Will the fungi that appear in lawns at this time of year be harmful to my Pekin bantams? Chris Taylor, by email

Jeremy Hobson says:

Generally, poultry and chickens (along with most other animals and birds) know instinctively what is safe to eat and what’s not – and are sensible enough not to touch things that will hurt them.

As there are countless types of fungi which occur depending on what vegetation is there to act as host, or on what soil structure might be found under your particular lawn, it is impossible to say whether the fungi to which you refer might be harmful. I’m fairly sure your Pekins will not go for any that are growing, but they might peck out of interest, any that are cut, drying or dead: for that reason, it’s probably best to use the grass-box on your mower and ensure that all lawn clippings are added safely to your (chicken-proof!) compost bin.

There is a fungus known as ‘aspergillosis’ which can grow in long, moist grass in warm conditions, soiled damp floor litter and badly-kept food – and can be harmful to young chicks. Keep their environment free of possible spore-breeding places by cutting the long grass before you allow chicks out into the runs, remove daily any damp patches in the litter surrounding drinkers and feeders, make sure that chick crumbs are stored well and, most importantly, thoroughly clean and disinfect between each and every batch of birds.

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