Bird flu: Farmers prepare as housing order comes into force

The tougher measures mean that, in addition to housing poultry, farmers must ensure strict biosecurity
The tougher measures mean that, in addition to housing poultry, farmers must ensure strict biosecurity

Farmers and poultry keepers are preparing for tomorrow's mandatory housing measures that come into force following a series of highly-pathogenic bird flu outbreaks across the UK.

The government's order, which comes into effect from Monday 29 November, means it will be a legal requirement for poultry and captive birds to be kept indoors.

It follows dozens of cases of highly-pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in both commercial and backyard poultry, captive birds and wild birds in recent weeks.

The UK's Chief Veterinary Officers have given farmers and bird keepers five days to prepare for tomorrow's compulsory measures.

Measures include taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consulting vets and putting up additional housing for poultry and captive birds.

Housing measures have been in place for parts of North Yorkshire since 21 November following a number of confirmed and suspect cases of bird flu in the area.

The housing measures build on the biosecurity regulations that were brought in across Britain as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) on 3 November and in NI on 17 November.

The new rules means that from Monday, in addition to housing all poultry and captive birds, keepers must continue taking extra precautions to keep 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.

In a joint statement released earlier this week, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officers said they had taken 'swift action' to limit the spread of the disease.

“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from 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.”

The NFU has urged poultry farmers and backyard keepers to take action 'as quickly as possible'.

The union said it had been working with its members to ensure they had all the necessary measures in place by tomorrow.

NFU chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said: “Protecting bird health and welfare is our number one priority.

"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."

Mr Mahony said it was vital that farmers and keepers report any signs of disease in their birds at the earliest opportunity.

He added: “Poultry keepers only have a few days to prepare and implement the additional measures that are now required.

"Given the urgency of the situation, I encourage everyone to take action as quickly as possible."

Farmers have also been advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and to seek advice from vets if they have any concerns.

How do I prepare for the housing order?

The UK's four Chief Veterinary Officers said farmers and poultry keepers must now do the following:

• House or net all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild 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

• Thoroughly cleanse 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

Bird keepers are also being told to report suspicion of disease in England to Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301, in Wales contact 0300 303 8268.

In Scotland, keepers should contact their local Field Services Office, in Northern Ireland, contact DAERA on 0300 200 7840.