“In May, when things started really happening, we started discussing what we were going to do to and how we were going to protect our strains,” says Bud Wood is president of Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City.
The business sells about 100 different breeds of baby chicks worldwide.
“Some of our breeds are quite rare,” Wood says. “There are some breeds that we would be hard-pressed to find breeding stock and build back a flock if we would lose ours.”
On May 27, when bird flu was found in turkey barns that were within eight miles of Wood’s hatchery, Wood and his staff had to act.
“We could end up in a control zone,” Wood says, “and then we couldn’t move them at all.”
So, Wood transferred almost 4000 newborn chicks, to save the rare breeds of birds.
“Friday night was out hatch and then Saturday morning at about one in the morning we took off and drove them down to Texas,” Wood says.
About 75 different breeds of chickens from Wood’s hatchery are now in Texas. Wood’s hatchery manager suggested they call it their “Noah’s Ark” list of breeds. With uncertainty about the bird flu’s return once birds start migrating again and temperatures drop, Wood isn’t sure what his company will do in the long-term to protect against the loss of birds that come from extremely rare breeds.
“I have a feeling that we’ll need to do something on a permanent basis,” he says. “I just don’t know what it is yet.”
Wood is assuring customers that none of the company’s rare birds have been infected with the avian flu.
“People are buying them for their feather patterns and colors and their uniqueness,” Wood says. “…And the color of their eggs.”
Some of these chicken breeds lay brown eggs, others lay blue eggs. One of the rare breeds Wood’s company sells is called Cochins — chickens with lots of fluffy feathers and some of the feathers cover the chicken’s feet.