The farming column with Sam Walton

A free range chicken hut.
A free range chicken hut.

The poultry industry is now unrecognisable from what it was in my youth.

Most farms had a few hens and a couple of roosters running about in the farm yard, scratching and picking up anything which might look remotely palatable.

They would be fastened in at night to prevent Mr Reynard from killing them and as you may know, a fox would kill them all and just take one away!

Deep litter housing began to appear where the birds would be bedded on shavings and do their scratching on those plus they were fed proper balanced diets.

Nest boxes would be provided and gathering the eggs was easy.

Battery cages also appeared which was an intensive way of producing eggs but many did not like the idea of them, so the new modern comfort system is much more bird friendly with the eggs being collected automatically as the roll gently into a moving tray.

Free range and woodland are now big business, costs a lot motor to produce but the eggs are also dearer.

There is more and more demand for eggs, to both eat on their own, or with bacon, omelettes, or for baking and very tasty and nutritional they are too.

However we currently have a problem with Avian Flu, which like many other diseases is brought from the continent by other birds.

It is a very devastating condition.

This is causing problems for free range producers in as much as they have to keep their birds inside until further notice and if they are inside for more than 12 weeks, they can no longer sell them as free range.

The cost of producing them will not be any cheaper so that will mean a worrying time for those involved and another loss for another part of our industry.

Anyone any ideas on how to control wild birds who bring disease from elsewhere?

I did see that a swan had been reported with it, so hopefully they will not be eradicated.