Urgent poultry avian influenza guidance
Following a number of cases of avian influenza in wild and captive birds in the UK, the Chief Veterinary Officers for England, Scotland and Wales have agreed to bring in new measures to help protect poultry and captive birds. The restrictions will be applied across the whole of Great Britain.
The new housing measures, which will come into force on Monday 14th December, mean that it will be a legal requirement for all poultry keepers to keep their birds indoors, or otherwise separate from wild birds, and to follow the strict biosecurity measures that have been required since 11th November when the Avian Influenza Protection Zone (AIPZ) was put in place. This is to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease.
Housing and biosecurity measures should include:
- Housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
- Cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
- Reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and using effective vermin control
- Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
- Keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures
- Minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds
The organic regulations and Soil Association Standard 3.12.11 allow the housing of organic poultry where there is a temporary statutory obligation to do so, such as the obligations required under the AIPZ. The housing of organic poultry under these AIPZ requirements will not affect the organic status of your poultry or poultry products, provided all other standard requirements are met.
There is separate legislation that covers the use of the term ‘free-range’ on egg labels. If you use free-range as well as organic on your labels, please be aware of the free-range legislation requirements when birds are housed for a prolonged period of time due to Avian Influenza restrictions. Currently, birds can be housed for 16 weeks without losing their free-range status.
What do I need to do?
When organic poultry do have to be housed, you must ensure they have access to roughage and other environmental enhancement to meet their ethological needs (SA Standard 3.12.19). Bales of straw, hay or alfalfa, pecking blocks, vegetables and other vegetations - such as foliage - can all help to provide birds with the roughage they need, and environmental enrichment to meet their needs to forage for food. Products that are eaten by the birds must be organic or approved for use under organic standard requirements. For more information on enrichment materials, see the Featherwel website. Additionally, litter management is critically important, and extra attention should be made to ensure litter is dry and friable (topped up as needed), with the increased droppings and traffic from housed birds.
You're advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in birds, and seek prompt advice from your vet if you have any concerns about your birds. You should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (option 7), and report suspicion of disease in your own poultry to APHA on 03000 200 301. Please familiarise yourselves with the Government avian flu advice.
You should use the next few days to prepare for the new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult your vet, and where necessary, put up additional housing.
The new housing measures will be kept under regular review.