Covid: Home deliveries 'saving grace' for New Forest cull-risk hens

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image copyrightFluffetts Farm
image captionThousands of eggs were at risk of being wasted after the farm's bulk buyers - schools and hotels closed due to the lockdown

An egg farmer who switched to home deliveries after bulk orders stopped when schools closed due to Covid-19 has said it was "our saving grace".

Fluffetts Farm in Hampshire had orders from 350 schools, as well as pubs and restaurants, cancelled in January.

It left with more than 4,000 surplus eggs and its hens faced being culled.

Owner Ben Jackson said he had since taken on more staff to provide local home deliveries and "fortunately no hens had to go".

The farm in Fordingbridge, which has more than 12,000 free range hens, used social media to set up deliveries of a minimum of 60 eggs between Ringwood and Fordingbridge.

image captionFarm owner, Ben Jackson said "the home deliveries were our saving grace"

"January was very stressful in terms of adapting and managing," Mr Jackson said.

"My wife who runs the home delivery side was working 12-hour days as well as having to home school three children".

The farm found local support and demand for its home deliveries "far exceeded our expectations" with neighbours buying the eggs in bulk and distributing them between themselves.

"The other thing that really got us through was the amazing local shops stocking and selling eggs by the tray and adding this option to their own home delivery services," he said, adding: "The home deliveries were our saving grace."

On top of the lockdown, the farm also had to deal with a second viral challenge - bird flu.

Hens, turkeys and other captive birds in Britain had to be kept indoors from 14 December. Any farms testing positive for the virus faced a complete cull of their flock. The measures were lifted at the beginning of April.

Mr Jackson said: "We are glad to have made it through stronger and wiser thanks in many ways to all the local support, but quite frankly given all the stress, strain and absence of down time we hope this will be an experience not to be repeated again in the near future."

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