Updated: April 7, 2022

Disinfectants are agents applied to non-living objects to reduce the number of unwanted microorganisms to a safe level. Using disinfectants should be a routine part of daily farm sanitation.  Sanitation includes the substances or methods used to destroy microorganisms in order to maintain a healthy, disease-free environment. Sanitation methods prevent unwanted organisms from coming back after disinfectants have been applied.

There are several different types of disinfectants and sanitation methods that can be used to prevent disease and destroy pathogens that are present. Using disinfectants and sanitation methods on your property is a very important step in biosecurity. Disinfectants aren't a guarantee for eradicating disease but are very effective at reducing the risk. Majority of disinfectants cannot work on top of dirt, manure, or organic material, so be sure to thoroughly clean surfaces before application. Make sure you allow enough contact time when applying (follow instructions) for the disinfectant to be effective.  Sanitizing or disinfectant compounds can be chemical or non-chemical.

There are various types of disinfectants available to small flock owners. Selecting a disinfectant for your farm can be overwhelming with all the available options. It is strongly encouraged to use disinfectants in conjunction with sanitation methods because disinfectants destroy germs, thus stopping the spread of disease. There are advantages and disadvantages in using different disinfectants.  Selecting a disinfectant(s) is based on individual farm needs, as well as the characteristic of the disinfectant.

Download a list of recommended disinfectants

There are certain characteristics that should be kept in mind when choosing a type of chemical sanitation or disinfectant to use. Regardless of the situation, the efficacy (the way the disinfectant kills the pathogen) and toxicity to animals are always important traits to keep in mind when selecting a disinfectant. 

Even with all the disinfectants available, natural agents work very well in conjunction with sanitation practices. Natural agents are non-chemical disinfectants that are found in nature. Examples of natural agents include drying, temperature, heat, freezing, and sunlight. Drying and sunlight are very effective in killing many disease-causing pathogens.

Sanitation also includes keeping litter, equipment, and people disease free. The bird area(s) should always be clean. Scrub buckets, feeders, and waterers as well as supplying fresh litter when old litter becomes dirty. Special care should be taken to ensure your birds are raised in a clean environment, especially for young birds. After working with your birds, don't forget to clean equipment every time. If borrowing equipment, be sure to clean and disinfect equipment before entering the bird area especially if it is borrowed from a fellow poultry owner. In addition, make sure every person caring for birds has a set of designated clothing that is not worn off the farm and is washed periodically.