Distress as “Avian flu” cull takes place of 480 birds at Chookies Farm and Animal Feed site

Distress as birds are culled following the Defra tests

Shocked animal-lovers have been emailing complaints to the Department for  Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as a team carries out the cull of 480 birds at a farm and rescue site in Deal.

Defra says Avian influenza (bird flu) was confirmed at Chookies Farm and Animal Feed in Sandwich Road on November 2.

This is disputed by owner Sophie Hayes who says one result came back as non-negative rather than positive, and she is yet to see evidence of a confirmed test result.

Distraught Sophie has been in ‘lockdown’ since Monday and security guards were installed at the site.

Chookies operates as a rescue centre, selling eggs and pet food supplies to contribute towards running costs. It does not sell birds for slaughter. It has been operating since 2008.

The farm is homes to a variety of birds including ducks, chickens, geese and Rhea.

All 480 birds on site are now being culled. A 1km Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) Restricted Zone was also been put in place around the farm to limit the risk of spread.

Culling has started with around 100 birds now (November 4) left at the site. Supporters have been joining Sophie  to protest over the action which they say has taken place before positive cases were confirmed.

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: “Avian flu has been confirmed at a small commercial premises in Kent. Immediate steps have been taken to limit the risk of the disease spreading and all remaining poultry and captive birds at the farm will be culled.

“Public Health England has confirmed that the risk to public health is very low and the Food Standards Agency has said that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. There will be no impact on food supply as this business does not supply poultry meat or eggs to the commercial food chain.”

The Food Standards Agency has made clear that bird flu does not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. Thoroughly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

The UK has remained free of highly pathogenic avian influenza since September 2017. A low pathogenic H5N3 strain of the disease, which poses no threat to human health, returned in December 2019 and was dealt with by Government action. The UK declared itself free from avian influenza H5N3 in June.

Find Chookies on facebook here


  1. I know chookies farm very well, and I think this decision was made without full proof and now Defra is trying to cover their back this is sheer stupidity. It’s a shame our government, didn’t act this fast for corona virus then we wouldn’t be in the state we are.

  2. Such a sad thing to happen to a rescue centre. We kept various free range birds in our garden as a child and seeing the photo of Sophie hugging that bird to say goodbye reminds me of how friendly and loving these birds can be as companions too. I wish Sophie well as this is a traumatic scenario for all involved.

  3. We had two goose Charlie and Lucy for some years they were family pets when Charlie died Lucy died two days later.
    The vet told us it was just old age of very fit birds.

    • So sad for such wonderful people, loving & committed to looking after all these animals & no proof that they were even carrying Avian flu.
      These are knowledgeable animal owners & would of done all they could to find out what was going on given the chance!!!

  4. Sorry about the birds, but I am more concerned about the people looking after them. Will they report any flu-like symptoms immediately and self-isolate until proved harmless?

    • Well I’m more concerned the fact birds have been culled for no reason healthy birds this is so wrong defra as done nothing but lie

  5. Defra have gone in and culled without giving the owner a chance to get legal representation, have a positive result or allowed many birds not to be fed or watered for the whole day. Terrible. These were pets.

  6. I’m good friends with the owners and these birds where healthy and well.. Defra have lied about so much and the animal welfare side of it was well below standard.. They also put dead birds in with live. Left birds over crowded and in view of dead birds.. Also left birds with no food or water for more then 24h.. This was not done in a humane way.. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they where gassing with co2… There was not proof this virus was there.. They asked to see the evidence and nothing was shown.. Defra shouldn’t be allowed near any animals because some of what went on was Not humane… I hope they get done for some of the stress and panic that them animals went through…

  7. Defra as corrupt as the Govt.
    How many other small farms and rescues and businesses are they doing this too.

  8. Iv know Chookies farm for 5 years and I’m devastated to find out what has happened. This poor family have totally gone though the worst thing ever. I support this lovely family and hope something can be done to get them back from this horrible tragedy

  9. Iv know Chookies farm and family for 5 years. I’m totally devastated of what has happened. Something needs to be done to help theses poor people. They have lost their lives in this horrific incident

