The Spanish government says it is ordering up to 10 million doses of anti-viral drugs, although their effectiveness against H5N1 is unknown. France has ordered millions of doses, delivering 50 million masks to hospitals and ordering 200 million more.
The precautions in the Netherlands and by farmers worldwide come from experience. Since 2003, about 140 million birds, nearly all of them chickens, have been killed or culled. Fears of illness from eating infected or potentially infected meat or eggs -- unfounded fears, according to health experts -- have driven prices down for farmers at the same time less product is being sold.
Hard to save up
And trying to save for the next catastrophe is not easy, as Mans, Witlox and their numbers demonstrate.
Mans works on an unforgiving margin, buying the birds for $3.50 each, spending $9 on food and expenses as utilities on each bird over its lifetime. From that $12.50 outlay, he hopes for a return of $13 on the eggs from each chicken, and that bonus 25 cents at slaughter.
He buys 120,000 day-old chicks at a time, paying about 35 cents for each. Each bird costs about $1.19 to feed during its six- or seven-week life, and for extras, such as heating, farm hands and insurance, he budgets another 54 cents a bird. That comes to $2.08 to raise each chicken, which he grows to about 2.7 kilograms, or about 6 pounds. His return on each bird: 30 cents.
He gets nothing for the 400 or so that die from a variety of reasons, not including avian flu.
"I was not born a farmer," said Witlox, who started with 20,000 chickens 20 years ago. "So maybe my story will be that I was not born a farmer and I will not die a farmer, but I cannot think that way. I want my story to be that I became a farmer and was successful and no flu would beat me."