Poultry farmers believe they are being targeted by criminals and are spending thousands of pounds on security after losing upwards of £20,000 in stolen livestock during raids in Cambridgeshire and Scotland.
Problems started in February for Cambridgeshire producer Stephen Wiggington, who farms near Wisbech.
He noticed that individual birds were going missing and the next month 250 chickens and turkeys were stolen, before 48 were found unfed, miles away from his land.
Then in July, 40 Norfolk Bronze turkeys were stolen and a gang opened another shed and released 300 pheasants.
In Scotland organic farmer Mike Davis, who farms near Insch, told The Press and Journal he has lost between 150 and 200 chickens a week over the last couple of years, amounting to about 10,000 birds in total.
After ruling out the possibility of miscounting or predators taking the birds, Mr Davis bought padlocks for the doors, allowing chickens to roam free during the day, and locking them up a night.
But when his birds started to go missing again, Mr Davis replaced the 80 padlocks on the farm at a cost of about £1000.
“The whole thing has cost us about £25,000 if you work out the loss of income, the loss of the birds and the cost of the locks,” Mr Davis said.
Mr Davis has reported the thefts to police who are investigating.
Meanwhile Mr Wiggington also believes he is being targeted by criminals who have realised they can make a good money selling the live birds.
“These thefts are presenting problem after problem and we are now monitoring vehicles to see who is about, getting clear registration plate details if we notice anything suspicious and passing them on to police,” said Mr Wiggington
He has now spent £5000 on CCTV and alarms in an attempt to stop the raids.
Tony Bone, of Norfolk company Farmwatch, which liaises between farmers and the police, said: “Cases like Stephen’s are becoming more and more common in rural areas. Unfortunately, Fen farmers are very vulnerable because of the isolation of many farms.”
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