Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak finally reaches Alaska

After watching the 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak spread across the country in recent months, it’s finally reached Alaska.

The first case was detected in a non-commercial backyard flock in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in late April. It was likely brought in by migratory birds, according to Alaska State Veterinarian Dr. Robert Gerlach.

The attached chart includes a variety of tasks for people raising chickens, ducks, and other fowl, and for birders who may see suspicious things happening to wild bird flocks. Please report any suspected cases to your veterinarian or Dr. Gerlach at 907-375-8215.

What you need to know about the 2022 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak

The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) has confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in commercial and backyard birds in numerous states.

HPAI can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl) and wild birds (especially waterfowl). With the recent detections of HPAI in wild birds and domestic poultry in the United States, bird owners should review their biosecurity practices and stay alert to protect poultry and pet birds from this disease. Non-bird owners should also know the signs and symptoms of this disease for situational awareness and to help with the ongoing surveillance efforts.

The clinical signs of birds with Avian Influenza include:

  • Sudden death without clinical signs
  • Decreased water consumption up to 72 hours before other clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and appetite
  • Decreased egg production
  • Soft–shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing, sneezing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Diarrhea

Both domestic and wild birds can be infected and show no signs of illness. Wild birds can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, potentially exposing domestic poultry to the virus. The following bio-safety guidelines are effective methods for safeguarding commercial operations, smaller flocks, and pet birds:

  • Backyard flock owners should practice strict biosecurity, including preventing birds from exposure and/or co-mingling with wild birds and other types of poultry.
  • Shower, change clothes, and clean and disinfect footwear before entering your poultry housing areas.
  • Respiratory protection such as a medical facemask, would also be important and remember to always wear clean clothes when encountering healthy domestic birds.
  • Carefully follow safe entry and exit procedures into your flock’s clean area.
  • Reduce the attractiveness for wild birds to stop at your place by cleaning up litter and spilled feed around poultry housing areas.
  • If you have free range guinea fowl and waterfowl, consider bringing them into coops or flight pens under nets to prevent interaction of domesticated poultry with wild birds and their droppings.
  • It is best to restrict visitors from interacting with your birds currently.
  • Do not touch sick or dead wildlife and keep them away from domestic poultry
  • Try not to handle sick or deceased domestic birds (if you must, use proper personal protective equipment to minimize direct contact and cautiously disinfect anything that comes into contact with the deceased and or sick bird).

The United States has the strongest Avian Influenza surveillance program in the world, where we actively look for the disease and provide fair market value compensation to affected producers to encourage reporting. Positive domestic cases are handled by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and its partners. Sick or deceased domestic birds should be reported to your local veterinarian. Sick or deceased domestic birds should be reported to your local veterinarian.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this strain of Avian Influenza is a low risk to the public. While the transmission rate from animals to humans is low, it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it can be shared between species.

• It’s time to … learn about how to raise chickens (March 25) and rabbits (April 8)


Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm grooms one of the rabbits she raises for yarn.


ChickensInCompostFor more than a year, the Sitka Local Foods Network has offered a variety of free garden education classes. Now we’re adding livestock classes as Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm has offered to teach Raising Chickens 101 and Raising Rabbits 101.

The Raising Chickens 101 class is from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 25, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking on Spruce Street). The Raising Rabbits 101 class is 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, at the Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall. Click here to check out the radio PSA.

“I am planning on tailoring the classes to who shows up (new chicken owners vs. those considering chickens) so it will go according to who is there and what they need to know, taking questions and sharing resources,” Bobbi said. “If people have something specific they want me to cover, they can message me on Facebook or call me 738-4481.”

The chicken class will cover a range of topics, including what breeds are best for eggs or meat, basic chicken coop info, how to prevent predators from getting into your flock, what types of feed you need, the advantages of chicken coop co-ops, the best time to get your chicks, etc. The rabbit class will cover topics such as what breeds are best for meat or yarn, rabbit feed types, how long it takes rabbits to reach maturity, how much cage space you need, etc.

