Poultry farms in CT take bird flu precautions

Bird flu cases threaten backyard chickens
Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 5:55 PM EDT
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NEWTOWN, CT (WFSB) - Bird flu is ramping up across Connecticut.

Experts said spring migration will bring more wild birds to the state, and they’ll ultimately pose a risk to backyard poultry.

Channel 3 visited a chicken farm in Newtown on Wednesday. Its owners shared how they have been protecting their coops.

Bellie Acres Farm is home to nearly 200 chickens.

Bill Bear and Linda Cavaliere said they have raised chickens for 5 years.

Over that time, they said they found a safe way to protect their chickens and two ducks from other animals potentially carrying the avian flu.

“We keep the feed in doors,” Bear and Cavalier said. “We keep our red distractor to keep hawks away, a big carrier of the avian flu. And we have a camera, a Wi-Fi camera we use as well to keep predators out at night. They also carry avian flu. And the dog too. She chases the predators and hawks.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the bird flu is caused by direct contact with infected waterfowl or other infected birds, through contact surfaces contaminated with the virus.

“[It’s been] kind of a sad year and I’m assuming this year’s going to be the same,” said Gwen Rice, wildlife rehabilitator.

Rice said she works primarily with owls through Freedom First Wildlife Rehab.

With the spring season here, she said the risks are growing.

“We’re being very, very careful,” Rice said. “We’re putting THE bird right into quarantine,

Last year, two of the birds she treated had suspected bird flu.

“December of 2021, is when it actually started, we were notified that the HPI was found in a lot of the waterways and starting to be seen in wild mallard ducks.”

In order to care for the animals, Rice said a lot had to change.

Now, due to risks, she said she is not able to take in all the animals she’d like to help.

“We had to reallocate funds to purchase PPE, personal protective equipment,” Rice explained. “We had to repurchase many more supplies of disinfectants and cleaners. We had to set aside larger quarantine space because every bird became potentially infected.”

Besides the environment risks, the spread of the bird flu across the U.S. could also cost people a pretty penny.

If it spreads again this year, egg production may be reduced, which would drive costs back up.

“We will have to look at it and adjust the prices,” Bear said. “With the flu, the price of feed, the chips, electricity, everything’s gone up. [We] take as much as precaution as you can to keep birds and wildlife out of their flock area.”

Rice said birds do not show symptoms of avian flu.

Anyone who suspects a bird was advised not to handle it, but to contact the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Wildlife Division.