to major (public) roads. This may pose a disease risk to your chickens.
  • How far are other farms
  • Your perimeter fence should be well maintained, prevent predators and intruders and about 1,8m tall.
  • Density of vegetation around the farm and house
  • Housekeeping on the farm and around the houses – there must be no old equipment lying around that could attract pests
  • Type of housing on the farm and the level of bird proofing

Type of operation

  • Biosecurity and diseases on multi age sites are more difficult to manage
  • Employing an all in all out system on every site is ideal for good biosecurity
  • What other operations do you have on site, e.g. feed mill. Having other operations on site increases the risk of biosecurity breaches.
  • Farmers need to manage flock placements, depletion, turnaround times, etc. as poor management of these may lead to biosecurity breaches.


  • Needs to be potable
  • Needs to be disinfected and tested at least twice a year
  • Needs to have an oxidation reduction potential(ORP) of 650 or more

Fresh Feed and Litter

  • Feed should be sourced from a reputable supplier with a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programme in place
  • It should be stored in such a way that the feed quality is maintained
  • There should be good housekeeping around feed silos and storage areas to prevent attracting unwanted birds and vermin
  • Similarly fresh litter should be sourced from a reputable supplier
  • It should be decontaminated and stored in closed bags

Manure and Dead Bird disposal

  • Used Litter and dead birds should be stored and managed in such a way that they don’t pose a biosecurity risk.
  • Used litter should be removed off site following depletion.
  • Mortalities (dead birds) should also be stored away from the houses in a manner that does not attract vermin and minimizes the spread of disease.



Quality of the birds and flock health

  • Source birds( chicks or pullets) of a good quality from a reliable supplier
  • Good suppliers will be able to share with you the health status of the breeder flocks and/or the history of the chicks or pullets e.g. whether the birds have been vaccinated and what vaccines have been used
  • A relevant vaccination programme should be followed and the flock monitored for any signs of disease

Exposure to Birds and other Animals

  • There must be no contact between your chickens and any other birds whether it is domestic or wild birds
  • Implement a pest control programme
  • Employees should not keep poultry at home.
  • No pets such as, cats or dogs, should be allowed near the houses
  • Where contact or near contact has occurred with other poultry, employees must report the incident and quarantine measures must be applied.
  • Should such contacts lead to a disease outbreak quarantine the farm and contact your veterinarian, state veterinarian or animal health technician for assistance.




  • Restrict visitor access as far as possible
  • Visitors and employees must not have had contact with other birds for at least 3 days.
  • Visitors must have authorization to be on site


  • All people accessing your farm must follow good hygiene practices
  • Where possible provide shower facilities
  • Clean Personal Protective Equipment must always be available
  • Visit farms from young birds to older birds
  • Always avoid visiting farms with sick birds. Where necessary farms with sick birds must be visited last regardless of age.



  • Entrance gates to be locked at all times and entrance and egress managed
  • Vehicle entry on site should be restricted as far as possible e.g. refilling of feed silos from outside the farm
  • Where access is allowed vehicles should be cleaned and disinfected
  • Equipment must as far as possible be site and/or house specific
  • Equipment must be disinfected before being used or introduced into the houses


  • Need to have good record keeping
  • Need to have a good cleaning and disinfection programme