These classes are free and open to all Sitka residents wanting to learn about chickens and rabbits. For more information about Sitka Local Foods Network education classes, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520 or 1-850-491-2666 (cell), or Michelle Putz at 747-2708. These are two of the many free classes being offered this year by the Sitka Local Foods Network education committee. Click here to get a full list of our upcoming spring classes.

• It’s time to … mark your calendars and get ready for spring with these garden and livestock education classes


Thinking about your garden, especially with our warm winter? It’s time to mark your calendars with several upcoming Spring 2015 garden classes offered by the Sitka Local Foods Network Education Committee.

GreensInHoopHouseStPetersThese free classes will cover a variety of topics, from gardening basics and choosing what veggies to grow in Sitka to learning about fruit tree pruning, composting and seed-starting. But wait, there’s more. We recently added classes on raising chickens and rabbits. Some of the classes have limited space and require preregistration, so sign up early.

We will be adding more classes to this list as they become available, so check the website for updates. We plan to post individual class announcements as we get closer to the actual class dates.

And now, here’s the list of classes so far:

  • Everyone Can Compost — 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, March 4, Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street), teacher Jennifer Carter, no preregistration required.
  • Fruit Tree Pruning Basics Workshop — 10 a.m., Saturday, March 7, St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm (behind St. Peter’s By The Sea Episcopal Church), teacher Jud Kirkness, no preregistration required.
  • Growing and Fertilizing Rhubarb — 11 a.m., Saturday, March 14, at the home of Perry Edwards/Michelle Putz (131 Shelikof), teachers Perry Edwards and Michelle Putz, no preregistration required.
  • Raising Chickens 101 — 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street), teacher Bobbi Daniels, no preregistration required.
  • Starting Vegetable Seedlings Workshop — 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, Harrigan Centennial Hall, teacher Jennifer Carter, learn how to start seedlings and go home with a tray of planted seeds, class limited to 15 people, preregistration required.
  • Raising Rabbits 101 — 6:30-8 p.m., Wednesday, April 8, Sitka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall (408 Marine Street, parking off Spruce Street), teacher Bobbi Daniels, no preregistration required.
  • Seed-Starting Basics — 2 p.m., Saturday, April 11, call for location (Michelle Putz, 747-2708), teacher Linda Wilson, class limited to 8-10 people, preregistration required.

We had 55 people attend our first two classes in January and February, kicking off a year-long series of education events on a variety of topics related to vegetable gardening, livestock, and food preservation in Sitka. Our garden mentor program classes also will be open to the public, once they start in April.

For more information or to sign up for classes requiring preregistration, contact Jennifer Carter at 747-0520 or 1-850-491-2666 (cell), or Michelle Putz at 747-2708.

• Spring 2015 garden education classes from the Sitka Local Foods Network (opens as PDF)

• Sitka residents team up to run neighborhood chicken coop co-ops

Some of the members of Le Coop, one of Sitka's chicken coop co-ops, pose with a few of their birds. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, other photos in story are by Charles Bingham)

Some of the members of Le Coop, one of Sitka’s chicken coop co-ops, pose with a few of their birds. (Daily Sitka Sentinel Photo by James Poulson, other photos in story are by Charles Bingham)

Many Sitka families joined the backyard agriculture movement by starting gardens, but they hesitated when it came time to take the next step — raising chickens.

Chickens require daily feeding and watering, protection from predators, and other care that can be daunting for novices. However, a few Sitka families found an easier way. There now are a couple of chicken coop-co-ops in town, where neighbors or friends team up to share the duties and expense of raising chickens.

LeCoopOne of these chicken coop co-ops, Le Coop, is hidden in a back corner of the Sheldon Jackson Campus, where seven families are raising about 30 hens and one rooster. Le Coop is about 15 feet by 80 feet, with a hen house flanked by two outdoor chicken runs. The fence surrounding Le Coop is electrified (buried at least a foot below the surface to keep out varmints), with netting over the top to protect the chickens from eagles and other raptors. Inside the hen house are a dust bath for the hens, food and water buckets, an egg-laying box, and shelf space to store supplies such as extra feed.

