All poultry keepers to register with Defra under new bird flu plan

Defra has launched a consultation on new registration rules for all bird keepers in Great Britain
Defra has launched a consultation on new registration rules for all bird keepers in Great Britain

All poultry keepers may soon have to officially register their birds as part of efforts to tackle the UK's worst ever outbreak of avian influenza.

The proposal was launched by the government on Tuesday (7 March), and would apply to all keepers no matter how many birds they have.

At present, only those who keep 50 birds or more are required by the law to do so.

Under the new plans, bird keepers would also be required to update their information on an annual basis.

Since late 2021, the UK and Europe has been experiencing one of the worst avian influenza outbreaks on record, with tens of millions of poultry culled.

There is currently a mandatory poultry housing order in place in across Britain.

The chief veterinary officers of England, Scotland and Wales said the proposal would enable authorities to have a 'full picture' of the number and location of kept birds.

In a joint statement, they said this would make it easier to track and manage the spread of avian influenza.

They added: “This information will also help inform future risk assessments and maintain our commitment to continually building our extensive avian influenza research portfolio.”

By registering birds with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), keepers would receive updates such as any local outbreaks.

They would also be provided information on biosecurity rules to help protect their flocks from the threat of bird flu.

The new rules would cover owners of backyard flocks, birds of prey and pigeon fanciers, but would not affect pet birds kept entirely inside a domestic dwelling.

The British Poultry Council said it welcomed the consultation, and urged farmers and keepers to take part in it.

“Registering your poultry is an effective way of monitoring and controlling the spread of disease to protect the national flock," a spokesperson said.

"We, as ever, urge all poultry keepers to remain vigilant for signs of avian influenza in their birds.”

The 12-week joint GB-wide consultation will run until 31 May.