The Omlet Blog

Rosie’s Chicken Keeping Adventure – Flockdown

Omlet’s Social Media Executive Rosie rescued five chickens with the help of BHWT earlier this year. After a summer of settling in and enjoying the great outdoors, the hens and Rosie are now preparing for flockdown. As of Monday 7th November 2022, all poultry and captive birds in England are under mandatory housing measures to stop the spread of Avian Influenza. Learn more about the new guidelines here.

We caught up with Rosie to see what changes she has made to follow new guidelines and keep her hens happy and healthy! 

Rosie's chickens during flockdown - Omlet Eglu Cube Chicken Coop

How did you feel when you heard the news?

I have been working at Omlet for a few years now, so I knew there was a risk of flockdown this year as well, but it still caught me by surprise when I read the news.

My hens have spent most of their lives locked up, and it’s been really lovely to see them explore the outside world over the summer. I can’t lie, I do feel a bit disheartened having to restrict them again, but I know it’s for the best. Hopefully the sooner we take action the sooner they can be let out again!

What does the new guidance mean for your chickens?

Obviously the biggest thing that is going to change is that I won’t be able to let the hens out in the garden during the day.

Luckily I already have a large Walk in Chicken Run, but smaller wild birds could potentially get through the mesh, so we’ve had to double up on protection. We’ve had large covers on the roof since we got the run and now, down the side, we’ve put some thinner fruit netting. That way wild birds can’t get in, but the hens get plenty of ventilation and natural light. It doesn’t look picture perfect at the moment, but at least it keeps them safe.

We had actually already ordered some new wood chippings for the run floor in time for wetter weather, so we’ve spread that in the run to avoid mud and damp.

Close up of mesh on Omlet Walk in Chicken Run during flockdown

Cleaning and disinfecting is another big part of the Defra advice, are you making any changes there?

I deep clean the coop once a week, but I think I will be a bit more vigilant now and properly disinfect anything that comes into contact with the hens and their food. Stuff like brushes, food scoops and the feeders and drinkers, which normally I just have lying around. 

I’ve also put some wellies on the run porch that I only wear when going into the flock. There’s also a bucket with water and disinfectant which I dip the boots into before going in so I know I’m not bringing anything nasty to the chickens.

Similarly, I do regular health checks on all the chickens, but I will probably keep an extra close eye on them now.

How are you going to keep the hens entertained while they are in the walk-in run?

I’m sure they will be okay in the run, they’ve got each other, quite a lot of fun stuff to scratch, and a PoleTree chicken perch to climb and perch on. But one of the tips I was given was to rotate the entertainment regularly so that there’s something new for them to explore every, or every other, day. So I might give them some pecker balls in the Caddi one day, then some corn in their Peck Toys another, and then on the next day I’ll move the perches around a bit on their PoleTree. Hopefully they’ll appreciate having something a bit different each day! 

What’s your top advice for worried chicken keepers?

  • Cover the run to stop wild birds and rodents
  • Disinfect everything that comes in contact with the flock, including your shoes
  • Provide lots of hentertainment to keep the hens stimulated, like treat holders and perching solutions
  • Keep yourself updated with news from Defra (you can register with APHA here)

We’ve asked our friends at BHWT for some advice. Their founder Jane Howorth MBE said:

“It can be a challenging time for pet hen keepers who want to see their beloved pets outside free ranging, just as we want to continue rehoming as many ex-commercial hens as possible. However, the impending housing order has been put in place to protect all birds and, in fact, it is possible to make flockdown a positive and enjoyable experience for your hens.

Now’s the time to get creative with boredom busters such as pecking blocks and treats – though don’t overdo it as these can be very fattening! Creating extra perches is a simple way to increase their exercise, as is hanging up coloured string for them to peck at. Dust baths remain important and the benefit of having them in a covered run is they won’t get boggy from the wet and wintry elements.

We’ve got lots more ideas for boredom busters on our website, and our Hen Helpline is available for anyone concerned about their hens’ health during the flockdown, or anytime at all.”

Rosie's chicken keeping adventure in flockdown using Omlet Walk in Chicken Run

This entry was posted in Chickens

One reply on “Rosie’s Chicken Keeping Adventure – Flockdown”

Michael Slade says:

Sparrows have got through fruit netting, so considering other options including bird feeders directly outside run, also loose netting as a deterrent.

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