Poultry expert and Countryside columnist Andy Cawthray talks about preventative measures for backyard poultry keepers to minimise the risk of avian influenza.
Last year saw the introduction of preventative measures for poultry keepers in an attempt to stem the flow of bird flu from the Continent. The measures applied to all scales of poultry keeper – so, with that in mind, it’s important to prepare for bird flu season.
Only the short-sighted would not prepare for a winter the same as the last. Last year, backyard keepers will have potentially found it difficult to house their stock, I know I did. We just don’t have the outbuildings to keep the birds indoors for weeks on end.
I know I also struggled to come up with a suitable solution to containing the stock in covered runs due to the lack of daylight during my working week and the high winds we are subject to here on the Shropshire/Wales borderlands. It was a frustrating time to say the least.
This year though, I’m prepared. Using roof battens, I’ve constructed a number of 8’ x 4’ aviary panels that are covered in fine gauge chicken wire. These will be leant against each other to create an ark-like run, cable-tied together, capped at one end with another panel and abutted to the poultry house.
This means that the free-range housing can be made secure. The structure is then covered in tarpaulin and pegged down. The trial and error of the last prevention period has established that this seems to do the job.
All the other housing (arks and chicken tractors) will also have tarpaulins placed over the run, which will protect the stock from contact with wild birds or wild bird faeces. Whilst these are moveable houses, they need to remain in position when prevention measures are in place, so, where possible, I’ve built run extensions that can be added to the houses to increase the space available.
Sadly, the last of my Indian runner ducks are now gone and I’ve made the decision not to replace them. I will miss the eggs and their characters around the place, but the pragmatist in me says I can’t give them the level of welfare I would be satisfied with during a period of prevention measures.