Two Derbyshire poultry farmers have had to make “tough” decisions to adapt to government restrictions due to an outbreak of bird flu.
“we have reduced down the number of chickens ”
Tom Beckingham, co-owner of Little Morton Farm, Derbyshire
A poultry farm in Derbyshire and shop owners Tom and Daniella Beckingham have had to make “difficult changes” as a consequence of new government policies.
“Currently we have reduced down the number of chickens we are keeping as they are inside, and as a result our egg production is affected,” said Tom.
Farmers in some cases have been forced to humanely cull birds in order to make space indoors so barns are not overcrowded.
“This is leading to a shortage of eggs for us to supply through our farm shop,” Danielle added.
Since 21 March all eggs across the UK will be labelled as “barn eggs” after the government’s 16-week grace period expires.
Supermarkets and local farm shops are planning to put up signs explaining the changes to customers.
Boxes of eggs will be marked with either stickers or new packaging showing that they are “barn eggs”.
Since one of the largest outbreaks of avian influenza (bird flu) ever to hit the UK began, measures have been put in place to limit the spread and eventually eradicate the disease.
All bird keepers across the UK are instructed to keep birds contained indoors and comply with strict biosecurity measures.
Hens have been inside since November but the 16-week grace period has allowed farmers to keep their “free-range” status thus far. However, now they must resort to labelling them as “barn eggs”.
So far this outbreak of avian flu has only affected one human.
Nevertheless, the disease has caused “dire problems” for the eggs and poultry industry. Thousands of birds have had to be culled by farmers after being hit with the virus.
Avian flu can spread rapidly, so containing the virus as soon as possible is “extremely important2. Any cases of avian flu should be reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) if you find dead domestic or wild birds.
Experts help with research into the virus, concentrating on gaining a better understanding allowing them to be more prepared for future outbreaks.
“Educating bird owners on bird flu is essential for managing the virus” said rural veterinarian Charlotte Goodall as she explained what bird flu is and the “dangers” of the virus.
Audio: Charlotte Goodall speaks about the “dangers” of avian flu and the measures taken during an outbreak
It is unclear when bird flu will ease enough for farmers to return to allowing their hens outdoors.
With seven new cases in wild birds and three in commercial poultry and private bird flocks since 7 March, “it is clear the virus is very much a threat,” said Charlotte.
However, the waiting time may not be as long as anticipated.
The wild migrating birds responsible for bringing the virus to the UK are due to move on in March and April, reducing the spread of the virus.