After many months of patient vigilance, chicken keepers and other poultry keepers everywhere can breathe a little more easily today. It has been announced by Defra that as of Thursday 13th April 2017, all poultry inside the “Higher Risk Areas of England” can once again be allowed outside to roam – chickens free range as nature intended. There remains the need for strict biosecurity measures to be in force, and all poultry gatherings are still banned until further notice, but with fingers (and wings) crossed the scare we have all had since December 2016 is coming to an end.
I really can’t believe it’s March already! With the spring equinox only a few days ahead of us on the 20th of March, it seems as though this year is just flying past.
Here on the farm I’ve been seeing so many signs of spring: Daffodils springing up; our peacock has been proudly showing off his newly grown tail feathers and his hen has come back into lay; our Chamois hens have come back into lay along with many others such as our Brahma, and our bees are out flying and returning with pollen from various sources.
We have all been waiting for the news that it is OK to let our hens free range, and its great news that from the 28th February Defra have lifted the general prevention zone measures across the country, however strict bio-security measures still need to be maintained and there are still localised high risk zones where poultry and captive birds must remain housed away from wild birds. Such areas close to us are the Pevensey Levels and Rye Marshes, where the risk from wild/migratory birds is still considered higher.
It’s absolutly crazy to think that we’re already into the second month of 2017, but time ‘flies’ when you’re keeping chickens! Okay… Enough of the bad puns. Though, the lack of daylight and cold weather can really affect their egg laying.
I’ve definitely noticed the evenings staying lighter for longer and so have my girls. I believe that they noticed the change in the day length very shortly after the shortest day (December 21st) as I started getting eggs again just a few days after. This makes total sense given that they spend plenty of time exposed to daylight so they’re able to have a well calibrated circadian rhythm. It was ever so exciting to collect that first egg after months of none at all.
Cold weather can be a problem for our birds: we’ve had some very hard frosts over the past few weeks – it even snowed!
Its worth bearing in mind that if daytime temperatures stay below freezing then large combed birds or birds with large wattles can get a touch of frostbite and this is most uncomfortable. The most noticeable symptom of this is darkened /black areas on the comb or wattle. One of the preventative measures, other than keeping them inside (something that you may already be doing due to the Avian Influenza), is to apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the comb or wattle. Continue reading “Poultry Keeping – Cold Weather, Food and Water”
Unfortunately this chicken keeping year has gotten off to a bad start with the outbreak of Avian Influenza (bird flu). DEFRA has extended the prevention zone measures until the 28th of February 2017. In light of this, please follow their chicken health advice. I’m sure I don’t need to preach to you the importance of keeping your birds inside if possible or under netting to prevent wild birds getting too close to your flock. I’m also sure that you’re keeping feeders and drinkers inside or under shelter to stop wild birds defecating in them.
For the latest updates visit – www.gov.uk/government/news/avian-influenza-bird-flu-in-winter-2016-to-2017
Second to all of this is keeping everything disinfected. It is a good habit and good practice to disinfect wellies before entering your run and, if big enough, your chicken house. Continue reading “Chicken Health Advice – DEFRA Updates”
Living in a residential area, it used to be pretty uncommon to have a flock of birds in your back garden; however, my parents decided, being that they were very much into self-sufficiency at the time, to begin their poultry keeping adventures by getting six point of lay chickens. I was only young at the time, but I have fond memories of collecting the eggs and listening to their relaxing chatter. I can still remember my excitement at hearing the vociferous clucking of the hens as they laid their eggs each day. Their house was a good distance from our house, but it could still be heard clearly at the bottom of the garden. Continue reading “Poultry Keeping – Josh’s Introduction”