County fairs may have to get creative with ban on poultry

County fairs may have to get creative to find ways to include poultry entrants this year after Michigan placed a 30 day stop order on poultry exhibitions due to avian influenza or “bird flu.” In this file photo, fake birds are on display at the Cabarrus County Fair in North Carolina in 2015.

County fairs may have to get creative to find ways to include poultry entrants this year after Michigan placed a 30 day stop order on poultry exhibitions due to avian influenza or “bird flu.” In this file photo, fake birds are on display at the Cabarrus County Fair in North Carolina in 2015.

Elizabeth W. Kearley/Moment Editorial/Getty Images

MECOSTA, OSCEOLA COUNTIES — Something fowl is still in the air, and up in the air for 4-H participants wanting to show poultry at their county fairs. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be completely gone.

The annual Mecosta County Fair will not hold poultry exhibitions or showings this year in-person, Mecosta County Fair board director John Currie said previously. This comes after a 30 day stop order put in place by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development due to avian influenza or “bird flu.”

The stop order includes shows, exhibitions, swap meets, petting zoos at fairs and game bird or waterfowl displays.

“Thirty days without any infection in the whole state — that isn’t going to work for us,” Currie said. “Later fairs may be alright, but I am pretty certain it is not going to happen at our fair.”

They are considering doing another virtual showing, Currie said.

The board plans to meet and discuss what to do with poultry entrants.

LEARN MORE

• To learn about spotting and preventing exposure to the bird flu, bird owners may visit michigan.gov/mdard for more information or call 517-336-5030.

• For more information about the Mecosta County Fair, visit mecostafreefair.com or visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/mecostacountyfreefair.

• For more information about the Osceola County Fair, visit osceolacountyfairgrounds.com or visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/osceolafair.

But there are other ways to engage people in the fairs, said Jacob Stieg, Osceola County 4-H program coordinator. Fairs had to come up with creative solutions in 2015.

“During that summer, we had no birds at fairs but we created modified showmanship score cards so youth could demonstrate their showmanship skills with plush birds,” Stieg said. “Through 4-H, we want to make sure kids can demonstrate mastery of poultry projects, so we’re making sure that the opportunity is there for the youth.”

According to the MDARD site, bird owners should look out for signs of:

  • Sudden death
  • Significant drop in water consumption
  • Lack of appetite, energy or vocalization
  • Drop in egg production
  • Diarrhea
  • Swollen comb, wattles, legs or head
  • Nasal discharge, sneezing or coughing
  • Abnormal behavior like difficulty walking

Some precautions owners can take to prevent the spread of bird flu include washing your hands, disinfecting clothes and equipment, and making sure poultry are in enclosed spaces where they can’t have contact with each other.