February 1, 2017 – The spread of Avian Influenza across Europe and into the UK has resulted in Defra extending its protection zone restrictions until 28 February 2017.
The following information is from our friends at the British Hen Welfare Trust, which has unfortunately had to postpone all re-homings of retired commercial layers until after this date.
“To say we are hugely saddened is an understatement; however we want to reassure our supporters that there will be thousands of spring chickens looking for homes in March, and those hens will be reliant on you for the second chance in life that our January and February hens were not lucky enough to enjoy.
The Defra restrictions mean that all captive poultry must be kept indoors or, if not possible, under cover and separate from wild birds. We know that this will create some potential welfare issues, not least of all boredom. With this in mind, we’ve put together some tips and boredom busters to help your girls stay healthy and happy throughout this period of confinement:
- Keep your run covered at all times so as to separate your hens from any possible contact with wild birds
- Make sure your hens’ feed and water cannot be accessed by wild birds
- Take extra steps to keep your coop clean including disinfecting all bird houses on a regular basis – Chicken Vet Dri-Bed is a super-absorbent, deodorising powder with enhanced disinfectant properties
- If you have the facilities, it is worth considering disinfecting your footwear before and after entering your girls’ coop. Virkon S is a Defra-approved disinfectant and elminates viruses and bacteris from your hen house and run
- Chicken Vet BioVX can be used to disinfect the ground you’ve been walking on. Make it up at 1:100 or 1g to 100 ml. Water this onto the area of ground, then cover with a sheet/plastic or something to keep wild birds and the rain off until the chickens move. Do this a few days before the birds are to move onto it so the ground is free from strong odours/residue which they may eat
- Restrict movement of your birds to within their run until 28 February
- Watch for signs of illness and seek advice from a vet should you spot anything unusual
- Similarly, keep an eye on your hens for signs of bullying such as feather pecking and call either a vet or the BHWT advice line if you need help
- Encourage foraging by putting down friable (loose) material such as wood chippings
- Your hens will appreciate a bath just like the rest of us. If you have the space, provide a large simple shallow container filled with a mix of dry dirt, sand, ash and diatomaceous earth
- Provide other foraging opportunities such as hay nets and straw bales, pieces of coloured string tied tightly together
- If your hens are struggling for space within their hen house, ask a kind-hearted neighbour if they have a shed or garage you can use until the prevention zone ends
Be sure to vary your boredom busters, hens quickly get bored, but love new ideas, games and activities to stimulate them; try some of these:
- Hang up treat dispensers so your girls can help themselves whenever they fancy. Feathers & Beaky and Hentastic both provide great treat products for your girls
- Cabbages, sweet potatoes or other veg can be hung up with a piece of string through the middle which your hens will enjoy. Just make sure you take it straight from shop to coop, avoiding your kitchen (feeding kitchen scraps to hens is not legal)
- Hang up a CD – hens love shiny things much like budgies like mirrors
- Empty small plastic bottles filled with corn will keep your girls entertained for house. Simply puncture a few holes in it so that the corn can fall out as they move it around
Keep in touch with our dedicated website page, we will keep you posted on Defra updates and give you links to Defra’s website for full details of further announcements. You can also learn more about Avian Flu and good husbandry on our site too.
Please also see Defra’s guide for backyard hen keepers regarding keeping your birds safe from avian flu.
Now is a really good time to register your flock with Defra; in the event of a disease outbreak, they will notify you immediately (often by text), enabling you to act fast to protect your hens. You can register here.
If you are aware of someone not complying with the current restrictions, please see here for information on how to report this to the Animal and Plant Health Agency or Trading Standards.
Finally, remember to visit the BHWT shop to pick up cosy bedding, treats and other essentials while your girls are on lockdown.”
Photo: courtesy of the British Hen Welfare Trust