Vicar on guard as chicken-rustlers strike at East Yorkshire allotment
A CHICKEN-breeding vicar is guarding his flock after twice being targeted by poultry-rustlers.
Reverend Michael Bushby is stepping up security at his Market Weighton allotment after losing eight prize hens and a rare duck in two weeks.
The birds are part of a breeding programme and worth hundreds of pounds.
Rev Bushby, vicar at St Nicholas's Church in North Newbald, believes they have been stolen in order to be sold on in the competitive world of chicken breeding.
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He said: "They're all specialist breeds. We take the eggs and put them in incubators and grow them up and either give them away or sell them.
"We've never had a problem with foxes, only human foxes, and this is the first time we've been targeted."
Rev Bushby, 70, who runs his poultry-breeding allotment site with his friend John Strudwick, thinks it is unlikely they will get the birds back.
He said: "We know they're all good specimens. The problem is it's all our breeding stock.
"Chicken breeders don't usually do this kind of thing but we think they've been stolen to be sold on."
In the first raid on Tuesday, March 12, raiders went to the plots in Holme Road, Market Weighton, and cut through wire fencing. They stole three Light Sussex chickens and a Khaki Campbell Duck and kicked a cockerel to death.
On Tuesday, the rustlers were back, stealing three Road Island Reds, another Light Sussex and a New Hampshire Red.
The raids are the first significant targeting of Market Weighton allotments since they were hit by a spate of break-ins in May 2011.
Over several weeks, thieves targeted sheds at allotments in Market Weighton, Cranswick, Driffield, Hornsea and Pocklington, as well as plots in Bransholme and Hull.
They were mainly looking for equipment that could be easily sold on, prompting security improvements and the rolling out of plot watch schemes.
The Holme Road allotments are leased out by Market Weighton Town Council, which acquired the land in 2010.
The site is managed by Market Weighton Allotment Association, which has its own committee. A town council handyman tends the site.
Town clerk Lesley-Jane Holt said: "When the allotments were first opened, one or two were broken into and equipment was stolen. We sent warnings round and we haven't had any more trouble until recently."
Anyone with information in connection with the incidents should call Humberside Police on 101, quoting crime reference 1963744.