My Dads recollection of what happened on the Smallholding one unlucky year…
“Back in the 1960s, nearly every-one in a village had a few chickens, and with small farms and holdings quite common place; the age of the super-sized egg-production units were in their infancy.
Of course being small meant you had just as much chance of catching any deadly disease going round as someone a few hundred yards down the road!
One such Disease was” Fowl pest”, or Newcastle Disease — a killer of chickens, ducks, geese and other fowl; highly contagious this virus had been a trouble to poultry farmers in Great Britain since World War Two. The period 1961/62 proved to be a very bad time with over 10 million birds having to be culled or dying in the Country as a whole. Each day the radio and television gave news of ever closer outbreaks to the Village and Straw soaked in disinfectant was a common site at driveways, — the smell of Jeyes Fluid was strong, and dipping your wellies in tin butts of the Liquid well remembered!
Well the inevitable happened ; ”Big Nanny” came back from collecting the eggs one day. A real drop in egg numbers and the hens sounding strange , like they were coughing and sneezing and wandering round oddly. When Grandad Basil came home, it was then a case of letting the Ministry of Agriculture know asap —- Newcastle Disease is a notifiable disease, and waiting for the Vet to confirm.
A few days later a team of Ministry Men turned up to begin the unenviable task of slaughter and clear-up. A digger dug a deep trench, about 6 foot deep, the hen carcasses were thrown in and covered with lime and then back-filled with the excavated soil – about 200 laying hens gone in a Half day! Then came the Clear-up — a big engine driven pressure washer/ steam cleaner blasted the chicken Houses and everywhere the sheds were disinfected. It seemed quiet without chickens on the place and no eggs! But eventually a month had gone by — The period when no fowl where to be on a previous infected site and then we could start out hen keeping once again.
In those days you could buy a box of Chicks from the Hatcheries in Lincolnshire that came down by train and we collected them from the signal box at the crossing at Great Blakenham, Suffolk. Little fluffy balls that would soon grow up to be the next batch of Laying hens at the ”Nuttery”, so the sound of clucking hens would not be absent for too many Days!”