WARNING: This is a Bio Security Protection Area

Wow, today has not gone as I had envisaged. It’s Plum’s 6th birthday today and we had planned a day out to Wheelgate. Instead, we’re going tomorrow and I’ve promised a trip to see Santa as well whilst we’re there to make up for missing it today.

I woke up to news that DEFRA has ordered all people with chickens, whether that be 2 or 200000, or any poultry or any captive bird to put in place a Protection Area. Avian Flu (otherwise known as Bird Flu) has broken out in mainland Europe and so we’ve been ordered to take precautions to limit its impact should it make it to these shores.

To be clear, there have been no reported cases of Avian Flu in the UK (and it’s one of two diseases which have to be reported by law), and these precautions are to protect poultry and captive birds from wild birds who might be carriers. 

For the next 30 days, all poultry (and captive birds) have to be kept indoors (or in their run, which must be covered). We’ve shut our three in the run attached to their house, and they are less than impressed. I’ve fixed a tarpaulin over the top, because the run is not covered by anything but chicken wire. I’ve put fruit netting around all the sides of the run. It’s very dark in there and my girls are sad. They have to stay in there for the next 30 days, at least. All of that is necessary to limit the risk of bird droppings getting into their enclosure. I’ve disinfected the yard around their run, and installed a foot bath on the only entrance to the yard, so anyone entering must disinfect their shoes before going further.  I’ll be doing that again tomorrow when the DEFRA recommended disinfectant arrives.

It’s been fairly easy for us to adhere to the order – I just needed to spend £20 on supplies – tarp, netting, cable ties, disinfectant, cat litter tray (for the foot bath), gloves. And an hour or so of work (though there are some adjustments to be made to the tarp when Stonelaughter comes home tomorrow – I can’t move the run on my own to fix it at the back). I imagine most commercial outfits will find it quite easy too – they’re probably a lot better geared up for this. But there are plenty of owners of small flocks who let their chooks roam free (wonderful life for the chooks) and who supply them with a coop to sleep in and nest boxes to lay in. For them, this order is going to be hard – if you can’t make your existing arrangements comply with the order (and adhere to minimum welfare standards) you have to buy or build suitable housing so that you can comply. And the order starts today – with DEFRA registered keepers being informed last night (you don’t have to register if you have less than 50 birds in your flock, so most small owners like us find out from forums and groups, rather than from DEFRA).

I just need to fix a sign to the gate to the yard warning people (delivery guys mainly who often leave things in the back yard) that the foot bath applies to them too. I want to keep my girls healthy.

Fun and games this chicken keeping. I almost feel like a proper farmer.

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