Poultry keepers must now follow strict biosecurity rules as the whole of the country has been designated an avian influenza (bird flu) prevention zone.

Following a number of wild birds found to have bird flu across the UK, the chief veterinary officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of the country to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

This means that from 5pm yesterday (Wednesday, November 3, 2021) it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers in the UK to follow strict biosecurity measures.

Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles will need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading.

Avian influenza circulates naturally in wild birds and when they migrate to the UK from mainland Europe over the winter they can spread the disease to poultry and other captive birds.

Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese must also take steps to limit the risk of the disease spreading to their animals.

The UK health agencies advise that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the UK food standards agencies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

The introduction of the AIPZ comes after the disease was detected in captive birds at premises in England, Wales and Scotland. The disease has also been detected in wild birds at multiple sites across Great Britain.

In a joint statement the chief veterinary officers for England, Scotland and Wales said: "Following a number of detections of avian influenza in wild birds across Great Britain we have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone across the whole of Great Britain.

"This means that all bird keepers must take action now to prevent the disease spreading to poultry and other domestic birds.

"Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, you are now legally required to introduce higher biosecurity standards on your farm or small holding. It is in your interests to do so in order to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease."

The AIPZ now in force across GB, does not include a requirement to house birds - but this is being kept under constant review.

The AIPZ means bird keepers across the country must:

  • Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry
  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources
  • Feed and water their birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds
  • Minimise movement into and out of bird enclosures
  • Cleanse and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas
  • Keep free ranging birds within fenced areas, and ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water must be fenced off (except in specific circumstances, e.g. zoo birds)

Poultry keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to Defra’s national dead wild bird helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (please select option 7) and keepers should report suspicion of disease to APHA on 03000 200 301.

Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of bird flu you must report it immediately. Failure to do so is an offence.

You can report suspected or confirmed cases in:

  • England by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301,
  • Scotland by contacting your local Field Services Office
  • Wales by calling 0300 303 8268
  • Northern Ireland by calling the DAERA Helpline on 0300 2007840