The Midwest is currently dealing with a big outbreak of avian flu among poultry populations. Officials have taken a number of precautions, including banning birds from fairs in Minnesota. Which means that kids raising chickens for 4-H competitions at county fairs have been forced to get creative.

The Star-Tribune reports:

As county fairs roll out across the state leading up to the State Fair at the end of this month, children who raise and study poultry for 4-H competitions are scrambling to find creative ways to stay involved. Instead of bringing birds to the fairs, they are making posters, taking quizzes, demonstrating showmanship based on pictures or using stuffed animals.

Yes, stuffed animals, which has got to feel a little ignominious for a kid who’s spent months raising up actual livestock. Anybody who hangs in there has a chance at a bigger reward, though:

Winners typically earn $6 in all livestock categories. This year, poultry competitors who do a presentation on avian flu have a chance to take home up to $80 for acing their 4-H demonstrations, thanks to industry donations, Rugg said.

And a 14-year-old competitor admitted that, “We’ll get more sleep, and we won’t smell like wet chicken anymore.”

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But it’s just not the same. The Star-Tribune spoke to one disappointed mom, watching her six-year-old posing for photos with a stuffed toy instead of his real, live chickens. Her kid was keeping it pretty philosophical, though: “It’s still OK, because I like chickens.” Chickens are pretty great, kid.


Contact the author at kelly@jezebel.com.