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Avian flu outbreak hits West Tennessee, local farmers see rising demand for eggs

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There is no escaping higher egg prices, driven in large part by an unprecedented outbreak of avian flu. It's causing a surge in demand for local eggs as farmers try to protect their flocks.

An outbreak of avian flu in West Tennessee last week is the eighth in the state in the last year. The loss of 58 million birds nation-wide is driving up prices and the demand for local options.

Carter County farmer Steven Williams mostly raised chickens for his own family, until now.

"I've had probably a dozen customers over the past week or so,” Williams said. “Going back months, I've had probably half of the town ask me if I have supplies.”

He said the outbreak is the latest struggle, on top of rising feed costs driven by supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine.

“My biggest issue is the wild geese and the wild ducks. I have to fire shots in the air to scare them away,“ Williams said.

State poultry expert Tom Tabler said that's the leading cause of the spread.

"If a flock of wild geese or wild ducks fly over your farm or your backyard chicken pen, and they drop manure in your backyard chicken pen, or say between house one and house two of a commercial chicken farm, and you walk through that manure,” Tabler explained.

He recommends farmers keep their chickens isolated. The virus can also be spread from other farmers visiting, sharing tools without washing and disinfecting them, and even on your shoes at farm supply stores.

There is no cure. The entire flock has to be killed within 24 to 48 hours, the farm disinfected, and often every bird in a several mile radius is monitored.

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"It's not like you can clean it up this week and get birds back next week,” Tabler said. “It's going to take a while, and by a while, I mean two or three months."

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