Bird flu pro­tec­tion mea­sures

Health and wel­fare ques­tions an­swered by poul­try vet Vic­to­ria Roberts BVSc MRCVS

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QWe have been fol­low­ing the news about bird flu with trep­i­da­tion, and have been try­ing to im­ple­ment the mea­sures sug­gested by DE­FRA to pre­vent our flock com­ing into con­tact with wild birds. We draped a large poly­thene silage cover over the top of our chicken run and tied it down with bin­der twine. This en­ables the birds to leave the hen house and use the run while re­main­ing un­der cover. We also put the drinker un­der cover in the run and the feeder is in­side the house. We have put some branches in the run so the birds can perch. We have added a nu­tri­tional sup­ple­ment to their wa­ter and added ex­tra DM to the hen house to ward off red mite. We have also placed a large bowl with dis­in­fec­tant in at the en­trance to the chicken area so we can wash our boots on the way in and on the way out. Are there any other pro­tec­tion mea­sures we should be tak­ing?

AVic­to­ria says: If you had al­ready made plans for keep­ing poul­try in­doors, you get 10 out of 10, but most peo­ple have not lis­tened to the ad­vice given since the AI out­break in 2006/2007 of keep­ing poul­try and wild birds sep­a­rate. The most dan­ger­ous wild birds are free-fly­ing wa­ter­fowl as they carry AI with­out be­ing af­fected. Other wild res­i­dent birds could also do so, thus ex­clud­ing them is sen­si­ble as well. In its most prag­matic terms, ‘in­doors’ means pro­tec­tion from wild bird fae­ces, so a cov­ered run is bet­ter wel­fare for chick­ens than be­ing shut in a dark shed, al­though the ven­ti­la­tion ar­range­ment should let day­light in for eat­ing and drink­ing. If you are lucky enough to have a roofed barn, that can be set up with en­ter­tain­ment for the hens such as green veg­eta­bles hung up, branches to climb on and feed blocks to peck at, ap­ples threaded on a string and knot­ted be­tween each, swedes cut in half etc. This will help keep them oc­cu­pied and in­ter­ested and ad­just from free-range un­til the preven­tion re­stric­tions are lifted and avoid con­flict. Your hens will need to be ei­ther con­tained in their hut un­til the zone is lifted (cur­rently Fe­bru­ary 28, but could be ex­tended), or you can pro­vide them with a cov­ered run for fresh air and en­ter­tain­ment. The top of the run must be solidly cov­ered; a tar­pau­lin would be the

quick­est so­lu­tion, set at a slight an­gle for wa­ter run-off. Build some­thing tem­po­rary and don’t for­get whereever you put them to add lots of en­ter­tain­ment e.g. branches for climb­ing, small straw bales, veg­eta­bles hung up etc. Poly­tun­nels are ex­cel­lent as long as ven­ti­la­tion is good so that the birds do not get too hot. In any case, add cider vine­gar to chicken wa­ter (50ml:500ml, plas­tic drinkers only) dur­ing the re­stric­tions as an im­mune strength­ener plus wheat can also be sprouted if grass is lim­ited and if done se­quen­tially in seed trays or sim­i­lar should pro­vide both en­ter­tain­ment and good nu­tri­tion. All poul­try is adapt­able -– it is known as do­mes­tic­ity.

Hens con­tained in a poly­tun­nel

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