New UK-wide housing order for poultry as bird flu spreads

Poultry farmers across the UK – whether backyard or commercial – will be required to house all their birds from Monday, November 29 as the number of bird flu cases increases.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency confirmed on Wednesday 24 November that three new cases at the North Yorkshire premises were highly pathogenic strains of H5N1 avian influenza – bringing the total number of UK cases to 17.

The new housing measures mean all poultry farmers will have a legal obligation to keep their birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures to protect them from wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe.

See also: Avian flu prevention tips and how to deal with an outbreak

Actions to be taken by all poultry farmers

  • House or net of all poultry and captive birds to separate them from wild birds
  • Clean and disinfect clothing, shoes, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if possible, use disposable protective clothing
  • Reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimize contamination from manure, slurry and other products
  • Use effective pest control
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the housing continuously
  • Keep fresh disinfectant in the correct concentration at all points of entry and exit to farms and barns
  • Make sure all food and water are not accessible to wild birds

Chief government veterinarians encourage poultry farmers to use the next five days to prepare for new housing measures, including taking action to protect animal welfare, consulting with their veterinarian, and setting up additional housing if needed .

In a joint statement, they said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, as of Monday, November 29, you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

The move follows the introduction of housing measures in parts of North Yorkshire on Sunday 21 November.

When housing is not practical, poultry farmers can use netting to separate their flocks from wild birds.

Public health advisories remain that the risk to human health from the virus is very low, and food standards bodies insist that bird flu poses a very low food safety risk to UK consumers.

Free range hens that must be housed are allowed to maintain free range status for their eggs.

Additional tips

If you find any swans, geese, ducks or other dead wild birds, you should report them to the Defra Hotline on 03 459 33 55 77.

  • Poultry farmers should report any suspected disease in England to the Defra Rural Services helpline on 03000 200 301.
  • In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268.
  • In Scotland, contact your local Field Services office.
  • In Northern Ireland, contact Daera on 0300 200 7840.

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