Bird flu – Latest situation: Chief Vet orders bird keepers
to house their birds
All bird keepers must house their birds from Monday 7 November until further notice to keep their birds safe from avian influenza.
Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and bird keepers are to be introduced in England from 00:01 on Monday 7th November, following an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza in wild birds and on commercial premises.
This means that all bird keepers must house their birds indoors and implement strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the threat of avian influenza, regardless of whatever type or size. Introducing these steps on farm is the most effective way in reducing the risk of disease spreading.
The new housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity measures that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) in October 2022. The AIPZ means that all bird keepers need to take extra precautions, such as restricting access for non-essential people on site, ensuring workers change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.
The UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with over 200 cases confirmed across the country since late October 2021.
These measures will remain in place until further notice, and will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to monitor and manage the risks of avian influenza.
The wild bird risk across Great Britain has increased from high to very high and the risk to poultry with stringent biosecurity remains at medium. The risk to poultry with poor biosecurity is still considered high, in light of the increased number of infected premises observed during September and October and the distance of some of these, as well as wild bird cases, from the coast. All bird keepers must now follow enhanced measures at all times to prevent the risk of future outbreaks.
Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said:
We are seeing a growing number of bird flu cases on commercial farms and in backyard birds across the country driven by high levels of disease within wild birds. Unfortunately we expect the number of cases to continue to rise over the coming months as migratory birds return to the UK, bringing with them further risk of disease that can spread into our kept flocks.
We’re taking action already by implementing a national Avian Influenza Prevention Zones and housing order, but it is important that all bird keepers – wherever they are in the country – ensure that cleanliness and hygiene are at the forefront of their minds to keep their flocks safe and limit the impact of the outbreak.
Public health advice remains 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. Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find and instead report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products, including eggs.
All poultry gatherings, including at fairs, shows and markets, remain banned, due to a large number of flocks mixing together and the risk posed by any infections spreading across the country.
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.
Advice to poultry keepers
All bird keepers must keep a close watch on them for signs of disease and maintain good biosecurity at all times. If you have any concerns about the health of your birds, seek prompt advice from your vet.
All bird keepers (whether they are pet birds, a commercial farm or just a few birds in a backyard flock) must remain vigilant and help prevent avian influenza by:
- housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
- cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
- reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control
- keep records of mortality, movement of poultry and poultry products and any changes in production
- thoroughly clean and disinfect housing on a continuous basis
- keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and poultry housing entry and exit points
- minimise 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
- prevent access by poultry to ponds and watercourses and ensure that birds are kept in fenced or enclosed areas
It is a legal requirement for bird keepers in the national AIPZ to take these biosecurity measures.
See our biosecurity advice for more information.
Avian influenza (bird flu) is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.