It’s over! Winter has gone and bird flu restrictions are eased. The girls are loving it….

Well, the winter just gone has been a pretty rubbish time to be a chicken keeper, a really rubbish time to be a hen and an equally rubbish time to be someone who writes about hens. Part of the remit of this column was writing about my girls as part of our family and, quite frankly, these past few months, it feels like my family has been torn apart. The girls have been at the far end of the garden, away from the house and away from me and I have missed that all-important interaction with them. I have missed them shouting at me through the patio doors, demanding to be let in, I have missed fighting to get out of the back door with five naughty ex-bats, six rescue hens and a very small but determined Dutch bantam trying their utmost to slip past me, and I have missed sharing my life and my cuddles with them.

At the time of writing this column the girls have FINALLY been allowed out, as our part of Cornwall is not deemed a high risk zone for bird flu, and they are currently running gleefully amok around the garden, three months’ worth of trashing, grass eating, cat stalking, running the gauntlet to the Human Coop and general mischief, merriment and mayhem to make up for.

When I got my first ex-bats, I promised them that never again would they be confined in a cage, and that they would always be able to see the sky and feel the grass beneath their feet. It is a promise I have always kept for all of my girls. Their having the run of our garden means that for us humans, we are very much tied to the girls, always having to be there throughout the day and again in the evening to ensure everyone is safely in bed. It is a huge commitment, one that impacts greatly on our lives, but a promise is a promise and one we gladly keep. The security of a large run would absolve us of much of that responsibility and worry, but a cage is a cage, no matter how big it is.

However, with the seemingly endless regulations imposed over the winter, we had to comply. With no suitable housing, we invested in some fine-mesh netting and netted a large area for the birds.

But now, after what has seemed like eons of torment, the restrictions are lifted, that blasted snaggy netting is also lifted, my girls are roaming free and my feathered family and I are back together again. Bring on the summer of 2017; the official Summer of Love!

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