AMHERST, Wis. — The birds were on display at the Portage County Fair in Amherst.
Ciara Waltenberg, 13, showed her flock of chickens, ducks, and other poultry at the fair.
“All of them are so unique and they all have their own different temperament and standards so you have to know so much and I really like it,” said Ciara Waltenberg.
She said she’s glad to be able to show them at all. That’s because until recently, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection restricted the movement of poultry as a measure to prevent the spread of avian influenza.
DATCP lifted the restrictions in June, just in time for fair season.
“I’m really glad that it did happen because while there isn’t that big of a turnout this year, it’s still going to be very fun,” Ciara Waltenberg said.
Michelle Waltenberg is Ciara’s mother. She’s also the fair’s poultry superintendent. She said some families decided to keep their flocks away from the fair this year.
“Our numbers are down this year, though unfortunately, just because of the avian bird flu,” Michelle Waltenberg said. “A lot of kids are concerned about it, which is rightfully so.”
Ron Kean is a poultry specialist for UW-Extension. He said poultry at fairs should be safe since it’s the summer and the avian flu typically flourishes in cooler weather. Still, he said, people should proceed with caution.
“Hopefully we’ll be okay,” Kean said. “I think people show practice biosecurity.”
By that he means washing hands when handling the birds, cleaning and disinfecting any equipment used to move or house the birds, and change clothes before heading back home to other birds. Kean said these steps are crucial as avian influenza is still active among the wild bird population in Wisconsin which puts poultry at risk.
Michelle Waltenberg said everyone at the fair is required to follow biosecurity guidelines.
Ciara Waltenberg said there’s nothing more important to her than keeping her birds safe.
“They are animals and they should be kept safe as they can’t really control where they are and how they are,” Ciara Waltenberg said.