All poultry keepers have been warned to keep their birds indoors to protect them from the highly-infectious avian (bird) flu that has been spreading around the world. Outbreaks have been confirmed in poultry across 14 European countries including France, Germany and The Netherlands. Although no cases of the current strain (N5N8) have not currently been found in the UK, a precautionary measure has been put into place to help prevent potential outbreaks from wild birds. This means that free range eggs won't be available until the end of the year, although chicken farmers have assured customers that this won't impact the availability of chicken and turkey for Christmas.
How does it spread?
Scientists believe the virus is likely to be spread by migrating birds, while other sources suggest that the poultry trade also plays a large role. To stop the spread of bird flu across bird population sin the UK, it’s important to keep your birds away from any potential interactions with wild birds, at least for the next 30 days.
What does this mean for non-commercial owners?
If you keep chickens in your back garden, you might be wondering how best to keep your birds safe. The government has advised that both commercial and individual bird keepers are required to keep their birds inside for 30 days or take steps to separate them from wild birds. This means they will need to be kept in sheds that wild birds can't access. If you have no real way to separate your flock from the wild during this period, you may have to resort bringing them into your home. With this in mind, we’ve put together a few tips to help.
Don’t be tempted to block up every hole to keep your chickens or turkeys warm. During the winter months’ chickens spend a lot of time roosting which creates a lot of moisture, which means good ventilation is important for keeping them healthy. For the ideal conditions, you’ll need suitable ventilation with a flow of warm air into the room.
Bedding & Litter
As the birds won't be able to roam outside, you will need to spend a little extra time changing the bedding and litter to keep things clean. Make sure you lay an adequate amount, as too much built up waste will encourage bacteria and spores.
The consumption rate of food will vary depending on the climate and heat. It may be worthwhile giving the birds constant access to food during the winter period. The feeding schedule may change if they aren't able to graze outdoors.
If you want to keep your chickens safe and healthy, why not consider having them fitted with mini microchips? These can be placed in the wing and will allow you to easily identify your birds when you visit the vet.