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Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Avian Influenza FAQs

There is no vaccine available currently.

Please refer to the list below:

*please remember that many of these symptoms can be due to other things.

• swollen head
• closed and excessively watery eyes
• lethargy and depression
• recumbency and unresponsiveness
• incoordination and loss of balance
• head and body tremoring
• drooping of the wings and/or dragging of legs
• twisting of the head and neck
• swelling and blue discolouration of comb and wattles
• haemorrhages on shanks of the legs and under the skin of the neck
• loss of appetite or marked decrease in feed consumption
• sudden increase or decrease in water consumption
• respiratory distress such as gaping (mouth breathing), nasal snicking (coughing sound), sneezing, gurgling or rattling
• fever or noticeable increase in body temperature
• discoloured or loose watery droppings
• cessation or marked reduction in egg production
• suddenly finding one or more birds dead

If you are worried call your vet or our helpline and you will be directed to your appropriate contact to report suspicions. In England to Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268. In Scotland, contact to the local Field Services Office. Someone will come and check your birds.

You should do your best to minimise contact between wild waterfowl and your poultry; try to net ponds and don’t feed wild birds nearby.

Move any bird feeders well away from your poultry to minimise contact. Always clear up spilled feed.

Ideally yes. A simple boot dip using a plastic storage box or tray and ideally a viruscidal disinfectant will be an effective safeguard. We recommend Virkon which can be purchased in small sachets from your local country store.

Contact any one of the following; they will be able to help you:

  • Your local poultry-friendly vet
  • APHA (a DEFRA department specialising in notifiable diseases) – In England contact 03000 200 301
  • In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268
  • In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office

We recommend all keepers of pet birds and flocks, small and large, register their birds on the GBPR. Click here to register.  You can also sign up online to a separate service from APHA to receive free alerts of any outbreaks of avian flu in Great Britain. This advice has been agreed by the BHWT with Defra, Scottish Government and Welsh Government.

This zone covers a 3km radius from the centre of the AI outbreak and is put in place when an outbreak of AI occurs on a commercial farm in a specific location. The intention is to contain the spread of the disease with a set of measures; the key points which apply to pet hens are:

  • You must keep a record of anyone who visits your home and has contact with your poultry – if they are simply visiting your house and not seeing your hens then there is no need to record this
  • Hens must be housed to protect them from coming into contact with wild birds (see below for more on what this means)
  • Increased biosecurity measures must be taken to reduce the risk of spreading AI (again, see below for more information)
  • If a vehicle and/or equipment is used to transport your hens to, say, a vet, anything which may be contaminated must be disinfected immediately after transportation

A surveillance zone covers the same area as a Protection Zone; however, it is extended to a 10km radius from the centre of the AI outbreak, again with the intention to stop the spread of disease.

Measures within this zone are the same as above with the exception of housing. If you are outside of the immediate 3km Protection Zone, but within the Surveillance Zone, pet hens do not need to be housed.

There is still a requirement to maintain high biosecurity levels to protect your hens, but you do not need to house them unless you wish to offer them full protection. There is of course a balance to be made between their wellbeing and their safety.

Similar to a Protection Zone, this covers a 3km radius from the centre of an AI outbreak in non-commercial captive birds.

As far as pet hens are concerned, the measures are the same as within a Protection Zone, as follows:

  • You must keep a record of anyone who visits your home and has contact with your poultry – if they are simply visiting your house and not seeing your hens then there is no need to record this
  • Hens must be housed to protect them from coming into contact with wild birds
  • Increased biosecurity measures must be taken to reduce the risk of spreading AI
  • If a vehicle and/or equipment is used to transport your hens to, say, a vet, anything which may be contaminated must be disinfected immediately after transportation

An AI Prevention Zone covers a much larger area than protection or surveillance zones and offers more general guidance to prevent a wider outbreak of the disease. For example, at the time of writing this article there is a Prevention Zone in place across the whole of Devon and Cornwall.
There are minimum measures which apply to all poultry keepers including the likes of BHWT supporters who have pet hens in their back gardens. The key points include:

  • Precautions to be taken to prevent the spread of disease including the cleansing and disinfecting of equipment, vehicles and footwear
  • Feed, water and bedding should be stored undercover to prevent them coming into contact with wild birds
  • Effective vermin control to be carried out where hens are kept
  • While birds are not required to be housed, they should be kept in a fenced off area so they cannot access any standing water areas; feed must be kept undercover; regular disinfecting of the coop and run area should take place; wild birds should be discouraged from entering the area

The same measures apply here as in a standard prevention zone; however, there is an additional requirement for hens to be housed.
This means that the run area must be covered with a maximum 25mm mesh to prevent wild birds accessing it, or droppings falling through.
A mandatory housing order is the most stringent AI protection measure to be put in place, and it is therefore a legal requirement to house your pet hens to comply with this.
For the best ways to house your birds please refer to our article on winter gardens.

If you live within a control zone you do need to contact APHA for permission, but outside a zone you can legally take your hen to the vet and they should see you, but this may not be inside the building.

The BVA / BSAVA guidelines for vets states vets are obliged to provide appropriate first aid and emergency care under the RCVS Code.

https://www.bva.co.uk/media/4388/ai-guidance-for-vets-2021-final.pdf

Sick wild birds should be reported to the RSPCA.

Where birds are injured and show no clinical signs of Avia Influenza then a normal approach to first aid and emergency care in British wildlife should be taken. Vets are obliged to provide appropriate first aid and emergency care under the RCVS Code.

https://www.bva.co.uk/media/4388/ai-guidance-for-vets-2021-final.pdf

APHA interactive disease map

Top tips to protect your birds from the risk of Avian Influenza

top tips to protect your birds from the risk of avian influenza 1

Your poultry their health

Helpful guidance on keeping your hens safe in the event of a notifiable disease, such as avian influenza. It may never happen, but being forewarned makes you forearmed.

The information is to help you understand when there is a serious problem so you can take appropriate action. Disease amongst poultry can spread FAST and knowing what to do as a responsible poultry keeper is vital.

your poultry their health thumbnail 1