Update to Avian Influenza measures in England

Avian flu housing measures to be introduced in England

Following a rapid escalation of avian influenza cases in wild and captive birds, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer has introduced a housing order to help protect poultry and captive birds.

The housing order will be enforced across England on Monday 7th November 2022, this will be a legal requirement for all poultry keepers to keep their birds indoors, or otherwise separate from wild birds. This is to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease. Currently Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland remain in prevention zones.

Housing and biosecurity measures include:

  • Housing or netting all poultry and captive birds – important to note netting range areas to allow birds outdoor access is an accepted option

  • 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 your flock and seek prompt advice from your vet if you have any concerns about your birds.

Further information and details of measures that apply in the disease control zones:

England: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu-cases-and-disease-control-zones-in-england

Wales: https://gov.wales/avian-influenza-bird-flu-latest-update

Scotland: https://www.gov.scot/publications/avian-influenza-bird-flu/

Northern Ireland: https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/avian-influenza-ai


Organic Inspections

If you are due to have an organic inspection while the housing order is in place, your inspector will contact you and ensure that suitable arrangements are made for the inspection which do not put the biosecurity of your flocks at risk. If you have any concerns, please contact your certification officer.