Isle of Wight farmer on bird flu fears and free-range eggs - petsitterbank

Isle of Wight farmer on bird flu fears and free-range eggs

AN ISLE of Wight farmer who supplies eggs to all the major local farm shops and butchers has spoken of the red tape and expense due to the threat of avian influenza — and how their chickens aren’t enjoying temporary indoor living.

Sharon Wheeler of Hazlegrove Farm at Ashey has 5,000 chickens and all have had to move indoors for the past 16 weeks due to the threat of bird flu.

Although Sharon feels it’s for the best, as an outbreak would ‘close her down’, she is looking forward to an end to the situation, not least for her birds.

She is hopeful in another two to three weeks, the chickens will be allowed back outside where they belong.

What do the bird flow rules mean to chicken farmers?

In the meantime, because the chickens have now been inside for 16 weeks, their eggs can no longer be classed as free-range, and are now classed as barn eggs.

Sharon has had to invest in new 2-UK stamps instead of her usual 1-UK stamps, and has had to re-label every single box of eggs that leaves the farm — which they do at a rate of 1,500-plus boxes a week .

She supplies to Briddlesford Farm Shop, Farmer Jack’s in Arreton, and the Isle of Wight Farm Shop (formerly Briddlesford’s) as well as 47 other local business customers.

Sharon said: “There has been a lot of time spent and added expense, and red tape, without much guidance really. All a mad rush.

“Obviously the chickens are suffering. They would like to be outside in this weather — it’s not fair on them to be in.

“I’ve not really got an option. If we got avian flu it would close me down, so I want everyone to follow the rules. But we will be glad when it’s all over.”

Sharon said she wants to reassure her customers despite the new “barn eggs” labelling, they are the same eggs, the same well-loved chickens, and the birds should be back outside again soon.

Go to http://www.hazelgrove.farm/ for more information about this local business.

The farm is next door to Jack Up Events’ new Retro Staycations business and will be supplying meat and eggs.

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