If dark humour happens to be your thing, then here’s a cracker question to ask if you’re having a family quiz during the festivities.

What’s the name of a virus that originates in the far east, travels across the world until it reaches these shores, spreads rapidly, and has devastating consequences for those affected?

If your answer was coronavirus, then you get no points. The correct answer is avian influenza/bird flu.

That’s why the alarmist response within the poultry world is the only realistic option we have

Of course, there isn’t anything even remotely funny if this awful disease does strike in your area, and if the H5N1 strain of AI were left unchecked, it would wipe out the entire poultry industry in the UK and Ireland.

That’s why the alarmist response within the poultry world is the only realistic option we have – anything less than a near-panic approach would most likely fail miserably to offer a decent level of control.

Zoom meeting

I took part in a Zoom meeting a few days ago, and after listening to a couple of clued-in people who presented us with detailed information, was left with an eerie feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. If the idea was to scare the pants off us in order to sharpen our biosecurity efforts, then their plan worked brilliantly.

Free-range flocks are probably most at risk

Across the water, there have already been around 1.7m birds culled. These are commercial flocks that have been infected, despite some level of biosecurity being in place.

Free-range flocks are probably most at risk, especially if there is any sort of standing water near the range, because the likely carriers are migratory waterfowl (ducks, geese, swans) and these may choose to land in these areas. Despite being carriers of the disease, they may not be affected and therefore can easily be symptomless harbingers.


We are told that after a disease outbreak and all commercial flocks have been housed, the most likely cause of transmission into a house is faeces. This can move around on vehicle wheels and is then walked in if strict disinfection and change of footwear is not adhered to.

A thorny issue within this situation concerns backyard flocks

With this strain of bird flu, there won’t be any doubt that your birds are affected. Here’s how it works. A few birds may be off colour and sick on day one. Two days later, most of the birds in that house will be dead (it may be even faster). It’s as simple as that.

A thorny issue within this situation concerns backyard flocks. There is currently a requirement for poultry to be shut in, but we suspect plenty of folk with half a dozen hens, ducks, or geese, are blissfully unaware of their legal, or even moral obligations. This makes it extremely difficult for DAERA to trace all poultry in a control zone, because too many hobby enthusiasts are flying below the radar.

It’s not my intention to write about something so negative and so potentially devastating at this cheerful and celebratory time of year, but that’s just the way things are likely to be for the next few months.

True story

However, by way of compensation, I feel it necessary to finish on a more cheerful note. And seeing as I started with a reference to dark humour, I’ll finish in the same vein.

Here is a true Christmas story ... Despite being a time of glad tidings to all, everyone knows that most households will have an exhausted woman by the time it’s all over. She will most likely have overseen buying the presents, wrapping them, putting up the decorations, preparing the various feasts, entertaining the children, and organising most of the party games (or is that just this house?)

While visiting another family some years ago, the conversation turned to what presents we all wanted. A member of the other family then said to her parent, “What are you getting this Christmas Mummy?” To which the weary looking woman dryly replied, “Blind drunk my dear”.

Happy new year.

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