Bird flu reflections
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