  10. Defra should be taken to court and held responsible for what they have done when there was no proof it was bird flu shame on all responsible and I hope they all get there karma selfless bastards

  11. Can i thankyou you are the only and i mean only news team that have printed FACTS as i sit here writing this i have still NOT had any written conformation of avian influenza here. What worries me is the low strain that this is supposed to be is so low that microplasma (respiroraty illness very commen in poultry ) can show up as the same result i have been told this on good authority!. Now where they took this”positive”test from did have microplasma . Will leave that with you

  12. It seems like it was done for convenience so that it would all be done before the national lockdown. To be told it would take 5 days for the results then the next day they decided to murder the birds on a query result. They just wanted it all done before lockdown!! Total disgrace someone needs to be held responsible for this cruel and heinous act.

    • They didn’t murder the birds, they slaughtered them. The definition of murder is “the unlawful killing of a human being”.

  13. This was treated in an unnecessary way! Sophie has been distraught over treatment both she and the birds recieved! DEFRA has a lot to answer for! Where was the proof? Where was the paperwork? Many unanswered questions! Complete cover up on a bodge up made by DEFRA!!

  14. I am devastated and so upset for poor Sophie, who must be heartbroken to lose her hens and ducks in such a superficial and careless manner, without checking the health of the animals.. I kept several of her hens for many years and Sophie loved and cared for their welfare so much. Sophie, we all support you over this shocking treatment and we hope and pray that the farm will recover. Blessings, Elizabeth Weston

  15. I think it is awful but avian flu & the reasons why it happens have to be stopped as soon as they are found. I hope you recover from this Sophie.

  16. I saw a video of birds being killed by suffocation by being put in plastic bags like these ones, and tied up like in this photo so they died of suffocation in the tied up bags. Is this what happened here? I think it is cruel, and it shouldnt happen! The idea is to stop the spread of germs, but I think we must be humane or we arent worth caring about, anyway!

  17. This is distressing beyond words to follow goodness only knows what its like for Sophie & her family.Her beautiful birds including pet geese, swans & the Rheas All murdered & without proof, beggars belief.Lying DEFRA work for a lying government

      • Semantics. To unlawfully kill anything to me is murder call it what you want I don’t care. There are a lot more humans out there that need “culling” than poor defenceless animals and birds without reason. These birds were not proven to be diseased and that is the problem. They get scared and have feelings and feel both emotions and physical pain which in my book that makes them more worthy of decent treatment than most humans. These birds were put under massive distress and in some cases waited by a gas chamber seeing dead birds come out. You can think what you want!!!!!!!!

        • If I cut a tree down it’s murder in your opinion, is it? I don’t agree that “There are a lot more humans…that need culling than defenceless animals”. I do think what I want and what I think is that sentimentality about animals is unhealthy. I do not think that animals should be treated better than humans. In fact I think the opinions you give in your post are pretty disgusting.

          • Well I can think what I want too and I think you are disgusting! I don’t know you but I would rather be pecked to death by 500 birds than have an association with someone obviously cold hearted and cruel as you and your comments appear to make you. I know animals are there for food but that does not mean that they can be treated inhumanely as so many people think they can. I’m not a tree hugger but I am a compassionate person who tries to respect living things. If you think all this is ok I feel sorry for you, everyone is entitled to their own opinion but you can’t help being wrong. Write whatever I’m done you are the sad petty one who probably lives alone with no friends. Didn’t want to make this personal but you moved first. I won’t respond again. Have a lovely evening Marva.

