Andrew Sheppy from The Cobthorn Trust at Bristol said: “Set up first and foremost as a conservation breeding farm, we are put in an unusually difficult position. The National Poultry Collection obviously has many separate pens of birds across the great number we keep. The groups in the larger poultry paddocks with reasonably sizes sheds have all been kept in, but that is far from ideal.
“The rows of pedigree boxes - small houses with wire runs on
grass - are a nightmare, all the runs now having been covered with plastic sheeting. This makes routine tasks more difficult and time consuming as well as not being the best environment for breeding birds.
“In all the pens, the birds are not being kept the way we would want. Almost all the breeding stock here is kept out on grass as the best situation for successful breeding, which is our primary purpose. It is very noticeable that breeds which would normally be producing hatching eggs by now are not even coming into lay normally.
“We were already running an appeal for funding for the Cobthorn Trust which funds the work of the National Poultry Collection, so that a programme of refurbishment and extension of the facilities here would allow us to do more acrosss the breeds. We now find ourselves faced with the prospect of replacing most of the pedigree boxes with combined house and run units with a solid roof over the whole thing. Such a replacement programme would cost thousands, but without it the whole work of the NPC is being put at risk, which would be a tragedy.
“We currently have miserable birds, miserable staff and no prospect of relief until at least February 28. It has the real potential of writing off the whole year’s breeding programme. We do at least have the capacity to keep everything under cover, but that is small consolation for the stressful situation in which all of us poultry keepers find ourselves at the moment.”
Jane Freeman from Berkshire said:
“Most of my birds are kept in a field a mile or so away from my house. They are in small groups in houses with attached runs, made up of run panels with netting on top. Since the enclosure order the runs have been covered with tarpaulins. When the wind gets up this causes further problems with some tarps being ripped off and birds escaping. Fortunately, we haven’t had snow yet. At home birds are in the shed and in the garage.”
LEFT: Chickens contained in a polytunnel