Wednesday 7 December 2016

Poultry in the polytunnel? A Bird Flu post

You may have seen in the news that there have been outbreaks of bird or avian flu in France and other European countries and that all poultry owners in the UK have been ordered to keep their birds (chickens, ducks, turkeys etc) inside or in covered runs as a means to protect them from infection by wild birds.  The same edict has now also been announced in Normandy.

Luckily for me, my poultry numbers are at a minimum in winter.  The turkeys headed to the freezer on Monday and my meat birds went the same way several weeks ago.  I had no ducklings this year so just have 3 adult ducks plus my 14 laying hens.

I have put my thinking cap on and hope to have come up with a solution.  I thought about putting the chickens in the polytunnel as there is very little in there at the moment and I would be happy to sacrifice my few little leeks, scraggy chard and oriental greens if it meant I cold save my birds .... but I then decided it would not be fox-proof and as I have seen fox poop in the veg garden I know M. Renard is around.  However, I could put the ducks in there and at night, as there is just 3 of them, I can shut them in a fox-proof dog cage.  Quite how I will get them in there remains to be worked out, though!

Polytunnel in winter - about to become a duck pen
New duck home aka my polytunnel

The chickens can go in the other half of the old building that currently has pigs in one half.  It will mean rigging up a new gate as Coco Chanel (one of my pigs) managed to completely break the last one plus some perches and I may have to add extra chicken proof fencing to stop the hens getting into the pig side and escaping outside through their door.  I have some windbreak netting that should work hopefully.  An alternative would be to put the pigs back in the field (it's pretty dry at the moment) and then it wouldn't matter if the hens got through to the pig pen.  I'll need help with that though as when I moved Peardrop into the pen on Monday she happily followed a feed bucket until she got next to Boris Johnson's pen (our boar) and it took me A LONG time to persuade her to move on!!  Let's just say there was some sexual frisson in the air!!  Simon is currently away (that is typical!) but I have unsuspecting friends coming to coo at piglets tomorrow so I may call on their pig herding skills.

I will also put buckets of disinfectant at the polytunnel and barn doors to wash my boots in and it will only be me who goes in to look after the birds.  It all sounds rather over the top but the stain of virus identified (H5N8) spreads at speed through poultry flocks and has a high mortality rate so I want to reduce the risks as much as possible.  In  a previous outbreak thousands of birds were lost, either to the virus or culled to prevent its spread. One positive note though, this strain has not shown it can be spread to humans.

Well I can tell you, none of this was on my gardening or animal lists for tomorrow.  I'll need to get going early as I don't want to leave the birds in their overnight pens too long but if I let them out I can't catch them.

Linking up this somewhat unusual gardening post with Annie's How Does Your Garden Grow ... and of all this appeared rather depressing please enjoy the violas that are blooming by my front door:



  1. Hi Rosie, it all sounds like a lot of work that you don't need this time of year and what good timing too. I hope your friends are up for a bit of pig herding... Every herd should have a boar called Boris Johnson!

    Your violas make a very pretty picture this time of the year.


    1. I actually went for a slightly different plan not involving the polytunnel or pig herding!

  2. Oh blimey, I hadn't heard about this outbreak, how stressful for you. But it looks like you are tackling things head on with true practical Rosie grit :)

    I love the idea of the chickens being by the pigs (mischief Coco Channel!)

    I hope that your visitors helped herd the pigs ok - and that your back has coped ok with it all x

    1. Plans got all changed in the end when one visiting friend pointed out I could put the ducks and hens together ... and it would have been and awful lot of work to get the polytunnel duck-proofed. So they are all sulking together next to the pigs who stayed happily indoors - and the sheep got moved into their field where there is more grass. If there is one thing that is guaranteed on a smallholding, it's that no plans never go to plan!

  3. you had me at Coco Chanel. hope it all works out. sounds hectic but if anyone can handle it, it's you!

  4. That sounds like a lot of work! I love that you have a pig named Coco Channel, so fancy!

    1. She came with the name Coco, so how could I not add the Chanel to it?!


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