“The advantage are only being responsible one day a week for regular chores such as feed, water, opening/closing, etc. Everything else is done at the whim of individual enthusiasms, and occasional work parties,” said Jud Kirkness, one of the co-op members. “Plus seven families means that many more people finding useful materials and resources and splitting the feed bill seven ways.”

LauraSchmidtWatchesChickensFeedLaura Schmidt, who Jud called the lead organizer/treasurer of the group, said there are six families of four and one couple, so 26 people. “About one person per hen,” she said. ” Each family typically gets about 18-30 eggs on their chicken duty day, with the hens laying more eggs in the summer.

Most of the hens were purchased as chicks last spring, and there are 15 each of red leghorns and black stars. The white rooster is of indeterminate origin, and he was added to the flock when another coop was culling its flock. Many people who raise chickens don’t like to keep roosters, but Laura said this one is small and the hens seem to be able to handle him.

The members of Le Coop have various levels of experience with raising chickens, and Erika Knox said Laura and Jud are the most experienced so they have been mentoring the other families. Erika said she wouldn’t be able to raise chickens at her house because there isn’t enough space, and lately she had to stop composting at home due to rats and other varmints getting into it.

EggsInLayingBox“This is a nice place to bring my compost, and the chickens love it,” Erika said. “It’s nice to have eggs that are fresh and organic. I give some away.”

Roger Schmidt and Kristen Homer called themselves the weak links of the group. “We just collect eggs,” Kristen said. “We let them (Laura and Jud) tell us what needs to be done.”

“It’s great because we have chicken experts like Jud and Laura, and we’ve got building experts,” said Roger, Laura’s brother and the director of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, which owns the Sheldon Jackson Campus where Le Coop is located. He said there have been a couple of occasions when he was in a meeting on campus and suddenly remembered he had chicken duty that day.

RedLeghornAndRoosterBesides being able to share duties and costs with the chicken coop co-op, another advantage to having Le Coop on campus is the learning experiences it provides.

“It’s good for the kids. They learn a lot about chickens,” Roger said. “I bring the Head Start kids back here all the time to check on the chickens.”

“The kids love it,” Kristen said. “Razie Guillory (Laura’s daughter) did a science project charting the growth of the hens, and Asa Dow is doing a project about the economics of the co-op.”

Jud said as soon as he gets this chicken coop to where he wants it, he plans to start another chicken coop co-op for other Sitka families. “I hope it provides some inspiration.”

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• Rabbit, goat highlight Sawmill Farm’s farm-to-table dinner at Ludvig’s Bistro


Locally raised rabbit and goat meat from Ketchikan were the highlights of a fundraising farm-to-table dinner for the Sawmill Farm on Jan. 31 at Ludvig’s Bistro.

In an effort to raise seed money for her Sawmill Farm project, Bobbi Daniels worked with Ludvig’s Bistro owner/chef Colette Nelson to create a five-course meal featuring locally sourced food from Sitka and Southeast Alaska. Tickets were $75 per plate for the function.

Bobbi already is raising rabbits in town, and she said goats also do well in Sitka. Bobbi hopes to find a large enough lot so she can grow enough rabbits to supply local stores with meat. She said rabbit meat is one of the cleanest meats as far as toxins, and it only takes 10 weeks to raise a rabbit to harvest size. The Sawmill Farm was one of 12 semifinalists in the recent Path to Prosperity economic development contest sponsored by the Nature Conservancy and Haa Aaní Community Development Fund, and now is competing for the people’s choice award.

Working with local farmers and gardeners, Bobbi and Colette created five-course meal that featured:

  • rabbit terrine with farm egg, beach asparagus and mustard;
  • leek, heirloom tomato, zucchini and rabbit consommé with sprouted wheat bread;
  • Moroccan goat stew with ginger, preserved lemons, potatoes, dates and almonds, served with white satin carrot salad and balsamic beets;
  • grilled rabbit thigh served with aioli, Inca Bella potato purée and sautéed garlic kale; and
  • Russian pavlova with huckleberry, rhubarb, currants and Sitka rose sugar.

