ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — This year, the poultry barns have a much different look at the Minnesota State Fair. Live birds are banned to prevent the spread of the avian flu.

That decision had a big impact on the 4H and Future Farmer’s of America program.

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Back in May, when state health officials made the decision to ban poultry, many kids wondered if they’d still get a chance to compete at the county and state level. The 4H and FFA found a way and this year, becoming a poultry champion had nothing to do with the actual bird.

Weeks before the Minnesota State Fair and Alex Scheglowski’s chickens aren’t ready for show. He hatched a few birds late, knowing the ban this year.

“We normally take these to the fair,” he said. “This year, because of the avian flu, we’re not bringing any chickens to the fair. It’s a sanitation thing.”

But the 14-year-old still has every intention of making it to the state’s biggest stage.

“I did a project on chicken tractors,” he said.

Teens in the 4-H program can still compete with projects and displays that relate to the poultry industry. Alex always saw the value of a moveable coop, and now he finally had a reason to build it.

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“It cuts down a ton on feed costs and increases egg quality, actually,” Scheglowski said.

The wood and chicken wire contraption are placed in a yard with birds inside, along with food and water. Once the birds have eaten, the chicken tractor is easily moved to a new location at least once a day.

For competition purposes, Scheglowski downsized his actual project.

“This is my display board, which just tells you what chicken tractors are, and my experiences with them,” he said.

Having never won a spot in the state fair’s poultry program, for Scheglowski, the year of no birds could be the most rewarding.

“That would be quite an accomplishment,” he said. “That would be really cool.”

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Scheglowski won grand champion at the Dakota County fair for his chicken tractor. It’s currently on display here at the State Fair, but he decided not to compete in the poultry competition on this level.