Bird Flu Confirmed in Butler County Chicken Flock, 570,000 Birds Will be Culled

March 22, 2022, 5:30 p.m. ·

Chickens lined up in metal cages with a trough for eggs below each row of chickens.
Poultry and egg-laying operations throughout the Midwest are combating the spread of avian flu. (Photo by Kathleen Masterson, Harvest Public Media)

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Bird flu was detected in a flock of more than half a million chickens in Butler county, about forty miles northwest of Lincoln. It’s the third confirmed case in Nebraska, but the first to reach a large commercial chicken flock.

The disease, which is highly contagious and lethal to domesticated birds but not harmful to humans, has also been found in wild geese and a backyard coop in Nebraska.

“First I think about the grower, and the work they put into caring for the birds and then it has to be difficult for them to see them get sick,” Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Steve Wellman said. “And then we ask: What do we do to control the spread so other growers don't have to deal with the situation?”

The Butler county farm raised alarm bells after noticing a higher-than-usual death rate among its birds. The chickens will now be euthanized. The ag department is quarantining the farm and setting up a control zone around the area to contain the disease.

Wellman said the agency is in close communication with poultry farmers and has strong biosecurity protocols in place.

Bird flu has also hit commercial and backyard poultry flocks in South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and other states. Nearly 14 million birds have been killed since early February.

Wellman said he couldn’t predict if the disease will reach another Nebraskan flock.

“It's quite possible that the wild waterfowl coming through the state could spread the disease to other areas,” he said. “But we’ll deal with that if it comes and do our best now to contain it where it’s at and keep the disease restricted to this one location.”