A new strain of bird flu sweeping Canada and the world is now in British Columbia and a West Kootenay chicken farmer says she may have wiped out 80% of her flock.
Peggy Ife farms near Burton, a small rural community in southeast British Columbia, and says her flock of 70 chickens was down to a dozen after just four days.
“They were literally dropping dead,” she said Radio West host Sarah Penton.
She expects that within the next two days her entire herd will be gone.
Ife said some of his birds were lethargic and uninterested in food. After some research, she determined that it was likely her birds had contracted bird flu.
“I know my daughters very well because I spend a lot of time with them,” she said.
Her “daughters” have been with her for several years; one of the chickens she lost had reached the ripe old age of 14.
“Some people think it’s a little funny, but I call it my therapy. If I’m having a bad day or things aren’t going well, I go downstairs and spend the day talking to the girls,” Ife said. .
“They’re just kind of like my kids.”
She believes the bird feeders, intended for wild birds in the area, spread the virus to her domestic chickens.
According to Environment Canada researcher Jennifer Provencher, bird flu is common, but this particular strain is deadlier than others. It is transmitted through oral and fecal secretions.
Authorities in other provinces are advising residents to temporarily stop filling their feeders and birdbaths to reduce the spread of the virus.
Ife says investigators from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) visited his farm on Monday to determine the cause of death, as it may not be avian flu. She expects to hear the results on Wednesday.
However, last week a poultry farm in Enderby, in the North Okanagan, British Columbia, was placed under quarantine after the virus was detected in its flock, according to CFIA.
On Monday, the British Columbia Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced that new cases had been identified in a backyard poultry farm in Kelowna.
Additionally, a bald eagle found in Delta tested positive for the virus, making it the second bald eagle to test positive, following the one in Vancouver in February.
The province is urging poultry farmers to be vigilant and put in place preventative measures, such as eliminating or reducing opportunities for contact with wild birds, reducing human access to the flock, and increasing cleaning and disinfection.
Provencher said bird flu can make any bird sick, and it’s important to watch for signs of the virus and report any suspicions to authorities.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, symptoms include tremors, lack of coordination, swelling around the head, neck and eyes, lack of energy, coughing, gasping, diarrhea or sudden death. .
Sick birds should be reported to the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development at 250-751-3234 in British Columbia, or the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative at 1- 800-567-2033.
Radio West17:33Bird flu is suspected as the cause of death that killed dozens of chickens on a farm in British Columbia