Preparing for Flockdown

Late morning, I dragged my husband down to the allotment to help me try and make our main coop biosecure. DEFRA have introduced restrictions for poultry due to several cases of pathogenic avian flu across the UK. Unfortunately, this seems to be happening more regularly, with last year being a particularly bad year. To be biosecure, the coop needs to be covered and the fencing netted to stop wild birds entering. Easier said than done for our main coop!

Previously, we used nearly 50m of scaffolding netting to wrap around the sides of the coop to stop the pesky sparrows getting in. They kept trying until they found a way in through the roof. In response, we plugged as many gaps between the roof and sides as we could. They still got in! So with DEFRA declaring Flockdown would start on the 29th November, I quickly ordered another 50m roll of netting.

Packing the car with the netting, new bag of corn and as many filled water containers as I could carry, we drove to the allotment. I left my husband to lug down the heavier stuff and dashed off to check on the chickens. The Little Weed Destroyers were happy enough in their run aside from needing more food. I promised to feed them once I had sorted out their Omlet cover for their nest box. Another online bargain, although the cover probably isn’t strictly necessary in the UK, I don’t like the idea of any of our girls getting cold over the winter. As it turned out, my timing was perfect. Within half an hour of arriving on site, it was steadily snowing!

With my husband busy sorting out the food and water in the big coops, I pruned the tree fern and wrapped it in bubble wrap. The ends of the fronds were going brown which I assumed was frost damage.   I had run out of straw to pack the top of the fern with but I covered the top with a layer of bubble wrap. To keep it in place, I weighted it down with a small log. Breathing a sigh of relief that the tree fern was all sorted, I headed down to the main coop to start prepping it for Flockdown.

Our first job was to get access to the side of the coop behind the fruit trees. It was a bit of a maze, writing between compost bins, chicken run and waterbutts but eventually we got a path cleared. Unrolling the netting we rolled it across the length of the roof, trying to block off any entrances for the sparrows. The following couple of hours was an interesting challenge. Both of us up different ladders, prodding the netting roll across the undulating roof with various implements. At one point, the roll was stuck. Of course it wasn’t stuck anywhere within reach. That would be asking too much! It was stuck exactly in the centre of the roof. The snow was beginning to come down more heavily and grip was becoming more difficult. With my husband up a ladder on the far side armed with a fork and me up the other ladder with my WolfGarten multi-tool handle. Between us we nudged and prodded the reluctant netting to the edge of the roof. There really is something to be said for teamwork! Four strips of netting in place on the roof, we carefully secured it in place using cable ties. As much as I don’t like using lots of plastic, these are invaluable for keeping the netting in place. Even with the 100 mph winds from Storm Arwen over the past few days, the cable ties have kept the netting in place.

Our next job was to fill any small gaps with more netting. The iron sheets which make the majority of the coop roof are perfect for sparrows to scurry along to get into the coop. Methodically, we blocked the holes, focusing on the peak of the roof where the roof sheets overlap. I have to begrudgingly give the sparrows credit for cleverness. They have worked out that if they walk along the dip of the top roof sheet, they can drop down and walk along in the opposite direction on the panel below. We hope the combination of netting across the roof and blocking the holes will stop them getting in.

Just as we were finishing, we turned around to see a sparrow in the coop! It couldn’t get out of any of the exits it had used previously. But in its desperation to escape, it disappeared into the roof…somewhere. We couldn’t quite work out where but we could hear it trying to get out. My husband tried lifting the roof panel slightly, there was a flurry of wings and then silence. We assumed it had got out safely. The next few minutes were spent blocking up that edge of the roof panel to try to ensure it can’t get back in!

With my husband quickly resembling a human icicle, I ran over to check on Gordon and his girls. They were all happily scratching around in the run. Having pretty much run out of netting, I wanted to see whether we needed to get another roll for the new coop. We probably do as the wire is wide enough to allow the sparrows to get in. With my fingers frozen and my husband impatient to get home, we walked back to the car and drove home.

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