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Poultry keepers – Act now to reduce your risk from bird flu this winter

Published: 12 Oct 2021 11:56

Poultry keepers are being urged to prepare for avian flu and reduce the risk of disease in their birds over the winter.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging poultry keepers to take action now to reduce the risk of avian flu over the winter.

The UK is currently free from avian flu, but over the last year 26 outbreaks were confirmed in kept poultry and captive birds and in over 300 wild birds. As winter approaches, the risk of migratory wild birds infecting domestic poultry will rise and therefore it is vital that poultry farmers and bird keepers take action to improve biosecurity standards.

In a joint statement, the UK’s four Chief Veterinary Officers said:

“Avian flu is a continued threat to all poultry keepers, and as winter approaches we need to be ready for the increased risk of disease that migrating birds pose to our flocks.

“We encourage keepers across the UK to implement strong biosecurity practices now, including regular shed maintenance checks, cleaning and disinfecting footwear and signing up for our email and text alerts. Making these tasks a regular fixture of your disease control plans now will make a significant difference in the fight against avian flu this winter and for years to come.”

There are several measures that can help to keep flocks disease free. All keepers – whether they run a large commercial farm or keep just a few pet chickens in their back garden – can get ahead of the game and take these steps to reduce the risk of disease before the migration of wild birds begins again this winter:

  • Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly clean and disinfect any hard surfaces
  • Keep chickens and turkeys completely separate from ducks and geese
  • Conduct regular maintenance checks on their sheds
  • Clean moss off the roofs, empty gutters and remove vegetation between sheds where birds are kept
  • Draw up contingency plans for storing bedding and dealing with pests
  • Place birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl
  • Clean and disinfect footwear before and after entering premises where birds are kept
  • Ensure robust contingency and business continuity plans are developed and reviewed for managing your premises in the event of avian flu – including for housing birds, appropriate arrangements for bedding management, vermin and pest control
  • Ensure production records – including for farm movements, water intake and egg production – are up-to-date, easily accessible and preferably electronic
  • Be ready to submit licensing requests for when planning to move birds, vehicles or feed, and have plans in place in case of delays

The Scottish Government continues to monitor for incursions of avian flu and is working with the poultry and game bird industries; hen rehoming and pure and traditional poultry breeds stakeholders to help reduce the risk of disease.

Background

Avian Influenza (bird flu): how to spot and report the disease

  • All bird keepers across Great Britain should also register their birds on the Great Britain Poultry Register (GBPR). If you have 50 or more birds, this is a legal requirement. Keepers with fewer than 50 birds are also strongly encouraged to register.
  • Registering your birds means you can be contacted in case of any outbreaks and provide information on the steps to take to limit the chances of your birds contracting disease.