Food & Drink

Chicken owners: You need to register your birds

If you have chickens, you need to register them with the state as part of attempts to head off an avian flu outbreak in North Carolina.
If you have chickens, you need to register them with the state as part of attempts to head off an avian flu outbreak in North Carolina. AP

In an attempt to deal quickly with a future avian flu outbreak, the N.C. Department of Agriculture is requiring that all chicken owners, no matter how many birds they own, register their birds with the state.

The requirement is part of plans the state has been putting into place so it can react quickly if an outbreak is spotted. So far, no cases of avian flu, also called bird flu, have been reported in the state, but it has caused widespread loss of chickens in many other states and created a nationwide egg shortage.

Even backyard-chicken owners should register, according to the NCDA. If a nearby farm is affected, the state wants to be able to alert anyone in the area quickly.

“In planning our response for highly pathogenic avian influenza, one problem we’ve come across is that we can’t protect birds that we don’t know exist,” said state veterinarian Doug Meckes. “We need to know where poultry are located so we can properly protect commercial and backyard flocks."

NCDA also is requiring any commercial poultry grower with 200 or more birds to submit a HPAI outbreak plan.

Even though avian flu hasn’t arrived in North Carolina, state officials have been working hard on plans to deal with it quickly if it does. In an earlier interview with The Observer, Jennifer Kendrick, an NCDA spokesperson, said the state created a task force in December and has sent teams to other states, like Minnesota, to help with depopulation. NCDA created a simpler way to make the machinery used to kill large flocks, which involves foam.

With $4.1 billion in direct-from-farm sales of poultry, North Carolina is No. 3 in the nation for the production of turkeys and broiler chickens.

In June, Kendrick said that the biggest concern in the state would come in the fall, when migratory birds that spread the disease begin their migration along the Eastern Seaboard.

An online form to register birds will be available by Aug. 1. For the form and more information on avian flu precautions, go to www.ncagr.gov/avianflu or www.ncagr.gov/ncfarmid.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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