Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Coping with chickens under cover

Chickens in a bird-proof net
For the last 8 weeks or so Britain has been under orders to keep all poultry excluded from wild birds, to stop the spread of bird flu.  This includes pet birds as well as commercial poultry keepers.  The order was meant to expire on 6 January, but has been extended to the end of February now;  the husband said he heard on the news that bird flu has been confirmed in parts of the country now--but thankfully not near us at present. 

To comply, we have severely confined our own flock to their house and a small covered run.  It's bird-proof, but not very big;  I'd estimate it's about 5 feet by 15 feet.  Normally they get a space about five times as big, or more!  But the alternative is to shut them in their house completely, but I can't bring myself to do so--it's just too small for 14 chickens--it would be cruel.

To keep them entertained (and to stop them bullying each other out of boredom), I've been collecting organic matter from all over the garden for them to scratch and peck.  They have a big pile of compost to play in and hunt for bugs, and there are a few shrubs in their compound, giving a tiny bit of hiding space and privacy.

The top of the compound is covered in chicken wire and is only waist high;  the six year old is the allocated keeper.  Actually, he does most of the chicken jobs anyway:  feeding, watering, shutting them in, letting them out, and collecting eggs.

I may try to gather a sack or two of leaves or garden trimmings from a neighbor or the local park, to throw on their compound floor.  I also have a moldy old straw bale that had mushroom spawn in it, so I might chuck that whole thing in (no doubt they'd love to scratch it to pieces!). 
A few of the inmates

Hopefully the deadline will end by March:  no more extensions.  Either way, by that time I anticipate a lot of miserable chickens.

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