Last Autumn, DEFRA announced cases of avian influenza at
farms in the UK. Bird flu is a virus that spreads from wild birds
particularly from migrating birds arriving on our shores. Outbreaks of what
DEFRA call subtype H5N8 were found in poultry and wild birds in countries
Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens said: "The Government has taken swift
action to limit the spread of the disease, with restrictions around affected
premises and wider measures in place across the country.
reduce the risk of bird flu spreading from bird to bird there is currently a
legal requirement for all poultry keepers to keep their birds housed or
otherwise separate from wild birds.
flu is also transmitted via the environment, for example in wild bird
droppings, and it is vital that keepers practice strict biosecurity. This means
taking precautions such as putting up netting, keeping food and water inside
and disinfecting footwear and equipment after contact with birds."
The Food Standards
Agency said bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. You cannot
catch Bird flu from eating cooked eggs or poultry.
Our farmers have had to take
extra biosecurity steps, including: minimising direct and indirect contact
between poultry or other captive birds and wild birds, and making sure that feed and
water can’t be accessed by wild birds.
They were told to keep their birds inside for 30 days or
keep them away from wild birds. Unless they have large cages, most farmers
including those who sell at our markets were forced to keep their birds in
their bird housing or barns. Everyone was hoping that the measures would be
lifted in March.
Nigel Witt farms near Southampton.
He keeps 3500 hen in groups of 700. Currently temporarily housed in large barns,
the hens have been given lots of toys to play with. Nigel is relieved that
customers seem happy and understand the situation. Meantime he’s waiting
patiently for DEFRA to allow them to turn their birds out onto the fields.
hens are usually free ranging around their farms orchards all day. Currently
they’re kept inside in groups of 500. Stein Leanders can’t wait for the
restrictions to be lifted. He said;
in the first few weeks the chickens dropped production as they were being kept
in and started to moult and grow new feathers.
We have communicated to our customers the issues at hand and they keep
supporting us and regularly ask about how its going.’’
Having thir hens indoors for the last 3 months
means that Brambletye have surrendered their Demeter (biodynamic) licence.
Stein is looking forward to the restrictions
being lifted; ‘’We have had to introduce lighting and we hope that the quality
will improve in the coming weeks.’’
January the measures were extended for another month. At the end of
February some areas were freed from restrictions, whilst other Higher
Risk Areas continue to have bio security conditions in place. DEFRA says:
‘‘These are generally areas
near where wild birds (and in particular gulls and wild waterfowl) gather, such
as lakes, marshes or estuaries.’’
You may find that some of our farmers have their chickens
back out on grass while some are continuing to keep their poultry
Prevention Zones help reduce the risk of poultry coming into contact with wild
birds which that could carry the virus, or with their droppings. They also
reduce the potential for any food or water that poultry use to become
contaminated by wild birds. Even when birds are housed there is still a risk of
infection, which is why there is an ongoing need for good biosecurity.
Fosse Meadows usually keep their 350 laying hens
in small sheds with fields for ranging. Over the last few month whilst the
birds have been indoors, they’ve added more enrichment in the shed during bird
flu lock down
Keeping optimistic, Jacob Sykes said; The birds have been locked up in the coldest
windiest months which if its going to happen is the best time, but they won't
have had such a natural life for the time they've been in.
He added ‘Customers have remained loyal and understanding, the egg quality has
Norris of Harvest Moon has 4,800 hens.
Usually the birds have access to pasture from 9.00
a.m. until dusk, when they return to roost. Whilst the restrictions were in place his
chickens had no access to pasture, and Tim made the chicken houses more
interesting for the chickens to live in, they had more straw bedding to promote
scratching, toys such as reflective CDs, hanging plastic milk bottles to make a
good sound when pecked, more frequent
change of bedding, increase of ventilation, increased flock surveillance and
higher level of bio security.
noted that when the hens are unable to selectively graze ‘’They become more stressed, the air gets
staler more quickly and in cold weather humid air will condense on cold
surfaces causing damp bedding.’’ He
noticed a decline in egg numbers, putting it down to the abrupt changes in the hens’
chickens are now out ranging again with DEFRA's approval. As of the 4th April, the Prevention
Zones remain in place. Thank you for understanding and asking questions. This Easter when you’re eating your eggs,
spare a thought for our hard working farmers giving top priority to the welfare
of their birds.
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