BHWT logo
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Avian Influenza zones explained

Hen keepers cannot be blamed for getting confused with the many Avian Influenza zones in place across the country at this time of year. 

But what do they mean and, most importantly, what action do you need to take to protect your hens? 

It is not expected that someone keeping a small flock of hens in their back garden should take the same measures as a large commercial farm, so a degree of common sense must be applied. 

However, there are some important steps to be taken depending on what zone is put in place where you live; here we delve into the different rules and regulations, as well as provide some tips to maintain good biosecurity among your flock. 

Please note, this article explains the various zones and what they mean – for an update on the latest situation please visit our Avian Influenza page.

Avian Influenza Protection Zone

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 

Avian Influenza Surveillance Zones

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 well-being and their safety. 

The photo above shows the Protection Zone in blue and the Surveillance Zone in yellow.
The photo above shows the Protection Zone in blue and the Surveillance Zone in yellow. 

Avian Influenza Captive Bird (Monitoring) Controlled Zone

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 

Avian Influenza Prevention Zones

Avian Influenza Prevention Zones 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 England.

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 from 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 the run area should take place; wild birds should be discouraged from entering the area 

Avian Influenza Prevention Zones with mandatory housing  

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 of 25mm mesh to prevent wild birds from accessing it, or droppings from 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.  

Avian Influenza biosecurity tips 

In order to keep your beloved hens safe at all times, you should maintain a high level of biosecurity in their coop and run area. 

The key steps to remember are: 

  1. Cleaning – we should all be keeping our coops and runs clean in order to have happy hens, but there are extra steps you can take such as cleaning your footwear before and after entering the run. Keep the run area clean and tidy and regularly disinfect hardstanding areas. 
  1. Food and water – these should be kept in fully enclosed areas with absolutely no access to wild birds. Any spillage should be cleaned up as soon as possible to prevent attracting birds and other vermin into the area. 
  1. Fencing – this is an obvious one, especially where housing orders are concerned, but as a general rule it can help to keep your birds safe by preventing access to standing water and wild birds. 

For advice on cleaning footwear please refer to our boot dip guide

Avian Influenza zones – the bottom line 

As frustrating as it is for all of us, AI is showing no signs of going away. As we enter the colder months the risk only increases, so it is up to all of us to take the necessary steps to protect our pets when AI is present. 

Meanwhile, we continue to urge authorities to seek a global solution to this issue. 

You may also like