Poultry and captive birds are going back into lockdown to protect them from the rising threat of bird flu.
The Chief Veterinary Officers for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have announced plans to introduce new housing measures on Monday November 29 to protect poultry and captive birds from the growing threat of avian influenza.
The new housing measures will place a legal requirement on all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures to limit the spread of, and eradicate, the disease.
It follows a rise in the number of confirmed avian influenza cases across the UK, including one in a backyard flock on a farm near Arbroath, in recent weeks.
The chief vets are encouraging all poultry farmers and bird keepers to use the next five days to prepare for the housing measures, and to consult their vets and put up additional housing where necessary.
In a joint statement, the vets said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.
“Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday November 29 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.”
As well as housing all poultry and captive birds from November 29, poultry keepers must take extra precautions to keep their flocks safe.
These include: regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering or exiting sites; limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors; and making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds.
The chief veterinary officers said although the disease poses very little risk to human health, members of the public are advised to avoid picking up or touching any sick or dead birds.
They should instead report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77. Bird keepers who suspect the disease in their flock are asked to contact their local field services office.
Full guidance is online at gov.scot/publications/avian-influenza-bird-flu