How long will the AI Prevention Zone last in Scotland?
The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will remain in place until the end of April 2017. However, on 28 February the requirements of the zone changed, meaning that from that date keepers may let their birds out provided that they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place.
What are the requirements of the Prevention Zone?
The full list of requirements are provided within the declaration which you should read carefully. We have also produced an AI Prevention Zone Checklist for bird keepers in Scotland, and a biosecurity poster for small keepers, which may be of assistance to you.
When can I let my birds out?
From 28 February keepers may let their birds out provided that they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place.
Can I continue to house my birds?
Yes. For many keepers, choosing to keep their birds indoors may continue to be the best way to comply with the requirements of the zone and protect their birds from disease. Free range producers should be aware that products from housed birds may no longer qualify as free range.
What are "other appropriate and effective biosecurity measures" (other than housing or netting) that I can take to protect my birds against contact with wild birds?
The declaration requires any person in charge of poultry or captive birds to take all appropriate and practicable steps to ensure that birds are protected against contact with wild birds through the use of cages, nets or roofs or by other appropriate and effective biosecurity measures.
It may not be appropriate or practicable for you to cage, net or house your birds, so you must take steps to ensure they are protected against contact with wild birds by other appropriate and effective biosecurity measures. The Scottish Government has produced a checklist of steps that keepers should consider which it may be helpful to print and complete.
Such measures include, but are not limited to:
- Before allowing poultry or other captive birds to use a range after a period of housing, the range must be checked and any obvious contamination from wild birds (such as faeces or feathers) must be removed;
- Discourage wild birds from using range areas, e.g. through the use of (wild) bird-scarers, decoy predators, and/or netting smaller range areas;
- Inspect your range regularly and remove any obvious contaminants from wild birds (such as faeces or feathers) in a biosecure manner;
- Operate effective barrier hygiene before entering a house or biosecure area on the premises (e.g. coveralls and dedicated boots that are only used in particular houses or bird areas)
- Routinely clean and disinfect any concrete walkways on-site;
- Regularly check the health status of your birds, observe them closely and report any signs of disease to your vet;
- Free range egg producers may wish to discuss with SG Poultry Inspectors how they could manage their flock’s access to the range whilst complying with welfare and marketing regulations, regarding the number and size of pop-holes andthe available range area
Bird keepers should speak with their private vets, or their local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office, if they have any specific questions about complying with these requirements.
What birds does this apply to?
The zone applies to all poultry and captive birds, regardless of species. If you keep several types of birds, house chickens or turkeys in separate enclosures from ducks and geese. We've produced a poster aimed at backyard poultry or small flock bird keepers providing tips and advice.
What should I do to prepare for letting my birds out?
If you decide to let your birds out, there are some steps that you should take to help prepare both your birds and your property. Make your birds’ range unattractive to wild birds:
- Net ponds and drain waterlogged areas of land. If this isn’t possible, then can you fence them off from your birds so they cannot access it whilst ranging, or use an alternative paddock that doesn’t have access to water
- Remove any feeders and water stations from the range, or ensure that they are covered to sufficiently restrict access by wild birds
- Consider using decoy predators or other livestock (such as sheep or cattle) on the range, or allowing dogs to accompany you on foot patrols around the range. You could also consider bird scarers if their use is appropriate for the area (see NFU Code of Practice on bird scarers and consider your responsibilities)
- Consider increasing the number of shelters on the range area
What responsibilities do I have while discouraging wild birds from using my land?
Whilst undertaking these requirements, it is important that you consider your responsibilities under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 as amended. It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take a wild bird; or to take, damage, destroy or interfere with a nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built, unless the activity is undertaken in accordance with an SNH general licence or specific licence. Further information is available at http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-species/which-and-how/birds/
If your premises is located in or near to a Special Protection Area, and you think that your measures may have an impact on wild birds which are a qualifying interest of the site, please contact your local SNH office for advice. See http://www.snh.gov.uk/protecting-scotlands-nature/protected-areas/international-designations/natura-sites/ for more information if required.
What happens to free range or organic poultry – do they lose their status?
Produce from birds which continue to be housed after 28 February may not meet EU marketing requirements for free range status. The EU free range derogation for birds housed as a veterinary precaution can only be applied for a maximum of 12 weeks, which expired on 28 February. Producers may voluntarily continue to keep their birds housed to protect them from disease – however, they should be aware that they may no longer be able to market their birds’ produce as free range.
The organic status of poultry flocks is not affected by any legal requirement to house or restrict access to open-air runs, provided that all other requirements of the Organic Standards continue to be met.
Why do I need to keep ducks and geese separate from other poultry?
Domestic waterfowl (such as ducks and geese) are more likely to attract wild birds of the same or similar species, and are more prone to exposure to wild waterfowl and sources of infection because of their natural behaviours, than domestic poultry. Keeping them separate from chickens and turkeys reduces the risks that wild birds will interact with these other poultry on the premises. If in doubt you should discuss best biosecurity practice for different species with your vet.
Am I allowed to build a cover for my birds? Will I need planning permission?
In Scotland, you are permitted to build a temporary structure as long as it taken down within 28 days of it being erected. If your structure is designed to remain in place for longer than 28 days, then you could build under the Agricultural Permitted Development Rights as long as the structure is not within 400m of any residential house (which is not related to the agricultural premises) and complies with other requirements of class 18 of the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 however you should discuss any proposed work with the planning authority before commencing. For more information on agricultural permitted development rights see Planning Circular 2/2015: Consolidated Circular on Non-domestic Permitted Development Rights.
