As most of you know (or do you?!) Avian Flu has been diagnosed at several sites across the UK and the UK poultry flock is now on lockdown for the foreseeable future. I question that you might know this as it seems to be a bit of a secret and several folk who keep chickens tell me that they know nothing about it, when I ask how they are keeping their birds safe. As a registered smallholding, we are informed of such things by DEFRA or APHA and instructed as to what we must do........
The instruction are to keep your poultry away from wild birds. Avian flu tends to be spread by migrating birds, so it is important that ponds are covered as are feeding and watering stations for your chickens, ducks etc. and you are instructed not to encourage wild birds by feeding them. Your hens should be housed, that is kept in totally in their houses or at least to cover their run in such a way that neither wild birds nor their feaces can come into contact. Foot baths should be placed at the entrance to your hen houses and strict hygiene should be practiced.
Now I get all of this I really do and am doing my best. However ( you heard that coming didn't you?) Our set-up makes the carrying out of some of these instructions rather challenging. Let us take our relationship with wild birds. Our organic smallholding has been developed to attract and nurture wild birds. Even if we did not fill the feeders dotted around the place, the many shrubs we have planted or left to seed to provide both winter food and shelter and the twenty or so birdboxes we have put up tend to be a bit of a magnet for our feathered friends. Water from our roofs and water drains is channeled towards the pond in the orchard where our hens live, this serves the hens and the wild birds.
We have 44 hens who live in various hen houses dotted around our little orchard, which is allegedly fox proof . The hens adopt a favoured place and friends and that is where they sleep at night, apart from five that insist on sleeping high up in the large plum tree winter and summer, Every night I lock up all the houses, just in case Remus digs his way in and every morning I let them out of their houses and out of the orchard and off they go the enjoy two lovely acres.
As you can see, this system does not lend itself to lockdown, but lockdown we must. Avain Flu can cross species and can be caught (rarely) by humans as well as other birds. Just what we need in a pandemic!. If Avian Flu is found in your flock then the flock must be destroyed.. think Foot and Mouth. Non of this do we want, so tomorrow copious quantities of fine mess will be delivered and I will construct an enclosure that I hope will serve. Last week I covered the feeding areas, netted the pond and arranged all the houses in a semi circle around the pond (it looks a bit like a wild west stand off of wagons!)
I am hoping that my grandson, who is six foot three will be here to give me a hand and will take pictures for those interested.
All for now
Love Gill x