I may not make a lot of friends with this post, but hear me out.
I’m not sure that all of these “crazy” and “artsy” coop tours popping up all over the place are such a good idea. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I sing the praises of backyard chicken ownership all the time, but visiting each others coops?
Coop tours are when a group of people tour from coop to coop to see how other people have set up their flocks, have their chicken management questions answered, and sometimes, to even have a glass of wine or two.
Friends gathered around a positive, gentle cause. What could possibly be the problem with that, it sounds like fun, right?
But just think about what’s happening. Many people will touch the birds and then simply wipe their hands on their clothing. Hey, what’s a little dirt between friends? They walk though yards (picking up poop remnants on their feet) and go to other yards (where they deposit those poop remnants.)
This is what you call a biosecurity nightmare.
But people are smart, you say, they are considerate. If the flock had a sick bird, they wouldn’t join in the fun. They’d just say no to the tour. The problem with that one is that for some diseases, the birds can be asymptomatic. Here in New Hampshire we have an outbreak in our chickens of mycoplasma gallisepticum or MG, a respiratory ailment, and mycoplasma synoviae or MS, a joint disease. Flocks are being infected from chickens obtained at chicken swaps (which have been put on hold indefinitely) and while you might even have these diseases already in your flock (it’s really only a concern if the bird is symptomatic) our state is making you depopulate your entire flock if only one bird tests positive.
Your entire flock.
When vets visit home flocks, they typically use best biosecurity practices which include dedicated washable boots, foot baths, washable overalls, and in some cases, gloves and masks. Vets are aware that a disease in one flock can be easily transmitted to another flock if precautions aren’t taken.
One vet has even told me that one of the biggest methods of disease transmission is when one flock owner calls up a neighboring flock owner to look at a sick bird to see what he thinks. Who would have thought that could have been a problem? Turns out it is. A big one.
Which brings us back to these coop tours. Sure, they’re chic, sure they’re trendy. But in my most humble opinion, they are an unnecessary risk to the health of your flock. You’re playing roulette if you participate in these events and you may be exposing your entire flock to disease all in the name of good fun.
And as a flock owner, this is just not a risk I’m willing to take with my birds. Count me out on the coop tours.