Earlier this week, here in the UK, an Avian Flu warning was issued alongside an order from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) to bird keepers, to keep their animals inside, or at least away from wild birds, for 30 days. No cases of the virus have yet been found in the UK and the aim of us all keeping our birds in is to protect them from the virus by separating them from wild birds.
Our chickens are totally free range, meaning we let them out of the coop, which is a smaller outbuilding with two little windows, in the morning and they spend the day roaming about the garden or, depending on how adventurous they feel, our neighbours’ fields and on an evening they tootle back to the coop. Although with the introduction of the new chooks this has actually been the newbies staying in the coop, pretty much all day, and two of the original three taking a huff and trying to sleep in the kids’ playhouse when roosting time arrives. But what I’m trying to get at (I have a cold, which is my excuse for waffle, for the other times, I have no excuse) is we don’t have a run for them, and so they are now stuck in their fairly dark coop all day and night, for 30 days.
The new ones don’t seem that fussed to be honest, they seem entertained enough scratting around the floor of the coop throughout the day, but the originals are now even more miffed, and try McQueen style escape techniques every time we go visit them. We’re hoping that something good will come from the enforced imprisonment and they will all get on better by the end of the 30 days, as long as they haven’t killed each other. And, as they’ve not done that yet, I’m hoping we should be ok on that score.
This has given us a different perspective on chicken keeping though, as we now have to also think of ways to entertain them so they don’t go stir crazy and start plucking themselves / each other. So far we have devised a fruit and veg trapeze for them, we hung this in the coop for them to have a peck at and, as the only thing left on the following day was the broccoli, I think this has been a success.
We’ve put in a dust bath for them – no takers so far, a football – again no takers, despite J showing them some of his fancy footwork. We’re also giving them more fruit and veg peelings than we normally do, just to give them something to scratch through, and having a bit more of a chat when we go to collect their eggs – although numbers of these are also declining due to the lack of light, putting a halt on my plan to become an egg selling millionaire for a while.
Hopefully though, the 30 days will pass without incident and we can let them out again early January – I’m keeping fingers crossed that the period won’t be extended, as I’m not sure we can think of many more ‘enrichment’ opportunities to offer them, and fear that when they are eventually released they’ll be small, winged versions of Gollum.