Monroe farm forced to close for months after losing its entire flock to bird flu

MONROE, Wash. — An outbreak of bird flu at Hearth and Haven Farm in Monroe has forced the business to close for the remainder of 2023 after the outbreak led to a mass culling of the nearly 200 ducks on site.

Elaine Kellner is the owner and began the farm back in 2017. She never imagined an avian influenza outbreak would threaten to shut her down for good.

“It was Dec. 21. We found one bird who was acting off. She was really lethargic; she definitely wasn’t herself. Something was wrong,” Kellner said.

The next day, she said more birds were sick, so they called the Washington State Department of Agriculture. On Dec. 28, the test results confirmed positive results for bird flu.

“And on the 29th, they came out and destroyed every bird,” Kellner said.

It’s a federal requirement to euthanize the entire flock when any birds test positive to prevent the spread of the disease and because it’s humane.

“We were extremely sad personally,” she said. “We’re very attached to these birds, especially our pet birds, but the flock as a whole, we really cared for these birds.”

The farm is now under a four-month quarantine and wouldn’t be able to restock until April, but Kellner said it would take much longer to get back to where it was.

“And then another 4-6 months for them to be old enough to begin laying eggs, so at this point, that means we’re into November for our ducks to potentially begin laying. But birds that mature in the middle of winter don’t generally start laying until the days get longer in spring,” she said. “So we’re looking at March before we’re really hitting production for these new birds.”

With no guarantee this won’t happen again, she’s not sure what to do.

“It’s difficult emotionally, and it’s just impossible financially,” she said.

The farm has already lost revenue, and they’re out about $10,000 worth of feed they also can’t use.

Kellner said they’re getting about $6,000 from the government for the value of the birds, but that’s not nearly enough to cover what they need to rebuild.

While they’re in this waiting period, they’re pushing for a change in policy that focuses on prevention and not just elimination.

“We want to get lawmakers to fund studies like this. We want to pursue this; we want this to be a priority because consumers are already seeing the problems here, our shelves are empty, and the egg prices are soaring if we don’t fix this, it’s going to be hard to find breakfast,” she said.

Kellner has started a GoFundMe to help with costs during this difficult time. If you’d like to help, you can donate here.