Exhausting day. I was on an early shift, so by the time Sue and Sarah get home I’ll just about have the energy to eat with them before I crash. If I try to stay up till bedtime, I’ll just doze off in front of the homeset and wake up with a sculpture of used envelopes and teaspoons on my head. Still, at least it gives me a free afternoon, which I’ve been using to get the potatoes and onions in the ground. It was almost warm in the garden. Some precocious daffodils are poking their heads out, and it feels like spring. I let the chickens out of their run to have a peck around the lawn, found a couple of eggs in their roosting pod and contemplated an omelette. For an hour and a half, life began to feel pretty decent.
Then I came in to find this on the front doormat:
Dear Number 92,
We noted, today, that you continue to allow your Chickens to roam freely, in the Garden, despite the current Global Crisis, concerning H5N1 (Asian Flu/Bird Flu). We find this behaviour, to be highly irresponsible, and believe it to be creating a Health Hazard to our Community.
We kindly request, that you either dispose of your Chickens, in line with whatever Health And Safety Regulations may be concerned, or keep them secured in a suitable shelter, where they may not spread their Infections to Children; Wildlife; or Pets.
If we see them, roaming freely again, we will be forced to report the Incident to the Proper Authorities on such matters.
I received your note, and felt I should clarify the situation. There is a great deal of misinformation circulating about the current H5N1 strain, chiefly the idea that it is primarily spread by poultry. I understand your concerns, but they are misplaced.
For a start, I check my chickens daily for signs of any kind of infection or illness, and I can assure you that they are in excellent health.
Secondly, the avian strain of H5N1 is quite different to the human strain. You’re not in any danger of catching ‘flu from a chicken unless you get far more intimate with it than either of you would deem appropriate. Even then, what you catch would not be the strain you are thinking of, and it could not be passed on to other humans.
When you look up the Health and Safety regulations concerning the spread of both the avian and human strains of H5N1, please do read them carefully. If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to knock on my door and speak to me in person about your concerns.
I may live to regret that last part, but even having a public disagreement on the doorstep is better than passing paranoid notes between numbers. I wonder when this neighbourhood became so insular that we don’t even know the names of the people next door, or deign to speak to them like people at all.