The birds are back! The backside of the Graham Building was awfully quiet last year, when the crows and quacks of the poultry competition were silenced by the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The highly contagious disease found in the Midwest last spring was thought to be spread by wild birds, causing concern over the spread of the disease to North Carolina. State Veterinarian Doug Meckes banned all poultry displays and sales, including all poultry competitions at fairs. Any congregation of birds could spread the disease throughout our state and cause widespread damage to the $3 billion poultry industry, not to mention the possible loss of backyard flocks.
Luckily, avian influenza has not been found in the lower 48 states this year and it is safe to allow the birds back at the fair. For fairgoers, that’s great news as the poultry tent will again be filled with all sorts of exotic breeds of chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. Be sure to stop by the poultry tent to see these beautiful winged creatures and talk to the folks who breed them to learn about their different characteristics.
If you show poultry, here are some things to consider:
- Understand that travel is stressful for the birds, so they need to be healthy and at their best. If their immune system is already stressed, they will be more prone to pick up infections from their new surroundings.
- Be sure your birds are in the best of health–no external parasites (mites or lice), no respiratory signs, good nutritional status, also no internal parasites
- Understand that they will be exposed to birds from many many other farms, and thus also to all the bacteria/viruses they may be carrying, even though they look healthy
- After the fair, be sure to give them extra care and excellent nutrition
- Don’t return your show birds to the whole flock until they have had “cooling off period” or quarantine. USDA recommends a 2-week quarantine period
- When taking care of your birds, visit the main flock first, then the show chickens–in case they picked up something at the show
- If you’re showing at a fair, be sure to say hi to our poultry vet techs. They’ll be on site looking for signs of illness among the poultry to try to keep everyone’s birds safe.