A variety of gardens and farms provided the food used for the meal. The Sawmill Farm supplied the rabbits and wheat berries, Sivertsen Farm in Ketchikan provided the goat, Lori Adams of Down-To-Earth U-Pick Garden supplied winter kale, Sara Taranof provided farm eggs, Linda Walker provided garlic, huckleberries, rhubarb and currants, and Florence Welsh of Forget-Me-Not Garden supplied white satin and orange carrots, heirloom tomatoes, red rose potatoes, Inca Bella potatoes, leeks, zucchini, beets, raspberry preserves and beach asparagus.

Scenes from the meal are in a slideshow below:

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• The Sawmill Farm to host Farm-to-Table Dinner on Jan. 31 at Ludvig’s Bistro

Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm grooms a rabbit at The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber store on Katlian Street. Bobbi raises some rabbits for their hair (to make yarn) and others for meat.

Bobbi Daniels of The Sawmill Farm grooms a rabbit at The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber store on Katlian Street. Bobbi raises some rabbits for their hair (to make yarn) and others for meat.

Want to see and taste some of the local food possibilities in Sitka? The Sawmill Farm will host a Farm-to-Table Dinner with two seatings (at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.) on Saturday, Jan. 31, at Ludvig’s Bistro (256 Katlian St.). Ludvig’s Bistro owner/chef Colette Nelson will be preparing the meals.

“We will be featuring locally grown foods as much as possible,” said Bobbi Daniels, co-owner of The Sawmill Farm. “This will include rabbit, eggs and vegetables, among other things.”

Tickets are $75 each, and seating is limited with only 25 people per session. To make reservations, call Bobbi at 738-4481 or send a message to The Sawmill Farm’s Facebook page.

p2p-bobbi-daniels-560x400The Sawmill Farm is bringing commercial agriculture to Sitka, and supporting Sitkans who are maintaining their own backyard operations. The farm will raise rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs, and more. It also has a feed store. The Sawmill Farm is one of 12 semifinalists for fledgling Southeast Alaska businesses in the Path to Prosperity contest sponsored by The Nature Conservancy and Haa Aaní LLC (the economic development arm of Sealaska). The three winners, which will be announced in late January, will each receive $40,000 to help their businesses grow.

“The Sawmill Farm is working to produce locally and humanely raised, hormone and antibiotic free livestock and poultry in Sitka using the cast-off food from the grocery stores and restaurants,” Bobbi said. “Currently the city is paying highest disposal rate that is charged to have this food barged as ‘non-recyclable garbage’ to a landfill in eastern Washington. The bottom line is Sitka pays out a fortune to barge perfect pig food to Washington and then we barge corporate factory farmed pork chops back to Sitka. The Sawmill Farm wants to stop the insanity, keep that food and money local, create jobs and produce healthy meat.

“The Sawmill Farm also will support Sitkans who have their own backyard poultry and livestock. We will be selling feed, hay and straw, along with poultry chicks, and baby and adult rabbits. We have started carrying Scratch and Peck organic poultry and goat feeds, and will shortly be adding hay and straw.”

The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber store opened in August 2014, on Katlian Street, across from the Alaska Native Brotherhood Founders Hall. A photo slideshow of The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber Store is posted below.

“The feed store is stocked with assorted organic poultry and goat feeds, and straight grains for mixing feeds, to supplement livestock diets or for growing fodder,” Bobbi said. “We also have non-organic rabbit feed, hay and straw, and supplemental products such as poultry grit and diatomaceous earth (DE). We still do not have any set retail hours so, again, message us on Facebook or call 738-4481 and we’ll meet the customer there and get them taken care of.”

