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Avian Flu Guidance

Information and guidance for keepers of poultry and captive birds

National Avian Influenza Prevention Zone - current requirements

Following the introduction of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain on 17 October to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds, the Chief Veterinary Officer has announced that mandatory housing measures for poultry and captive birds will be lifted from 00:01 on Tuesday 18 April 2023, but scrupulous standards of biosecurity remain essential.

Following ongoing monitoring using the latest scientific evidence and a robust risk assessment, bird flu risk levels have been reduced meaning poultry and other captive birds will no longer need to be housed and can be kept outside, unless they are in a protection zone or captive bird monitoring controlled zone.

The decision means that from 18 April, eggs laid by hens with access to outside range areas can return to being marketed as 'Free-Range' eggs.

Those who intend to allow their birds outside are advised to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds. This will include cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.

You can find guidance on biosecurity on the GOV.UK website

View full details of the current terms of the national AIPZ declaration on the GOV.UK website.

Lifting of the disease control zone in March

Following a confirmed case of Bird Flu near March on 31 October, DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency put in place a 3km Captive Bird (Monitoring) Controlled Zone around the affected site. The disease control zone imposed certain legal obligations and restrictions on all bird keepers, whether they were commercial keepers or had a back yard flock. Subsequently all birds on site were culled and the zone remained in place until 26 February when the APHA had successfully completed their disease control activities and surveillance.

Despite the zone revocation, it remains vital for bird keepers to adhere to the biosecurity requirements within the AIPZ,  and monitor the health of captive birds frequently, reporting any symptoms which could indicate infection to DEFRA. 

Spotting symptoms

Be aware of the symptoms of Bird Flu and check your birds regularly for these. Advice on symptoms and how to report concerns is on the GOV.UK website.

Symptoms include:

  • Swollen head
  • Blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fewer eggs laid
  • Increased mortality

Report disease symptoms in your own birds

If you keep birds and notice possible Bird Flu symptoms, you are legally obliged to report these to DEFRA's Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200301. Bird Flu is classified as a 'Notifiable Disease'.

When and how to report dead wild birds to DEFRA

If you come across:

  • One or more dead bird of prey
  • Three or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese, ducks)
  • Five or more dead birds of any species

You should either:

DEFRA also welcomes reports of any other species or numbers of dead wild birds.

If you report a dead wild bird, DEFRA and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) may arrange to collect it and test it. If they are going to do this, it will happen within four days. They collect and test dead wild birds to help explain where Bird Flu is spreading in Great Britain and in which types of birds.

Do not touch or pick up dead or visibly sick birds. It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water if you do touch any dead birds, droppings, feathers or material that has touched the dead bird.

For advice on disposing of dead wild birds, whether you are a member of the public or a land owner, please view guidance on removing and disposing of dead wild birds on the GOV.UK website.

Register your stock

Bird keepers with more than 50 birds, whether all the same species or a mixture, must register them by law with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Those with less than 50 birds are also strongly encouraged to register their birds with the APHA.

To register, visit the Poultry (including game birds): registration rules and forms on the GOV.UK website. This also aids communication with you in the event of a confirmed case in your locality.

Register for Bird Flu updates

The Animal Plant and Health Agency (APHA) runs a free disease alerts service for bird keepers. This keeps you up to date with the latest Bird Flu developments.

Sign up to receive animal disease alerts from APHA on the GOV.UK website.

Risk to human health

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that Bird Flu is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public's health is very low. Nevertheless, we strongly discourage you from touching dead birds or those showing symptoms of the disease.

Furthermore, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said that, on the basis of current scientific evidence, Bird Flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

The NHS website has further information on Bird Flu.

If you employ people who work with poultry, or you work with poultry yourself, you can also read advice on protecting workers from Bird Flu on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

For more information, read the Bird Flu guidance on the GOV.UK website.


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