News

New housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds against avian flu

Published: 03 Dec 2020 16:52

Bird keepers should review biosecurity and house birds.

The Chief Veterinary Officers for Scotland, England, and Wales have agreed to bring in new measures to help protect poultry and captive birds, following a number of cases of avian influenza in both wild and captive birds in the UK.

The new housing measures, which will come into force on 14 December, mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.

Public health advice is that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry products including eggs.

Government Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the next 11 days to prepare for new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and where necessary put up additional housing.

These housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on 11 November. The AIPZ means that all poultry and captive bird keepers need to take extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.

The Scottish Government has worked closely with the UK and Welsh Governments to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of Great Britain.

A joint statement from Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said:

“We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from 14 December onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns. They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:

  • housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
  • cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, waste and other products, and using effective vermin control
  • thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
  • keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures
  • minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds

The new housing measures will be from 14 December onwards and will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.

Avian influenza is in no way connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and is not carried in poultry or captive birds.

Notes to editors:

In light of evidence from the continent and ongoing high numbers of findings among wild bird populations in England, the risk of incursion of avian influenza has been increased to very high for wild birds and medium for poultry with high biosecurity and high for poultry with poor biosecurity. 

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone.

The UK government’s outbreak assessment following recent cases in the UK.

A cross-Government and industry poster outlining biosecurity advice can be downloaded.

Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of bird flu you must report it immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.

In Great Britain, if you find a single dead bird of prey, gull or wild waterfowl (particularly swans, geese or ducks) or find five or more birds of any other species in the same location and at the same time, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7).

Keepers should familiarise themselves with the avian flu advice. 

You can report suspected case of disease by contacting your local Field Services Office.

In GB, you are legally required to register your birds if you keep more than 50 birds. Keepers with less than 50 birds are strongly encouraged to register. It is also a legal requirement to notify APHA of any significant changes in the average number of birds kept.