For bird owners in Central Oregon, the recent bird flu quarantine has them on edge. As a Central Oregon tradition draws near, that edge creeps closer.
The Deschutes County Fair and Rodeo coming up Aug. 3-7 typically has an entire barn dedicated to the showing of many types of farm-based birds.
However, the current outbreak of bird flu could close the barn doors on that part of the show. It would put a stop to those plans and break the hearts of dozens of local 4-H and FFA kids.
“Which bird do I want to take?” said Madyson Forsell, a Deschutes County 4-H Poultry Member while holding one of her chickens, named Megan.
Forsell is faced with a tough decision.
“Do I want to take a bird I’m really close with and raised from a chick? Forsell said. “Because I’m scared it will get bird influenza and have to be put down.”
It’s a fear many agriculture bird owners have as part of Deschutes County is under an active two-week quarantine with bird flu passing around the area.
“Members are asked to have filled out a survey that was sent out on Friday by the ODA State veterinarian to do surveillance over the county to see where the spread is,” said Elizabeth Brunner, the Deschutes County 4-H Program Coordinator.
In the meantime, the fair has already announced no water foul, geese or ducks are allowed to be displayed this year.
“They are silent carriers of the avian flu and that’s why we don’t want them at our fair because they don’t necessarily have, when they contract it, they don’t necessarily show symptoms,” Brunner said.
For the rest of the birds, it’s a waiting game.
“And if we have another case pop up, I won’t be able to show the birds I worked with at fair,” Forsell said.
“When the quarantine comes up, we could potentially have the rest of the poultry here minus our water foul,” Brunner said.
Birds that many agriculture kids put their lives into, with Forsell typically showing two or three during the annual county fair.
“So like this one here, I raised it from a little baby chick, like two days old,” Forsell said, pointing to Megan.
If the birds are removed from the coop of animals to show, Deschutes County has ideas to still let kids work on their skills.
“We have stuffed chickens that our kids will be able to show,” Brunner said “We’ll also have some other small animal knowledge events our kids can partake in.”
“Which really sucks personally for me because this is my second to last year showing birds,” Forsell said.
But the risk is there.
“Unfortunately, if it breaks out during the fair, all the birds have to be out down,” Forsell said.
For market birds already set to be killed at the end of the fair, a breakout would end at the Expo barn.
“As long as they would be checked by a licensed veterinarian,” Brunner said.
For the birds meant to go home, their young owners are left “pretty sad and disappointed,” Forsell said.