Housing measures have been in place for parts of North Yorkshire since 21 November following several confirmed and suspect cases of H5N1 AI in poultry in the area.
The Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed to issue the new housing measures, which mean that it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread of the disease.
These new housing measures will be kept under regular review as part of the government’s work to protect flocks.
Protecting birds' health comes first
NFU chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said: “Protecting bird health and welfare is our number one priority and, with an increasing number of confirmed Avian Influenza cases over the past few weeks, the introduction of national housing measures will help keep all birds, whether they are part of a commercial or back-yard flock, as safe as possible.
“These measures apply to all poultry keepers, whether you have one hen in the garden or a large poultry business.
“Poultry keepers only have a few days to prepare and implement the additional measures that are now required and, given the urgency of the situation, I encourage everyone to take action as quickly as possible.
“Vigilance is key with this disease and it’s vital that keepers report any signs of disease in their birds at the earliest opportunity to help prevent any further outbreaks.”
Prepare for new housing measures
Government Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging bird keepers to use the next five days to prepare for the new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and put up additional housing where necessary.
The additional housing measures build on the strengthened biosecurity regulations that were brought in across Great Britain as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on 3 November 2021 and in and Northern Ireland on 17 November 2021.
The introduction of housing measures means that from 29 November, in addition to housing all poultry and captive birds, keepers must continue to take extra precautions to keep their flocks safe. This includes regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering or exiting sites and limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors.
The Chief Veterinary Officers from across all four nations have worked together to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of the UK.
In a joint statement the UK’s four 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 Monday 29 November 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, taking this action now 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.
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. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.
If disease is suspected
Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77, and keepers should report suspicion of disease in England to Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301, in Wales