• The Sawmill Farm Feed and Fiber price list from August 2014

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• Let’s Grow Sitka garden education event is Sunday, March 20

Mark your calendars, because the 2011 “Let’s Grow Sitka” gardening education event opens at noon and runs until 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 20, at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Katlian Street. Celebrate the first day of spring and get ready to garden.

This annual event brings together local garden supply stores, local gardeners, landscapers and anybody who is interested in learning how to grow food and/or flowers. This year’s theme is “Adding edibles to your landscape — focus on fruit trees and berry bushes.”

Master Gardener Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau will be on hand to provide expertise during the show. Buyarski will give a special presentation on “Growing Fruit in Southeast Alaska” at 11 a.m. on March 20 at ANB Hall (just before the show opens).

Buyarski also will lead some free hands-on tree pruning workshops on Saturday, March 19, with the first tree pruning workshop at 10:30 a.m. at the trees outside Patty Bickar’s house, 310 Cascade (at the top of the hill). The tree pruning workshops will continue Saturday afternoon at the trees outside the home of Tory O’Connell, 608 Etolin Way (off Baranof Street downtown). Buyarski will provide instruction on how to properly prune the trees and bushes to encourage fruit production and maintain healthy growth. Pruning needs to be done before the trees bud, so NOW is the time to get it done. The tree pruning workshops are hosted by the Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative.

The Sitka Local Foods Network encourages people to share their knowledge by hosting a booth or posting an educational display about a specific garden topic. We especially want people with experience growing fruit trees to share their knowledge about growing apple, cherry or crabapple trees in Sitka; growing strawberries; growing rhubarb; growing unusual berry varieties that do well in our climate such as aronia, sea buckthorn, honeysuckle (fruiting), gooseberry, currant and elderberry; and how to legally transplant and cultivate wild berry bushes to your property.

In addition, you can learn about home greenhouses, how to prepare your soil, how to raise chickens and what to do with all those slugs. Buy seeds and plant starts. Swap ideas and tips. Come learn, share, and get ready to grow your garden. Learn about plans for the Sitka Farmers Markets this summer. Let’s Grow Sitka is organized by the Sitka Local Foods Network and is part of the Arti Gras Sitka Music and Arts Festival, which takes place March 6-20.

There still are a few FREE tables available for vendors, education and demonstrations. For more information about Let’s Grow Sitka or to reserve table space, contact Linda Wilson at lawilson87@hotmail.com or call her at 747-3096 (in the evenings or on weekends only). She also has information about the tree pruning workshops.

Master gardeners are encouraged to sign up to share their personal experience on how to create a successful garden in Sitka. Also, anyone with a garden-related product or service to sell is invited to participate. Some of the expected booths are from:

  • True Value Garden Center (type Sitka or 99835 into the store locator search bar) — garden supplies
  • White’s, Inc/Harry Race Pharmacy — garden books, magazines, accessories
  • Garden Ventures — lots of lovely primroses for sale along with garden supplies
  • Lori Adams — Down-To-Earth U-Pick garden promotion
  • Andrew Thoms — raising chickens and chicks for sale (Andrew suggests anybody wanting to buy chicks contact him as soon as possible so he can start incubating the eggs. He can be reached at 747-3747 or andrew@sitkawild.org.)
  • Eve Grutter — jams for sale, garden and raising chickens expertise to share
  • Sitka Local Foods Network — garden information and volunteer sign up
  • Sitka Farmers Market — tomato plant starts for sale, Farmers Market information
  • St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm — seed starter kits
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — information on growing your own fruit trees and berry bushes in Sitka
  • Sitka Fruit Tree Initiative — community fruit tree mapping project
  • Sitka Seed Savers — information on how to save your own garden seed, and a sign up to participate in an educational workshop on how to save vegetable seed and start a seed savers group in Sitka
  • Display and information handouts on growing rhubarb and its nutritional benefits
  • UAF Cooperative Extension Service — lots of free garden handouts
  • Ed Buyarski of Ed’s Edible Landscaping in Juneau — edible landscaping

• Let’s Grow Sitka event flier for March 20, 2011, at ANB Hall (please print and post around town)