Wyre farmer says her hens are '˜scared stiff' after bird flu captivity

A Lancashire farmer hit by the bird flu protection zone says her poultry are 'scared stiff' of going outside after months of being kept indoors.

Thursday, 13th April 2017, 2:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:39 pm
Photo Neil Cross Hy-Fly Game Hatcheries, Tongues Lane, Pilling, where bird flu has been confirmed

Parkfield Eggs in Pilling was one of many farms told to keep its birds indoors to protect them from an infectious outbreak of avian flu in January.

But the anti-bird flu measure was lifted yesterday and the farmer, who did not want to be named, said she was glad to see it go.

“Our 5,000 free range hens have been inside since December and when we opened the doors they were scared stiff by the daylight,” she said.

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“We were there for an hour and they wouldn’t come outside but it’s definitely a good thing they’re allowed back out.”

In January, more than 15,000 birds had to be culled at a farm in Preesall when scientists discovered the H5N8 strain of avian influenza.

The bird flu was found at Hy-Fly Game Hatcheries in Pilling Lane before a second outbreak was identified at a farm on Smallwood Hey Road, Pilling

This led to birds around the county being kept indoors for their safety as well as egg producers having to label their eggs as ‘barn eggs’ rather than ‘free range’.

“I wouldn’t say it has affected our sales because our reputation has carried us through,” the Pilling farmer said. “But we do think they’ll be another outbreak next year because it’s one rule for one and another for others.

“Not everyone with birds has the same safety measures as we do and that could lead to another outbreak.”

The decision comes after government inspectors carried out a new risk assessment, bringing the rules for poultry in higher-risk areas in line with the rest of the country.

The farm sells its eggs out of Wyre Valley Eggs in Preesall and the restrictions being lifted means they can once again list their eggs as ‘free range’.

NFU poultry board chairman Duncan Priestner said: “The NFU’s main priority during this period is the health and welfare of poultry. It is pleasing to see that the risk of Avian Influenza to poultry in Higher Risk Areas has reduced to the same level across the country and that keepers do not have to compulsory house their birds from April 13.

“However, the risk of poultry becoming infected still remains high and all keepers must continue to implement enhanced biosecurity measures to ensure their birds are as safe as possible.

“The public has been fantastic during this difficult period for poultry farmers and I would like to thank them for their continued support so far.”