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Tips for Keeping Your Hens Safe and Happy Whilst Under a Housing Order

The multiple cases of Avian Flu in the UK are impacting both the commercial and hobby keeper sectors. All bird keepers are now legally obliged to keep their birds undercover in a housing order and to raise their biosecurity, even in a home environment. It is vital that wild birds and vermin are kept away from any backyard poultry or pet hens.

There will be no further rehoming activity with effect from 12th December until the Avian Influenza situation improves. When it is safe to recommence our lifesaving rehoming work we will be up and running immediately.

Safe ways to house your hens during the 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.

If you’d like advice on your hen’s health, why not visit our Hen Health page, where we discuss important things to look for in your hen’s health, whether its personality or physical symptoms. Or, head to our Hen Examination Guidelines where we can show you where to find things like the crop or the wattle.

If you need to seek medical advice, click here to find your nearest Hen Friendly Vet.
You can also call Hen Central on 01884 860084 to speak to one of our rehoming assistants.

Giving a gift today helps fund our Hen Helpline. It helps support hen keepers, giving them the best advice on how to care for their hens. If you have found our advice helpful, please consider giving a gift towards the hen helpline here.

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