Martin Gur­don

Bird flu re­flec­tions

Your Chickens - - Contents - Martin Gur­don

Iwas in Cyprus on hol­i­day when the email from Your Chickens ed­i­tor Si­mon McEwan came through telling me that the last of the bird flu free-range ban would be lifted the day af­ter we’d get home.

While the rest of the coun­try had been given the all clear weeks ear­lier, some ar­eas of the UK re­mained un­der lock­down be­cause they were near mi­grat­ing wild bird pop­u­la­tions.

DEFRA’s clunky web­site had an il­lus­tra­tion show­ing a prescirbed area fairly close to Rom­ney Marsh. This cut a swathe through the mid­dle of our vil­lage, and we were on the wrong side of it by a few hun­dred yards.

Be­fore re­leas­ing the chickens I let out our trio of In­dian Run­ner ducks, be­cause Bom­bay, the age­ing drake, of­ten de­vel­ops an un­healthy in­ter­est in the chickens at this time of year, and I wanted to get the ducks cor­ralled in the pond area be­fore let­ting the hens out.

This took a while, as the ducks skit­tered round the gar­den, quack­ing and flap­ping their wings as the hens looked on in dis­gust. Food fi­nally per­suaded the ducks into their fenced-off ter­ri­tory, where they flung them­selves into the pond. This re­sulted in lots of joy­ous splashing about.

When fi­nally re­leased, the hens were al­most cir­cum­spect. First out was boss chicken Slasher, who made a ginger bee­line for open ground, then shot from one end of the gar­den to the other. Af­ter that she be­gan a tour of in­spec­tion, scratch­ing and pecking her way round fa­mil­iar bushes and trees.

By now ev­ery­one else was out. Priscilla the Brahma was tentative, but Bea the hy­brid went off like a shot, fol­lowed by ev­ery­one else, and there was a lot of happy bounc­ing, flap­ping and screech­ing.

Whether be­ing con­fined for months on end has taken its toll re­mains to be seen, but both Pri­cilla and Bea ac­tu­ally haven’t been well. Shortly be­fore we went on hol­i­day Priscilla stopped eat­ing. An ex­pen­sive trip to the vet fol­lowed, with egg peri­toni­tis sus­pected but not con­firmed and a five-day course of an­tibi­otics supplied. She ral­lied up to a point, but on our re­turn I saw she was ex­hibit­ing si­nus prob­lems. Bea’s gar­den eu­pho­ria seemed short lived too, and a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion re­vealed that she’d con­tracted sour crop.

More med­i­ca­tion and an even big­ger vet bill fol­lowed. We’re now treat­ing the drink­ing wa­ter to ward off mi­coplasma, and Priscilla seems to be im­rov­ing.

When fi­nally re­leased, the hens were al­most cir­cum­spect. First out was boss chicken Slasher, who made for open ground...

ABOVE: Time to be let out. Martin Gur­don with one of his birds

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