Can you help us build a better home for our chickens?
We are asked to take in chickens on an almost daily basis and frequently find them sadly dumped at our gates or even launched over our fence. Chickens are fast becoming one of the country's most neglected animals - hatching projects are continuing to gain momentum in schools and care homes with no thought about the future of the chicks once hatched; chickens obtained to cure boredom during lockdown are now being cast aside, and commercially farmed hens kept for laying in their thousands face being culled with nowhere else to go as they are disposed of by the egg farming industry.
Roosters are in even more trouble, while they are not considered useful due to their inability to lay eggs, loud crowing, and sometimes difficult temperaments.
We currently have 28 chickens at Brockswood and want to be able to do more for these wonderful birds and the many more out there in need of a home where they can be happy, healthy and well cared for.
What do we want to do?
Like many of our enclosures, the chicken aviaries are the original aviaries existing on the old Cotwall End site when we took it over. These aviaries are really showing their old age now and as well as starting to show a lot of wear and tear and needing major repairs, we also feel that they are not fit for purpose, and we would much rather start from scratch and build something for them that we can be proud of, they can be happy in, and you can enjoy!
As well as creating a happy home for our chickens, we have plans to create a space that we can use to teach you about these wonderful animals and get you involved in their care, particularly school groups and people who we think might benefit from a little Chicken Therapy. This will involve building important features into the design such as making the area accessible for people with physical difficulties.
We hope that by giving you the opportunity to get to know some of our chickens; all with their own individual personalities, you will see that no chicken is just a chicken and how they all deserve our care and respect.
We recently experienced the worst bird flu epidemic the country has seen, and while we've been in a Coronavirus lockdown, our birds have also been in a Government enforced bird flu lockdown as Britain was declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ). Whilst in the AIPZ strict biosecurity measures must be adhered to, including keeping birds completely sheltered from wild birds.
We want to build our new chicken aviaries with this in mind so that we don't have to make big changes impacting their welfare the next time Avian Influenza reaches the UK and they can continue to live happily as usual, all year round.
As we continue our work renovating and modernizing the site, we are keen to make our new enclosures as natural as possible so that our animals can experience the life they deserve. All species have their own different needs and unique behaviours. It is crucial when caring for animals in captivity that we try to give then as much opportunity to exhibit these behaviours as possible - with chickens this means lots of space to make use of, places to climb and perch, places to scratch, areas to dust bathe (this is very important for their physical health too), nesting areas, and lots of things to investigate and play with.
This is something that most commercially farmed chickens can sadly only dream of, and we hope to make some of those dreams come true.
Where do we want to put it?
The heart marks the spot! We have earmarked an area of the site that is currently not being utilised. This is a large green area in one of the corners of the sanctuary. It is a quiet area, with natural shelter and shade from established trees that we would like to keep and build into the enclosure for the chickens to enjoy. As it is one of our quieter areas, this will be perfect for our chicken therapy and care sessions, and very peaceful for our hens when they are laying. We'd love to plant up the enclosure and surrounding area with bird and insect-friendly plants to create a beautiful mixed habitat.
Bird Flu Future Proofing
One of the major issues we've been facing recently is the impact that Bird Flu has had on our birds. While our birds have thankfully not been infected with the disease, it is not only important but our legal responsibility to ensure very strict biosecurity measures are kept in place to protect our birds from the disease (bird flu can be fatal and also highly contagious - if just one of our birds was to become infected, every bird at the sanctuary could lose their life due to Government culling for disease containment).
One of the most important precautions is to protect our birds from any contact with wild birds or other wildlife that can pass the disease on to them. This means that we have to bring any free-ranging birds inside and take away the freedom that they are used to. We also have to cover our aviaries as smaller birds are currently able to fit through the mesh.
These housing enforcements remained in force from November 2020 to April 2021 and while we did everything possible to keep our rescued chickens happy and with lots of enrichment to stop them from becoming bored, we don't want to risk this negative impact on their physical and mental welfare again.
We hope to do this by completely netting off this large area of land and building with better materials that will stand the test of time and also not let other small animals inside, protecting these chickens all year round.
We will also use materials that are easier to clean so that we can maintain the high standards of hygiene needed to prevent bird flu contamination, as well as other common chicken health issues such as parasites that can make themselves at home in old, poorly built enclosures.
So far we have raised: £195
Support the Project
We are still in the planning stages of this project and very open to any suggestions you might have for it! We'd also love to hear from you if you or your organisation would like to donate towards or sponsor the project and new build.
Together we can make a huge difference to so many lives!