On 7th December 2016 the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) ordered all poultry keepers in England to keep their birds indoors for 30 days, or secure from contact with wild birds, after the spread of H5N8 strain avian flu across Europe. Infected birds have since had to be culled in Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire, and Carmarthenshire in Wales. This housing order has since been extended until February 28th. Flouting of this order can result in a £5000 fine.
Poultry kept indoors due to this DEFRA order can still be referred to as "free-range" and their eggs still sold as such.
At Bosavern Community Farm we have kept all our 300 hens locked in their sheds since 7th December. We have constructed small secure runs on 2 of our 3 chicken sheds to allow most of our hens access to the open air. All the pop-holes on the sheds have been covered over with wire mesh, so we can open them for improved ventilation, without the risk of chickens escaping or of wild birds entering the sheds. We continue to clean the sheds weekly, but now also add a layer of fresh bedding halfway through the week for improved hygeine. Our hens continue to lay on average 120 eggs per day, which is normal for the depths of winter, most of which are sold through our farm shop. Although our eggs have retained their good quality despite the housing order, you may notice that the yolks have lost a little of their characteristic deep golden colour - this is due to reduced greenery in the birds' diet (although we feed them as much cabbage and leek trimmings as we can) and reduced exposure to sunshine.
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