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California’s Chicken Farms are Devastated by Avian Flu

Avian Flu
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Mike Weber received the news last month that worries every chicken farmer: His hens had positive avian flu tests.

Weber’s business, Sunrise Farms, was forced by law to kill all 550,000 of its egg-laying hens in order to stop the disease from spreading to other farms in Sonoma County, which is located north of San Francisco.

It is traumatizing. It’s causing anguish for all of us,” Weber remarked while standing in an abandoned henhouse. “Petaluma is referred to as the global egg basket. Seeing an egg basket catch fire is heartbreaking.

The disease known as highly pathogenic avian influenza is inflicting havoc in California, which managed to escape the first round of outbreaks that decimated poultry farms in the Midwest, a year after the bird flu caused record egg prices and widespread shortages.

A state of emergency has been proclaimed in Sonoma County due to the devastating effects of the extremely contagious illness. In order to contain the infection, almost a dozen commercial farms have had to kill over a million birds over the last two months, which has had a negative financial impact on the farmers, employees, and clients of these businesses.

The outbreaks at multiple sizable commercial egg-producing farms in Merced County, Central California, have also had a significant impact in recent weeks.

Ducks, geese, and other migratory birds are said to be the primary carriers of bird flu. Waterfowl are able to carry the virus without becoming ill, and they can easily transmit it to backyard flocks and chicken and turkey farms through droppings and nasal secretions.

Strict biosecurity protocols are being implemented by California chicken farms in an effort to stop the disease’s spread. Annette Jones, the state veterinarian, advised farmers to keep all of their flocks indoors until June, even the organic chickens, which must have access to the outdoors.

“The migration process will continue for a few more months. Therefore, in order to safeguard our birds, we must use the utmost caution,” stated Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation.

Before supermarkets and eateries were able to find suppliers outside of the area, the loss of local hens caused egg prices in the San Francisco Bay Area to rise during the holidays.

Although bird flu has been prevalent for many years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that since the virus’s current outbreak started in early 2022, authorities have had to kill about 82 million birds—mostly egg-laying chickens—in 47 U.S. states. To stop the infection from spreading, the entire flock is killed once the sickness is discovered.



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