Avian Influenza Official Guidance from APHA
There is a lot of confusing misinformation about Avian Influenza and what you must do and what is allowed or not allowed. This page is intended to clarify the situation.
LATEST iMPORTANT UPDATE!!!!! ALTHOUGH THE HOUSING ORDER FOR WALES AND ENGLAND HAS BEEN LIFTED, BIOSECURITY IS STILL EXPECTED TO BE IN FORCE.
Avian Influenza has been detected in the UK at its highest ever level since November 2022 to spring 2023. There have been several H5N1 infection clusters in many parts of the country. Norfolk, Cornwall and Yorkshire have been particularly badly hit. Over the winter of 2022/2023 a housing order was declared which has now been lifted. This is likely to be an annual happening so making sure your chicken keeping and other poultry keeping areas are built with this in mind. Further information can be found at this link. This link shows a map of where the current bird flu cases have been. There is guidance on the APHA site here.
What does a housing order mean?
When there is a housing order in force, then it means all captive birds have to be kept under cover either with a roof or a suitable net which does not allow small birds to enter or foul the ground. Strict biosecurity measures are also required to help minimise the risk of infection spreading. This applies to all bird keepers in England, Scotland and Wales, whether birds are kept commercially or as pets, regardless of whatever type or size. These measures include cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear and equipment, reducing the movement of people to and from areas, and preventing access by poultry to ponds and watercourses. Failure to adhere to the housing order means you face a very large fine and possible imprisonment if you are found out.
Bird flu biosecurity recommendations (this is good practice regardless)
- Keep ALL birds indoors or under cover with either a roof or small holed nets to exclude wild birds and vermin. This becomes compulsory whenever a housing order is declared
- Ensure that you feed and water your birds in an area that wild birds and vermin cannot contaminate either by drinking or droppings
- Prevent visitors to the area the birds are in
- Make any ponds and boggy areas out of bounds to your birds and other wild birds
- Don’t encourage wild birds onto your property by feeding them
- Enhance your biosecurity by using a DEFRA APPROVED disinfectant foot dip at all entrances if possible. Clean boots and clothing are advised. Hard paved area to be disinfected also.
- Keep waterfowl (ducks, geese etc) separated from other poultry as the risk to waterfowl is greater.
- Always wash your hands thoroughly after dealing with poultry and make sure that you don’t put your hands near your mouth at any time.
The Food Standards Agency are also offering reassurance that bird flu will not pose a food safety risk for UK consumers. The eating of Poultry products and eating eggs are safe.
What happens following a local outbreak
If avian influenza infection is suspected at a location, then all birds are evaluated by a vet. On confirmation of disease then all the birds on the site are subjected to a humane cull order. There will be no “get out of jail free card” to play here however – all birds die.
Temporary no-movement zones are then created around ground zero. Once the final tests come back and their strain is identified, the following zones are declared. Severe movement restrictions are put in place in the active Protection Zones and active Surveillance Zones. No movement of birds in, or out, or within etc. Surveillance zones are in place for about a month, but checking on the APHA website or viewing the interactive map will give you the current picture. Rules then revert to Prevention zone rules when the active zones are no longer in the active state.
BIRD FLU IS A NOTIFIABLE DISEASE so it is an offence to not report it. Contact details to report suspected possible cases are on the DEFRA/APHA website or contact your vet.
Not all outbreaks are from commercial poultry outfits
The biggest numbers of actual birds in enforced humane cullings have been in commercial units but there have been just as many infected “premises” from hobby keepers too. Many people are blaming the commercial poultry units for the spread however this is not the whole story. So everyone needs to do their bit to protect all birds. The Farne Islands were subjected to a massive cull because of Avian Influenza with many wild birds such as Puffins having huge dents in their numbers. It is feared that many species will find it difficult to recover from such enormous losses.
Can you still buy birds when there is a housing order?
Yes you can BUT ONLY IF THE BIRDS ARE NOT MOVED TO/FROM/OR WITHIN A CURRENTLY ACTIVE SURVEILLANCE ZONE. See the heading below for the interactive map to check whether you as buyer or the seller are outside an active zone. There are some situations where movement is allowed in an active zone BUT ONLY UNDER A LICENCE OBTAINED BEFOREHAND. If you were to want to buy chickens from us, we would check beforehand if you are allowed. All our sales are recorded for traceability if we are asked.
