I don’t know about you, but Avian Flu restrictions year-on-year are really starting to make me think about permanent structures and how to house our hens each Winter when the inevitable bird lockdowns begin. We’re drawing up plans for larger covered areas as even with only a few hens each run becomes a bit of a mud pit over the Winter months. I really do think we’ll be seeing these restrictions every year now for the foreseeable future, so planning runs and housing with Avian Flu in mind is becoming quite important.
The rain of December left us with the most muddy and mucky of runs here. The girls were getting wetter under foot each day. We really wanted to get their new Omlet Pole Tree up in their run as this would help keep their feet dry by offering places to perch, but with the weather too bad to get it in place it was rather disheartening to say the least. Finally the weather broke, the sun came out, and we donned wellies and Winter coats to get the job sorted.
First off we dealt with the run and the first task was to rake out all the old chippings. These are fantastic for the compost heap if you are a gardener by the way. The girls loved their brief garden freedom whilst this was carried out – although we were as fast as could be, mindful that Avian Flu restrictions are in place at the moment. Alas girls, you shall have to wait until Spring for more garden time!
Once the old chippings were scraped out we covered the whole of the ground with a dry disinfectant. This helped absorb some extra moisture as well as keeping the area fresh and clean – we all know how mud and chickens can get stinky. A lot of fresh chippings were then spread and the girls were soon happy back in their secure run. Scratching away and only slightly looking longingly at the grass beyond their enclosure.
Once the run had been fully cleaned out it was time to get the chicken coop and feeders/drinkers jet washed. As you can see the feeder and drinker were looking a tad mucky too, but two minutes of pressure washing and they were shiny like new! Then it was time to add some extra “hentertainment” to the run.
The set-up for the Omlet Pole Tree was an absolute breeze, taking no more than an hour from start to finish. If you already have an Omlet Run it would be even quicker. We have a metal framed run in the garden and had to create a support strut for the pole tree to attach to. The simplest way to do this was to attach a wooden plank across the top beams of the run – then we fixed the upper pole tree attachments to this plank.
The legs of the pole tree are adjustable, which is great if you have uneven ground levels or an odd height poultry run. They come in various height options too so even if you have a very low or high run there is a combination that will work. You do need to make sure that the area where the feet are sited is level, which was simple enough even in our more-rocks-than-dirt-garden.
There are also so many combinations that you can choose for the pole tree, from a single pole with just one perch, to a large set-up such as we went for. We decided on two poles to give added stability in our high winds, plus it enable us to have multiple long perches for the girls. Our flock consists of large fowl and the Orpingtons and Brahma take up an awful lot of space so they need plenty of space to spread out in the day.
Pole Tree in Action
I will admit it took a few days until the girls trusted the new addition to their run. As most poultry keepers will know, anything new (unless food!) is scary until the Top Hen braves their way closer.
We ended up bribing the girls to climb their new pole tree with some cracked corn on the attachable treat dish. In the end though it wasn’t Top Hen Buff who made her way up, but the gentle giant that is Little John. Once she started gobbling away at the corn the other girls moved in closer and in a matter of minutes they were all jumping up and down the levels.
We already had a Treat Caddy and a couple of Peck Toys which we attached to the new pole tree. There are holes at the end of each pole allowing you to easily tie them on, but you could also easily tie greens onto them with string too. Our girls love jumping up to attack a whole cabbage head and we found it very easy to slip some string through and hang one just above head height for them.
The great thing with the tree is if you decide you want to alter the height of the branches, or the entire structure set-up, you can do it quickly and simply. We had to alter the height of our various bars after a few days to make it easier for the girls to jump from level to level. It took Gary less than ten minutes on his own to do this.
The girls over on the smallholding have got a lovely Omlet Perch and their own Treat Caddy, but I bet even they would be jealous now of the back-garden flock’s set-up!
We’ve been lucky enough to nab another voucher code from Omlet saving you 10% off purchases. So, if you fancy adding some extra fun to your chickens’ run just use code AGPW10 at checkout. P.S. this code works for all their products, not just for their poultry range.
Avian Flu Update
As you may already be aware, Avian Flu has been confirmed in dead wild birds and a number of confined poultry facilities across the UK again last month. In addition to this there has been Bird-to-Human transmission in the UK, which means there is no chance of restrictions being lifted soon. The risk to the wider public from avian flu continues to be very low. However, people should not touch sick or dead birds. This Press Release covers the case in more detail for those interested in reading more.
At present an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) and housing measures remain in place across the UK. These measures mean that it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK (whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock) to keep their birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.
The official guidance is available on the government web site here. The following guidance on Biosecurity and preventing welfare impacts in poultry and captive birds will help you make sure your birds stay safe and healthy throughout this outbreak.