A family of hatcheries...

Avian Flu Outbreak 2022: How It’s Affecting Flocks and Egg Prices

A rooster with black feathers and a red comb with avian flu references in text around him.

If you own a commercial poultry operation or have backyard flocks of chickens, then you are likely concerned about the recent bird flu news. There is an avian flu outbreak in the United States and other countries, affecting domestic poultry and wild birds. This highly contagious disease can quickly kill an entire flock of chickens, and those who survive likely need euthanization to prevent the disease from spreading further.

In addition, you may be wondering if this recent disease is why egg prices are so high in 2022. This cost increase is in part due to this outbreak, making it even more critical to end this variant of avian influenza virus.

So, what can you do about it? First, you need to learn more about the recent bird flu outbreaks and the signs of infection in your birds. Then, take steps to increase your company’s biosecurity, and if your birds show signs of the disease, make plans to cull your operations. We at Freedom Ranger Hatchery understand your worry and concern, but we hope this information helps you protect your flock.

What Is Avian Flu 2022?

The avian flu is an influenza virus that naturally occurs among birds. It’s known as influenza A viruses, and the H5N1 variant is deadly to domestic fowl like chickens. Birds get it from saliva, nasal secretions, and feces of other infected birds, making it a disease that quickly spreads from bird to bird. Unfortunately, the only way to stop it is to euthanize the birds with the disease.

In February of 2022, the CDC reported multiple detections of a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the U.S. commercial poultry and backyard flocks. The bird flu had been found in 13 states by March, with Iowa being the most affected state.

On April 28, 2022, medical professionals identified the first human case of avian influenza in the United States in Colorado. This person was in direct contact with infected birds and reported fatigue for a few days as their only symptom. The patient is being treated with an antiviral drug known as oseltamivir and is isolated from others. The detection of the H5 virus was in the nasal membrane.

The Impact in Lancaster County, PA

Freedom Ranger Hatchery and its family of hatcheries are in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and our area is not immune to this virus. As of April 28, 2022, 35,515,949 poultry birds have been affected by the avian flu in 29 states. In Lancaster County, there have been 3,825,800 birds affected, which is about 10% of the overall number of birds involved in the United States.

As of writing this article, none of the hatcheries in Freedom Ranger’s family have been affected by the H5N1 bird flu. Once we heard of this rapidly spreading disease, we took precautions to protect our farms, chickens, baby chicks, eggs, and workers from contracting the disease.

Can Humans Contract Bird Flu?

Yes, humans can contract the bird flu. As we mentioned earlier, at the end of April 2022, the first case was reported in North America, which is the second overall case since this particular strain of bird flu started in 2021. The first case was in the United Kingdom in December of 2021.

However, you can note that the risk of birds infecting people is low and does not typically occur. People who have job-related or recreational exposure to birds are at an increased risk.

Can You Get Bird Flu from Eating Chicken?

There is no risk of getting the bird flu from eating chicken if it’s cooked properly. Always cook your chicken to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all bacteria and viruses, including the H5N1 virus.

What Are the Symptoms of Avian Influenza?

When you own domestic fowl, you need to be especially aware of the symptoms of avian influenza. Look for these symptoms in your chickens:

  • Gasping
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid death
  • Swelling in the head, neck, or eyes
  • Purple combs

If you notice these signs, immediately isolate the bird, as you should with any sick chicken treatment, and contact your veterinarian and the state department of public health. You can learn how to euthanize your birds humanely here.

You should also monitor your own infection with avian flu and be on the lookout for these symptoms among you, your workers, or family members:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath

If you have these symptoms after coming in contact with a bird, immediately quarantine yourself and contact your state agency to get tested.

How Do You Prevent Bird Flu in Chickens?

One of the most important things you can do to protect your chickens is to increase your biosecurity. Take these precautions:

  1. Be sure to separate your flock from disease sources, such as wildlife and wild birds or other domestic poultry, at yards, swaps, shows, livestock auctions, or feed stores.
  2. Keep your farm, backyard, and equipment clean and free from rodents and flies.
  3. Separate new birds or returning birds from the rest of the flock for at least 30 days.
  4. Don’t share equipment with neighbors.
  5. Only add chickens to your flock that come from an NPIP-certified hatchery, like Freedom Ranger Hatchery.
  6. Don’t attract wild birds to the area with birdbaths, open chicken feeders, standing water, or wild bird feeders.
  7. Report signs of the disease to a state agency or veterinarian.

Are Egg Prices So High in 2022 Because of the Bird Flu Outbreak?

A wire basket full of fresh eggs on a wooden table.

Now that you understand what the avian flu is and how it’s widely affecting so many chicken operations, you likely have an idea now of why egg prices are so high in 2022. As with most things, costs increase with increased demand for eggs and low egg supply. Yes, the death of so many egg-laying chickens with the bird flu is causing a decrease in the number of eggs available in the supermarket, making the price for those that are available go up.

According to the Consumer Price Index published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, egg prices were already up 11.4% since the year before. Combine that with inflation, the high demand for eggs over the Easter season, and the rampant bird flu, and it equates to why egg prices are so high in 2022.

Keep in mind that the high egg prices and lower supply can affect other aspects of the supply chain. Think of the food manufacturers who use eggs in their goods. It may have a downstream effect on those prices as well.

Can I Still Order Baby Chicks from Freedom Ranger’s Family of Hatcheries?

Yes, you can still order baby chicks from Freedom Ranger Hatchery. We take the utmost precautions in delivering healthy, high-quality baby chicks from our family of hatcheries. You have the option to vaccinate your chicks for Marek’s disease before they even get to you, which should also help you to keep your flock healthy.

You have our deepest condolences if your poultry farm or backyard chickens were affected by the recent avian flu outbreak. We know that chickens are often part of the family, and many operations are run on family farms. Losing your chickens to disease is never what anyone wants, but when it does happen, you can rest assured that you can always come back to Freedom Ranger Hatchery to replenish your chickens and begin again.