If this costs me extra money will the SG reimburse my costs?
There is no requirement on the Scottish Government to compensate owners for these measures.
Why has the zone been renewed?
An AI Prevention Zone was first declared from 6 December 2016, was renewed on 4 January and has been renewed again on 22 February to last until 30 April 2017.
Since the Zone was first declared, the risk level for Avian Influenza incursions into the UK has been raised to ‘low to medium’ for poultry or captive birds, and ‘high’ for wild birds. Cases of H5N8 have also been confirmed in poultry and domestic birds in England and Wales, as well as wild birds across Great Britain (including a peregrine falcon found in Dumfries and Galloway).
In light of the continuing risk across the UK and Europe, Scottish Ministers have decided that a further zone should be declared lasting until the end of April. However, following discussions with industry stakeholders and their representatives, it has been agreed that, based on current risk levels, it would be proportionate to amend the zone from 28 February to allow some birds to be let out under enhanced biosecurity measures, to protect our vital poultry industry while still minimising disease risk.
Could the zone be lifted early?
The zone could be lifted before the end of April 2017, if the risk diminishes.
What regulations are in place to protect the welfare of the birds when they are housed?
Animal welfare legislation continues to apply. Keepers who have welfare concerns should discuss these with their private vet, or local APHA office.
What can I do to keep my birds happy while they are kept indoors?
There are a variety of environmental enrichment options for captive birds, including poultry. It is important that you consider introducing activities for your birds if they are used to having large spaces to roam, as their welfare is very important. You could hang objects like bird toys, twigs, and cabbage or kale leaves from perches or the ceiling of the enclosure for them to peck, or provide foraging items inside like hay, dirt clumps, (non-toxic) weeds or old wood stumps - please ensure these have not come into contact with wild birds or their faeces. Changing these items when birds lose interest in them will help reduce stress levels and provide mental stimulation for them.
Further practical advice on ensuring the welfare of your birds is available from Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service and the EPIC Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks.
How do the current requirements apply to game birds?
Game birds that have already been released are classified as wild birds. Those people that release game birds are no longer classed as the ‘keeper’ of the birds once they have been released. You are permitted to release game birds in the AI Prevention Zone. Where the released game birds continue to be fed and watered, this can continue, though other wild birds should have had no contact with the feed and water. Commercial feed and fresh or treated water should be used. If they remain in pens, contact with wild birds should be restricted, for example through netting, roofing, etc., and they should be fed under a roof to avoid attracting wild birds.
The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has produced guidance for gamebird keepers, in light of the current situation. This has been endorsed by Defra, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments and collated by seven leading countryside and shooting organisations (BASC, CA, CLA, GFA, GWCT, NGO and SGA).
Can I still fly birds of prey?
Yes, although you should minimise contact with wild birds, for example by using/targeting other prey (such as rabbits) and preventing them from eating any wild birds, where possible.
Should I cancel upcoming shows or events?
Gatherings where poultry, game birds or waterfowl are brought together from different locations are currently not permitted under the bird gatherings general licence – gatherings of other captive birds may continue. Further information can be found on the Bird Gatherings FAQ page.
Can I still move or sell birds?
Yes, bird movements and selling birds in Scotland are permitted, provided that the biosecurity requirements within the current Prevention Zone are complied with. Only gatherings of poultry, game birds or waterfowl are prohibited - this can include sales or markets where multiple sellers congregate.
Do I have to close my farm/should I cancel school visits etc?
There is no requirement to close your farm or stop visits. However, for your birds’ safety you may want to think about rescheduling - avian influenza virus can be spread by visitors on their boots etc. If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local APHA office.
Can I still race my pigeons?
Yes, but for your birds’ safety you may want to think about rescheduling any races or meets, where possible, given the heightened risk of HPAI circulating in wild birds. If you have any specific concerns you should discuss these with your private vet or local APHA office.
Can I still import birds?
Yes. The zone only applies to the levels of biosecurity that are required once birds are in Scotland.
Does this affect shooting?
Shoots have not been banned in the prevention zone.
Where game birds are already released, they are considered to be wild and there is no restriction. Birds in pens should be kept separate from wild birds as far as possible.
What is the penalty for not complying with the measures in the current AI Prevention Zone declaration?
Non-compliance may regarded as an offence which could result in either imprisonment (for a term not exceeding six months) or a fine of up to £5,000, or both. However, the main objective of this order is to reduce the opportunity for contact between wild birds and captive birds/poultry. Keepers need to balance costs against effectiveness. It is therefore important that you investigate all options open to you and consider their practicality/feasibility of implementing these measures given your individual circumstances. Please contact your local vet or local APHA office for further advice.
What do I do if I find a dead wild bird?
Avoid handling it and try to assess what species of bird it is. As part of routine wildlife disease surveillance post-mortem examinations of birds are undertaken in incidents where any ‘at risk’ bird species (wildfowl or gulls), birds of prey or five or more birds of any other species, are found dead in the same location and at the same time. Members of the public are asked to report these incidents to Defra’s national helpline (email email@example.com or telephone 03459 335577, Mon-Fri 8am to 6pm).