Pests, animal nuisance and welfare

Avian flu

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been re-introduced across Great Britain due to an increase in the number of detections of avian influenza (AI) in wild birds and on commercial premises. The purpose of the AIPZ is to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds.

From Monday 7 November 2022, it will be a mandatory legal requirement for all bird keepers across England, regardless of type or size, to keep their birds housed and to follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread and to eradicate the disease.

How to spot bird flu and what to do if you suspect it

The zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review.

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. 

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.

Useful 'Stop the spread' webinar recordings to help smallholder and hobbyist keepers and to help commercial producers find out what they can do to keep their birds free of disease can be found on GOV.uk. 

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low.

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

If you employ people who work with poultry or work with poultry yourself, you can also read Health and Safety Executive advice on protecting workers from avian influenza.

Housing

Housing birds is the most effective way to minimise direct contact with wild birds, provided that the housing does not have any entry points that can be exploited by wild birds - cover any gaps, openings and uncovered ranges with netting of a mesh size that is sufficiently small enough to exclude wild birds from passing through the openings i.e. maximum mesh of 25mm and check regularly for any damage that may allow wild birds access or ingress of water.

There are a number of different housing options:

  • Making use of suitable existing buildings (barns, outbuildings, farm/garden sheds, garages) adapted for your birds. Ensure that there is adequate ventilation and that any openings or ranges are netted to prevent wild birds gaining access. Check for and remove hazardous and toxic substances if garages and outbuildings are to be used
  • Erect a solid lean-to or veranda on the side of existing houses (provided it does no impact on the minimum space requirement for access to outdoor areas for free range birds)
  • Erect a new temporary structure with solid walls and roof, or a polytunnel. A polytunnel will only be suitable in cooler weather

Proposed buildings must take into account the welfare requirements of the birds, in particular the importance of adequate ventilation and light.

Total netting of full enclosure is an alternative to mandatory housing for birds that cannot be easily housed. If you choose to fully enclose/totally net outdoor areas, the following steps should be taken:

  • Erect a net structure that will reduce contact between housed birds and wild birds
  • Pay special attention to keeping wild birds from perching on the roof and defecating through it - you should consider using deterrent methods e.g. flutter tape, scarecrows
  • Construct temporary outdoor pens using straw bales and a tarpaulin roof with bird-proof netted gaps for light and ventilation
  • If bad weather is likely to be a problem, it may be necessary to erect a windbreak around your bird proof structure
  • Netting should have a maximum mesh of 25mm. You should consult commercial suppliers of anti-bird netting for advice and further information on equipment

Housing of birds is not a substitute for biosecurity measures.

Read more about the housing order

Biosecurity measures

In summary all poultry keepers should:

  • 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 area 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)

If you keep more than 500 birds, you must take some extra biosecurity measures, which include:

  • identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles are restricted
  • cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and footwear
  • keeping records of vehicles and personnel entering and leaving the live-bird part

Further detailed guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website

If you suspect any type of avian influenza you must report it immediately by calling APHA on 0300 020 0301. Failure to do so is an offence.

Read more biosecurity advice

Signs of the Avian Influenza disease

The disease spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces and poultry affected may show the following symptoms:

  • 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

Please note: This list is not exhaustive. 

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.

Reporting dead wild birds

If you find any of the following, report them to the Defra helpline by calling 0345 933 5577.

  • 1 or more dead bird of prey or owl
  • 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks) 
  • 5 or more dead birds of any species

Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.  

APHA Alerts Subscription Service

The APHA Alerts Subscription Service provides registered users with the latest news on exotic notifiable animal disease outbreaks in Great Britain. Alerts may also be sent outside of a disease outbreak

Sign up for APHA alerts

Poultry register

If you own, or are responsible for, poultry flocks of 50 or more birds (not necessarily of the same species) and even if your premises are only stocked for part of the year, then you must, within one month of their arrival at your premises, register your flocks.

For poultry flocks of fewer than 50 birds, whilst the law does not require you to register them, we still encourage you to do so as this means we can contact you quickly if there is an outbreak of disease.

View poultry registration rules and forms

Page last updated: 01 Nov 2022