Fire at Perdue Farms research facility kills 8,000 chicks

Perdue FarmsPocomoke City

Officials in Worcester County are investigating the cause of a fire at a Perdue Farms research facility that destroyed two poultry houses and killed 8,000 chicks.

The fire broke out at 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, more than an hour after the four workers on duty to care for the birds had ended their day and left the farm in Pocomoke City, said Julie DeYoung, a Perdue spokeswoman. The fire in the 8-year-old, 22,500-square-foot buildings — two of 15 poultry houses on site — is being investigated by the Worcester County Fire Marshal, DeYoung said.

Perdue has operated the "pedigree research farm," since the 1970s and uses it to develop breeding programs and conduct research on feed, nutrition and poultry health. The farm, separate from the company's headquarters in Salisbury, houses a small hatchery where the pedigree stock is hatched and placed into the houses. Those birds are raised for up to seven weeks, with 10 to 15 percent chosen to produce the "grandparent" stock of the commercial birds that are then raised by independent farms.

DeYoung said it is still unknown whether the fire will have an impact on the research program.

"It's obviously something you never want to have happen," DeYoung said. "At a research facility, you hate to lose any progress you may be making."

Lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com

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