Capital Clicks

Bird flu found in pheasant hatchery and backyard flock

By: - November 13, 2023 4:37 pm

Backyard flocks have been more often infected by highly pathogenic avian influenza this fall compared with fall 2022. (Photo by Jared Strong/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

A highly contagious avian flu continues to scourge domestic bird flocks in Iowa this fall with a further two confirmed infections in Cerro Gordo and Kossuth counties, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Iowa flocks this fall have occurred at about triple the rate of fall 2022, but the overall number of infected birds is much lower.

The most recent detections were at a Kossuth County game bird hatchery with about 13,000 pheasants, quail and chukars — the second such infection confirmed in that county — and a mixed-species backyard flock in Cerro Gordo County with about 75 birds.

The virus is often spread by migrating birds. Because of its transmissibility and mortality rate for domestic birds, entire flocks are destroyed to help prevent its further spread.

Last year there were 11 total detections in October, November and December in Iowa flocks that totaled about 2.5 million birds. Nine of the infected flocks were commercial chicken or turkey sites.

This fall there have been 13 detections, but fewer than half have been large chicken or turkey sites. This year’s flocks have totaled about 1.4 million birds. The vast majority of those affected birds were of one egg-laying flock in Taylor County, which had about 1.2 million chickens.

It’s unclear why the virus has more often affected smaller backyard and game bird flocks this year than last year.

“I don’t know that there is any pattern to derive from this fall’s infections,” said Don McDowell, an IDALS spokesperson.

He urged flock owners to vigilantly follow their biosecurity plans and to keep wild birds away from domestic birds.

“The threat remains real and present,” McDowell said.

Previous virus detections included:

Nov. 10: A commercial egg-laying facility in Taylor County with about 1.2 million chickens.
Nov. 10: A backyard mixed species flock in Jones County with 23 birds.
Nov. 7: A game bird farm in Kossuth County with about 8,576 pheasants, peafowl and chickens.
Nov. 3: A commercial chicken breeding facility in Hamilton County with about 15,000 birds.
Nov. 3: A duck farm with a backyard mixed species flock in Clay County with about 7,361 birds.
Nov. 3: A duck farm in Clay County with about 8,270 birds.
Nov. 3: A duck farm in Clay County with about 1,700 birds.
Oct. 31: A commercial turkey flock in Buena Vista County with about 30,000 birds.
Oct. 23: A commercial turkey flock in Pocahontas County with about 47,500 birds.
Oct. 23: A backyard flock in Guthrie County with about 50 birds.
Oct. 20: A commercial turkey flock in Buena Vista County with about 50,000 birds.

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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register.