Effects of Bird Flu

Chick, chick, chick, chick Chicken… Who’s gonna lay a little egg for me? 🐔

The chickens are an integral part of our gardening system here clearing food and garden waste and converting it to create fantastic organic fertiliser for our crops. We have been keeping poultry (chickens, quail and ducks) for almost 9 years and this is the most difficult year in terms of keeping them 😢

I try not to complain too much on social media because it’s generally a very positive place but gosh the joy of keeping chickens has completely dwindled away! When I started, there were several breeders raising particularly good stock, feed prices were reasonable and there was so much satisfaction seeing the chickens roaming happily around the garden 😊 And then came the winter of 2018 and the arrival of bird flu in Wales and this created very challenging conditions!

Every year since then it has become customary to have to house the chickens indoors for many months over the winter to avoid the effects of bird flu. That increases the costs of feeding, dry bedding material such as straw or wood shavings and it means that the hens do not lay as much due to a reduction in the level of light. Now with electricity, fuel and food costs on the hike the chickens are effectively making a financial loss and surprisingly at a time when the demand for eggs is at its highest. Why is this happening? Well the costs of keeping them have increased by almost 40% in two years not to mention the effects of bird flu. This means that many of the small and medium egg suppliers have stopped breeding or buying new chickens – we haven’t bred or bought chickens for two years.

There was great pleasure in breeding chickens and seeing good stock at the small shows and sales and all that has now come to an end. On Friday we will once again be required to keep all the chickens indoors to prevent the spread of bird flu and I welcome the efforts to do so but what is the long term plan? There will be no homegrown egg industry left in two years if these conditions continue! And where will our eggs come from then? From abroad at an alarming cost to the environment!