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Avian flu housing order: top tips to keep your hens happy 

Multiple cases of Avian Influenza in the UK are impacting both the commercial and hobby keeper sectors. Hen keepers in certain parts of the country are now legally obliged to keep their birds undercover in an avian flu housing order and to raise their biosecurity, even in a home environment.

The BHWT will not rehome hens in any part of the country where a mandatory housing order is in place; however, rehoming can continue elsewhere albeit with strict biosecurity measures in place.

We understand this can be a worrying time for pet hen keepers, but there is lots you can do to keep your hens safe, healthy and happy while under a housing order. It doesn’t have to be a cumbersome, negative time and in fact, you can have lots of fun coming up with boredom busters for your hens.

Safe ways to house your hens during an avian flu housing order:

  • An enclosed area such as a large garage, out building or greenhouse without access to outside is ideal
  • A house within a netted outdoor area, using netting small enough to prevent wild birds accessing, and a cover or tarpaulin over the top to prevent droppings falling through into the coop is acceptable
  • An existing fruit cage covered with a tarpaulin to prevent droppings falling through and / or a polytunnel can be used to provide a covered exercise area for your birds
  • Any existing wired hen run can be made compliant by adding small gauge mesh or netting sides and providing a cover to prevent droppings falling through

avian influenza housing order example, green polytunnel
hens in green house
housing for avian influenza
shed for avian influenza

Enrichment is important and can include:

  • Pecking blocks – make sure you don’t overfeed them though, pecking blocks are treats (and fattening!)
  • Straw bales – please don’t use hay as they may be tempted to eat it and it could impact their crop
  • Grit in litter or on the ground – always great for scratching around
  • Perches – useful for a spot of preening or daytime snoozing
  • Coloured string hanging up so they can peck and tug it – great fun for hens
  • A dust bath – this can be made from a child’s sand pit, a plastic storage box, or a large litter tray. Use dry soil, sand, wood ash, diatomaceous earth, or all these mixed together
  • A cabbage hung up – another thing for them to enjoy pecking at. Of course, it can’t have come through your kitchen but one that has been bought specifically for your hens and not seen the kitchen is fine

It’s useful to keep them entertained by alternating the treats and activities you give them, it’ll maintain their interest and help them stay happy during their lockdown.

Regular cleaning and disinfection of feeders and drinkers as well as the use of a boot dip on entering and leaving your enclosure will also help prevent the spread of disease. A plastic storage box works well with a virucidal disinfectant like Nettex Poultry Virocur Disinfectant.

For more information on Avian Influenza, please seek help on the government website and our Avian Influenza page.

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