On Monday 14th December, our domestic poultry have to be confined to barracks and restricted from accessing areas also used by wild birds. As stated in my previous posts, this is to prevent the spread of avian flu which is currently circulating in Europe and has the potential to be a serious health issue for both birds and humans.
With this in mind, I have been rejigging my runs and coops to best fit the requirements as well as ensure my birds won’t suffer during their confinement. They are used to having a large area to range and plenty of fresh grass, inverts, soil and fungi from the garden and I have started early to make sure they are used to everything before they I am legally bound by the restrictions.
I have a pair of carports and I have converted 2/3rds of one in to a chicken enclosure. The ducks are in there too as it has a concrete floor so they can splash around in their tubs and not create too much mess. I have stacked up pallets to make roosting perches, and there is an old rabbit hutch in there to double as a coop for the ducks and a nest box for the hens should they want to lay. The birds I have in there are all retired so don’t lay much at all in the winter, and being of more mature years, are less stressed by change than their younger flockmates.
I have installed a feeder and drinker, and there is cider vinegar in the water to help their immune systems. I also have a dust bath full of molehill soil and sand for them, but it is rather damp at the moment so they’ll have to wait for it to dry out a bit! There are boxes of wood offcuts and crocks in there so that should provide them with inverts to eat, and my friend up the road who has a polytunnel and grows lots off veg has kindly said she will bring round any spare greens she has for me to feed to the chickens. Chickens will normally eat greens as a third of their diet so it’s really important that they get both the nutrients and the stimulation. Had I thought ahead I would have bought loose mash instead of pellets for them while they are inside as this too can provide them with something to do.
I have two bantam cockerels in here but they normally range together outside so I am hoping they get on now they are literally cooped up. I have some spare capacity outside in the other runs but it would be best if they can settle in together. One of my Welsummer hens is very bossy, so I will have to keep an eye on her! I need to finish blocking the holes where the corrugated roof meets the wall, and reinforce the mesh a little with some more staples, but apart from that, they have a dry, safe play area and roosting spot. When I clean out the guinea pigs and rabbit I will put the spent shavings and hay on the floor in here for the hens to scratch around in. I am hoping we won’t get too many winter storms this year but I do have a large tarpaulin I can hang across the front to keep the worst of the rain out overnight if I have to.
How are you going to be keeping your chooks happy during the restrictions?