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Bird flu housing restrictions lift from Monday, May 2, after biggest UK avian flu outbreak ever, says Defra



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Chickens and other captive birds will get more freedom from today (Monday) as lockdown ends for animals brought inside more than six months ago to keep them safe from bird flu.

Flockdown – as it has sometimes been coined – saw keepers forced to bring their flocks under cover last November as part of efforts to contain the UK's biggest yet outbreak of avian flu.

There have been 100 cases confirmed since the end of last year, with outbreaks reported up and down the country.

Chickens and other captive birds can return to their outside areas from today
Chickens and other captive birds can return to their outside areas from today

The extensive mandatory housing measures also meant free range eggs ceased to be available on supermarket shelves and had to be labelled barn eggs because hens were having to be kept inside.

But the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs says those keeping chickens, turkeys, geese or other birds can return their animals to their outside spaces from today unless they remain in an area designated a protection zone.

Anyone intending to set flocks free this week has been advised by Defra to prepare outdoor spaces carefully for the release of birds and this should include cleaning and disinfecting all hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or any standing water and reintroducing wild bird deterrents that include ensuring food and water left out for kept animals cannot be taken by other wild birds.

Bird flu is spread mostly by wild birds who can infect captive flocks
Bird flu is spread mostly by wild birds who can infect captive flocks

Because migratory wild birds are most responsible for transmitting the virus, government officials say they need bird keepers to continue applying enhanced bio-security measures in order to lower the risk of further outbreaks.

The current Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will remain in force across the UK, with only the housing measures component of the current restrictions being lifted from today.

This means all bird keepers – whether they have pet birds, a commercial sized or a backyard flock – must still be diligent with cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to their sites and making sure workers change clothing and footwear before and after entering all bird enclosures.

Those with chickens or other captive birds are also being asked to remain vigilant for any signs of disease now that restrictions have been lifted and report any problems to officials.

The changes should lead to the return of free range eggs. Image: Stock photo.
The changes should lead to the return of free range eggs. Image: Stock photo.

In a joint statement, the UK's four Chief Veterinary Officers said: "Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe.

"It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets, who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter, that we are in a position to take this action.

"However, the recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s vital that bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity."



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