Your Chickens - - Feature | Bird Flu -

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

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