DEFINITIONS of Avian Influenza Declared Zones
|Zone Name||Description of Zone|
|Protection Zone||A zone at a 3km radius from round the site of an infection – Movement restrictions apply. No birds moved in out or within this zone. Current map of infections and zone status here|
|Surveillance Zone||A wider zone of 10km radius from around the site of an infection – Movement restrictions apply. No birds moved in out or within this zone.|
|Prevention Zone AIPZ||Refers to the rest of the country not in any active Protection or Surveillance Zones. Bird gatherings may be banned but movements are allowed. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all issue their own terms (do’s and don’ts) on this.|
|Increased Biosecurity||Required legally by all areas of the country.|
|Housing Order||All birds must be housed under cover or a roof or nets to exclude wild birds and vermin. No contact to be possible between any other animal and the poultry or the ground they have access to. The Govt website gives the latest case location updates or you can sign up to the notification service detailed below. Notifications can be delivered to you either by email or text as you specify once you sign up. See link below|
The paragraph below is a direct quote from the Governments Notification system
There are no national warnings at the moment on the DEFRA or APHA website, although infections are still being detected so you need to check the interactive map to see if there is an active zone in your area.
What You Can Do for the Future
It is becoming a yearly phenomenon to endure Bird Flu lockdowns so if you wish to continue to keep poultry, your best options are to make sure you are ready. Plan well ahead to make your chicken’s area secure, big enough, and welfare friendly for any future declarations. Being pre-prepared is the best that you can do because this will make the restrictions easier on you and your birds each year.
Previously Avian Influenza was just thought of as being a seasonal risk due to migration patterns, but the feeling now is deemed to be endemic. This means that there is now a reservoir of infection carried by our own native birds who may not always show signs of disease. This reservoir can then be a continued risk which may be year round. The risk to our native bird populations could have disastrous consequences for their future survival.
Regardless of what this page says, you should still refer to this Govt website for the very latest position. Advice lines and reporting numbers are also on the page. Wales has also issued a housing order. Scotland is insisting on high biosecurity but not forcing a housing order.
In Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland you should contact your local APHA office. Again the contact numbers are on the link above.
Register your flock – advised – but not Always compulsory
The Government are encouraging everyone who keeps birds to sign up to the free poultry register. It is compulsory if you have a total of 50 or more birds of any species, but voluntary otherwise. The links to the forms are here There is no intrusion or hoops to jump through which is helpful.
Symptoms of Avian Influenza
There are 2 types of avian influenza.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI)
This is the more serious type which is often fatal in birds. The main clinical signs of HPAI in birds are:
- swollen head
- blue discolouration of neck and throat
- loss of appetite
- respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
- fewer eggs laid
- increased mortality
Clinical signs can vary between species of bird and some species (for example ducks and geese) may show minimal clinical signs.
Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI)
LPAI is usually less serious but it can cause mild breathing problems, however affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.
The severity of LPAI depends on the type of bird and also whether it has any other illnesses.
Interactive Map of the current bird flu situation
An interactive map is also here to show you where there are infections and also where tighter restrictions are in place at the moment Interactive map click here
Wild bird cases in the UK
The interactive map doesn’t take account of wild bird confirmed cases of Avian Influenza but they are still being recorded. This shows where HPAI cases have been found in wild birds up to 2022 week 46. The numbers are massive and although the majority are waterfowl there are also birds of prey and some garden birds. There is the possibility that smaller garden type birds have been “tidied up” by other animals or other bird eating species or even flies. The garden birds have only been found in small numbers but fly activity can clear a corpse in days which would make them difficult to spot.
Webinar giving Vet guidance on Bird flu
DEFRA/APHA have produced a recording of a webinar to give more advice on why it is important to follow the rules. It has loads of useful info albeit related to winter of 2021/2022. The advice and information is still very relevant. Find the webinar here There are versions for both commercial and home based flocks.
Sign up now for the free alerts service
The government has a free alerts service where they send you a text message or an email with the latest avian influenza news so you know when you are clear or otherwise. It is very useful service. All you need to do is give an email address or a mobile number for either an email or a text message alert.
Sign up here it only takes a minute.
Not just a UK problem
See the map below to see how widespread the infections are, because as you see, the UK is not alone. Many countries are struggling to gain control. Economic losses are huge for the major producers and exporters who have been prevented from carrying on their normal trading.
avian Influenza info from Overseas
The CDC in the USA (Centre for Disease Control) has extensive information on the types of influenza. It also gives statistics on the human cases worldwide and the risk factors. If you are keen to know more then it is a good resource.