AVIAN influenza. Bird flu. We have been here before several years ago. It is back after an outbreak in Norfolk, and most recently in North Yorkshire too.

Luckily the netted enclosure that John constructed then for our hens is still intact. But now we have a small flock of ducks too, so they are in there. The geese were for the Christmas festivities (for us, not unfortunately the geese). Some of the drakes too, as they were surplus to requirements for breeding.

Fortunately, we had a spare poultry hut stacked up in sections in the big shed. There was space for it next to our other chicken hut and so John and I pulled the pieces out from behind the trailer. Then he reconstructed the emergency housing requirement for the bantams that had been sharing the other poultry hut with the ducks for the last few months.

By chance we had been surveying our poultry and deciding that a cull was long overdue. If matched to human ageing, most of our small flock are pensioners. We are getting very few eggs off them as the decrease in daylight hours has had, as happens each year, a drastic impact on their laying capacity. And they still eat as much and need as much mucking out and maintenance as a flock of super egg producers. Commercial flocks are stimulated by artificial light to persuade them that it is still summer, but our hens wake up in darkness and go to bed very early indeed. Result? No spare eggs for the dogs.

Meanwhile, there has been a hen housing emergency in a local school. Unless they construct a bird-proof run for their two hens and a cockerel, the birds will have to be culled. None of the pupils are willing to take them on, or rather none of the pupils' parents are offering the birds a home. Apparently over lockdown several families did adopt some hens, but no-one is keen to take on anymore.

As it happens there is a family connection to our Bob the cockerel. He originally came to us from the same school as he was being bullied by his big brother. Now big brother needs a home and he will be the new kid, or cock, on the block. They actually will not be mixing as I shall put Bob Mark 2 in the old goose hut and until the end of this particular bird flu lockdown he, and his two school friends, will be in splendid isolation. Just wait for feathers to fly when lockdown ends; unless its back to school lessons for them.