Avian Flu – what you need to know

The spread of Avian Influenza across Europe and into the UK has resulted in Defra extending its protection zone restrictions until 28 February 2017.

Consequently we have postponed all re-homings until after this date.

To say we are hugely saddened is an understatement; however we want to reassure our supporters that there will be thousands of spring chickens looking for homes in March, and those hens will be reliant on you for the second chance in life that our January and February hens were not lucky enough to enjoy.

The Defra restrictions mean that all captive poultry must be kept indoors or, if not possible, under cover and separate from wild birds. We know that this will create some potential welfare issues, not least of all boredom.

UPDATE – 11 April, 2017

As of Thursday, 13 April poultry keepers in England can let their birds back outside. Defra has announced the restrictions will be lifted but keepers must maintain high biosecurity.

The situation in Wales remains the same at present.

In Scotland keepers were able to let their birds outside from 28 February provided they had enhanced biosecurity measures in place.

Similarly, in Northern Ireland keepers can let their birds roam outside provided they follow biosecurity measures specified in the DAERA declaration.

UPDATE – 24 February, 2017

Defra has announced new measures in England going forward from 28 February. From 1 March there will be a more targeted approach to protect birds against avian flu, which will result in around 75% of people being able to let their birds outside. Defra has designated ‘high risk’ areas where birds must remain housed or kept separate from wild birds. You can see whether you are in a high risk area by using Defra’s interactive map.

We strongly advise that no matter where you are in the country you continue to ensure high biosecurity.

The situation in Wales is that poultry keepers must now complete a self-assessment form and then take one of three steps:

(i) house their birds
(ii) keep totally separate from wild birds, by use of netting etc
(iii) allow controlled access to outside areas, subject to applying additional risk mitigation measures

In Scotland the prevention zone has been extended until at least 20 April, but poultry keepers may let their birds out after 28 February provided they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place.

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone has been extended in Northern Ireland until 16 March 2017 and poultry keepers must continue to keep their birds housed or separate from wild birds.

Some of you will remain in high risk areas and so will have to continue to house your girls, or keep them separate from wild birds. With this in mind, we’ve put together some tips and boredom busters to help your girls stay healthy and happy throughout this continued period of confinement:

General advice

Boredom busters

Be sure to vary your boredom busters, hens quickly get bored, but love new ideas, games and activities to stimulate them; try some of these:

What next?

Keep in touch with our dedicated website page, we will keep you posted on Defra updates and give you links to Defra’s website for full details of further announcements.  You can also learn more about Avian Flu and good husbandry on our site too.

Please also see Defra’s guide for backyard hen keepers regarding keeping your birds safe from avian flu.

Now is a really good time to register your flock with Defra; in the event of a disease outbreak, they will notify you immediately (often by text), enabling you to act fast to protect your hens. You can register here.

If you are aware of someone not complying with the current restrictions, please see here for information on how to report this to the Animal and Plant Health Agency or Trading Standards.

Finally, remember to visit the BHWT shop to pick up cosy bedding, treats and other essentials while your girls are on lockdown.