  18. If the results were positive why haven’t DEFRA been transparent and shown the evidence already? If the results arent available yet ie the 5 days quoted, WHY have these beautiful innocent birds been murdered- and yes I use the word murdered – because its unlawful killing and anyone who knows and loves any animal will know that ALL animals are sentient beings, just like us, whether they are wild, domesticated, farmed or used in laboratories. I think the word murder is very appropriate. Every single animal on this planet is a sentient being that experiences all the emotions, positive and negative that we as humans do. They know joy, excitement, contentment, loneliness, fear, pain to mention just a few. This has been proven by science. To put any animal through this for no genuine reason than an unproven suspicion is totally unacceptable. Those of you who think this is ok arent getting the fact that there is no proof being offered that there is infection here. Why not? What is there to hide? After the 5 days if there is infection found, there is no reason to carry out this awful cruelty in such a terribly archaic, unkind way. There are kind ways of doing things, humane ways. This has not been fair to the innocent animals nor the carers who love them. I do not trust this government, I do not trust Defra who work for this government. Look at the evidence against badger culling for a start (and the way they have reneged on their promise to stop the cull and use vaccines instead) I do not trust a government, who in a pandemic hands out 50k grants to hunt groups. I’m so sorry to those who cared for these animals and loved them. I cant imagine the horror and pain you are going through. If you eventually feel able to fight and get to the bottom of this you should take this to the highest level. You were told 5 days for the results to be gained. No one gave you or the animals a fair chance. Start a crowd funding campaign. Fight this. For the innocent animals if nothing else.

      • In your opinion. Like I said, animals feel the same emotions we do, it’s been proven by science hence I prefer to use the word murder and I will continue to do that. I dont agree that this is over sentimentality and I can only imagine you arent fully educated in our treatment of animals. You arent the only human to think in this ignorant way. This is why animals are being born, raised and killed in horrendous, unnatural conditions the world over and it is linked to them becoming depressed, very sick and pandemics such as the one we are struggling worldwide with now. Oversentimenentality? The fact is this cruel, unnecessary treatment to animals is coming up behind us very fast and Mother Nature has had enough. Much of this inhumane treatment has become so standard and we are so used to it, we dont even recognise it as abuse anymore, but instead call it by other names, one of which is oversentimentality. We look the other way, blaming anything and everything, touting humans as the only real important life on this planet. We disregard the damage we do daily because to face it might mean admitting we have got it very wrong and it might mean we have to stop being selfish and greedy. There are so many examples. Just one. A dairy cow. I imagine you couldn’t for one moment live through a day where your babies were taken from you at birth. The ‘lucky’ ones get to ‘live’, become dairy cows like yourself, the unlucky, murdered immediately if male. This happens to you for @ 7 years. 7 times your baby is taken away, 7 times you suffer the loss, 7 years you struggle before you yourself are considered unproductive and sent to slaughter. You probably call this oversentimentality. Cows cry. Did you know that? When the baby is taken away, the momma cow cries for it and calls for days, looking for her calf. This is documented by farmers. Oversentimentality? It is opinions such as your outdated misconceptions that are part of the reasons we are in the horrendous mess now with pandemics. You label kindness and humane treatment as if it were a fault. The fault is obvious here. The way DEFRA have behaved here is dubious to say the least. It is potentially unlawful. To label peoples concern with regard to the pain and physical and mental distress caused to both the animals and their carers as oversentimentality is unkind and unnecessary. We reap what we sow. One day you will need compassion. Karma.

  19. What I don’t understand is why DEFRA, who probably have better things to do, would home in on a small holding in Kent and arbitrarily kill all the birds there. What would be the point?

  20. This is what the DEFRA web site says:
    “Following confirmation of low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) H5N2 a 1km low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) Restricted Zone has been put around the premises near Deal, Kent.”

  21. To Clare Davies. No, I am not sad nor friendless, nor do I live alone. I am having a very pleasant evening, mostly reading a novel by Muriel Spark. There is no need to feel sorry for me.

    Do you really think that there are people who need “culling”? How would you go about it? What criteria would they have to fulfil?

  22. I’m not sure what’s the most frightening.
    The idea that DEFRA would descend on Kent and slaughter 100s of birds for no reason
    The idea that people would believe that this would happen.

  23. I am shocked that DEFRA caused so much stress to Sophie and her family. Secondly I am shocked that the birds were left without food or water? For a huge extended period. Chookies farm is owned and run by a person who cares passionately about animal welfare and works tirelessly hard in promoting their care. WHAT A COMPLETE INULT TO HER! The way she and her birds were treated. If this is standard treatment by DEFRA on larger commercial sites why is it? Where is natural compassion?
    Someone famously said , ,”you can tell the state of a nation by the way they treat their animals” all respect to Sophie and family xx

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