Almost a year later, the avian flu is still present in much of the East Coast’s wild bird and waterfowl population. Poultry owners are still taking the necessary precautions to protect their flocks.

In 2022, many county fairs decided to not allow live poultry exhibits to help prevent the spread of the disease. Since cases are still occurring amongst flocks, the 2023 fair season could look similar.

Mary Davis, New Hampshire 4-H animal science field specialist, shared her insight from a 4-H perspective entering the 2023 fair season. Some fairs have opted to allow live birds into their shows while others have chosen to continue with static displays or mimic poultry shows with stuffed animals for the 4-H youth.

She noted that if an exhibitor chooses to bring live animals, they should do their best to prevent disease spread. Birds should only be brought to the fair if the entire flock is healthy (if some birds are sick, only keeping those animals at home is not enough – no birds from that flock should travel). Additionally, if any of the birds are exposed to wild waterfowl, they should stay home.

Biosecurity is always an important measure, but especially with these conditions. Exhibitors should disinfect all cages and areas where birds are kept, if possible, bring cages from home and they should not share equipment. Davis even suggested keeping the birds that traveled to the fair separate from the rest of the flock for 10 to 14 days after returning home.

“The avian flu may be with us for years to come,” said Davis. “People should consider their poultry housing situations and take steps to protect their flocks from exposure to migratory birds (especially waterfowl) and should check with the USDA or their state veterinarian for recommendations to protect their birds.”

UNH Cooperative Extension provides the following recommendations for poultry owners to keep their flocks safe. Kendall Kunelius, agri-business field specialist, emphasized the importance of keeping your flock contained and reducing exposure to wild birds as much as possible. Chickens, ducks or geese that are normally kept free-range could instead be kept in an outdoor run with fencing and covering to prevent any kind of disease transmission. Additionally, wild bird feeders should be kept far away from coops and runs.

She also emphasized the importance of biosecurity – hand washing after handling poultry and washing footwear with a bleach solution or chlorhexidine bath. Any visitors to the farm can either bring a pair of shoes that can be cleaned on-site or be asked to wear shoes that have not been worn around other poultry to contaminate the flock.

“I would encourage poultry owners or breeders to gain knowledge about the disease and then take action to prevent it,” said Kunelius. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

While the avian flu can seem new and overwhelming, by taking the proper biosecurity measures, and monitoring your flock, the avian flu can be avoided.

by Hannah Majewski