There is much debate over whether hen flu, like man flu, actually exists. One the one hand you have much scare mongering in the media about avian flu and the risk of it rendering every feathered beast on our isle extinct. But then when you start looking into it the number of confirmed reports is miniscule. Apparently, a wigeon (yes it is a bird and not a typo) was diagnosed with the dreaded lurgy at a nature reserve about 50 miles away. Stop press! Panic stations! Every bird in! Every bird in!
So being the diligent (i.e. clueless, farming-by-Google) smallholders that we are, we decided we needed to protect our flock of hens, if we’re honest more from the investment point of view rather than sentimentality. We could never afford the super strength Lemsip for all ten of them for starters. Plus you do feel that you need to right by your animals (in intent anyway even if not in actual action). So we decided we would decamp said birds to the polytunnel – it’s dry, it’s protected from wild birds (disgusting disease carriers) and there is the added bonus that they can scratch up the beds and manure them a bit, saving me the job later in the spring. I was a bit miffed though as my pak choi and winter lettuce was doing so well, but all in the name of sacrifice I suppose.
|En route to winter luxury accommodation|
Feeling the pressure from the media hype to move them but, for once, recognising the amount of chaos and coordination I can physically cope with, I scheduled an hour in my work day to move the birds while the kids were at nursery. Unfortunately it just so happened to be the last hour of the day and so in failing light my husband and I found ourselves skidding and sliding around the hen pen, blaspheming loudly (the real reason why we needed the kids out of the way) trying to catch the bloody hens who delighted in squawking between our legs and clucking indignantly as we huffed and puffed behind them like a scene from a Benny Hill sketch.
|Two hours later... unimpressed!|
We eventually managed to get them all into the old dog cage and then transported them the short distance to their new digs. Which we soon realised are like the poultry equivalent of being overwintered in a luxury health spa – soft bark underfoot, as many worms as you can possibly eat, the equivalent of a Waitrose finest oriental baby leaf salad and completely dry and out of the wind. Given they will be here for 30 days (so says our oracle the interweb) it gives a whole new take on Dry January. Plus with the slightest hint of sunshine the whole place warms up to sub-tropical temperatures. In fact, sod the avian flu, I think I’m going to chuck them back into their soggy hen house and move in there myself!
|Champneys for chooks|
Postscript: we've since learned that the aforementioned wigeon was misdiagnosed – turns out he just had a bit of a sniffle and Match of the Day was on the telly...