Back in November 2016 the Ladies had it all. They could roam wherever they fancied which occasionally included my kitchen, if they managed to sneak in. They especially enjoyed unsuspecting guests dining alfresco during warmer times.
Then on the 6th December, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced the news about Avian Influenza (bird flu). You could see it was going to happen. I’d been following stories and new it wouldn’t be long before we’d have to lock all poultry indoors. Now it was here initially until 6th January 2017.
Avian influenza – DEFRA UK
We only have half a dozen hens at present so I can’t complain. I felt for those who have larger numbers especially those who raise them for commercial purposes. It doesn’t matter whether you have 2 or 1000 poultry, they all need to be housed with no roaming outside. Pens need to be covered to stop other wild fowl from depositing their possible contaminated droppings into the pens. Also appropriate disinfectants should be used on footwear before entering the pen.
Signs to look out for are:-
- swollen head
- blue discolouration of neck and throat
- loss of appetite
- respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
- fewer eggs laid
- increased mortality
More can be found on the website DEFRA
To begin with the Ladies were quite content but slowly over the weeks some are becoming quite bored. I’ve introduced logs with grubs, a couple of structures for different heights to stand on, even a traffic cone as they supposedly like florescent strips to peck at. Two of the hens rarely go into their covered outdoor pen and they all go to roost earlier than ever despite the daylight hours increasing. They’re just bored.
Today I threw a load of straw for them to sort out and scattered a little mixed grain on top. I don’t want to encourage rats so I didn’t scatter too much. My partner suggested mealworms – what a great idea! They were delighted with the new treat; “Thanks Hun.”
At present the deadline is February 2017 but it’s soon to change again. I don’t want to tempt fait but in our area it maybe being lifted as a temporary measure but this has yet to be announced.
The old and the new Ladies are here together in one place but wow what a week of turmoil it’s been! It’s like having a load of hormonal teenagers at home – I’m laughing to myself.
The first couple of weeks with the three new Ladies went well. Everyone went to bed where they were supposed to and slowly the group has begun to merge at times during the day. It felt like progress until Tuesday evening.
I always check that all the Ladies are accounted for each evening. There were only two of the new Ladies in their house. So I set about trying find her at dusk. I failed but at 6am the following morning, there was Lucy at my kitchen patio doors. She was demanding breakfast! I grabbed my wellies and a jacket, picked her up and took her back to her house.
That evening at dusk, I watched the trio wonder across the garden towards our Hampshire gate heading for home. All of a sudden Lucy stops and doubles back. What’s she up to? I thought to myself. She must have heard me in the kitchen as she looked straight at me. It must have looked like a real comedy as I spent the next few minutes ducking every few seconds as I watched to see what she was up to.
Opposite the kitchen is very narrow hedge. Lucy was looking up and down at it. At one point I thought she was going to fly up at the windows of the old barn but she ducked inside the bush. I waited a few minutes to see if she’d remerge but she didn’t. The bush was so condensed I ended up having to ask one of our holiday guests to hold the hedge back whilst I pulled her out. Lucy wasn’t amused as I took her home.
Next I discovered Spangle was missing! I found her fairly quickly fortunately, she was broody and clucking away in an outside nestbox. I returned her to the house and shut the door. However, I noticed a dead rat on the floor in the pen! Tried as I might I couldn’t remove despite telling myself out loud that it was dead. I walked next door to borrow a neighbour. So the rat was dealt with but Spangle had escaped again. She was just nestling down in the outside nestbox looking very proud of herself. I picked her up and let her fly up to her 10ft high perch, she’s the only one who likes to sleep way up there.
The kids/Ladies were in bed finally – I needed a cup of tea! 😉