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Flockdown is over: what next?

Pet hen keepers all over England and Wales were rejoicing last week as the Avian Influenza restriction requiring all birds to be housed was lifted. 

Put in place on 7th November, the mandatory housing order was intended to protect captive birds from the disease and prevent it spreading. 

After five long months of being kept in a fixed run and undercover, our hens can now enjoy free ranging in a back garden as flockdown is over.

But, despite the risk having reduced, does this newfound freedom come with any additional prevention measures? 

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone 

While the mandatory housing order was lifted as of 18th April, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone still remains in place across England and Wales, meaning enhanced biosecurity measures must remain in place. So, what does this mean in layman’s terms? 

There are now a set of minimum bisecurity measures which apply to all captive birds, which includes: 

  • Cleansing and disinfecting of equipment, footwear and vehicles to prevent the spread of the disease 
  • Storage of feed and water should be undercover to prevent access by wild birds 
  • Ensure your hens do not have contact with poultry or captive birds on neighbouring premises 
  • Vermin control is carried out where your hens live 
  • Hard areas are disinfected regularly 

Another measure Defra recommends is putting some kind of wild bird deterrent in your garden. This could include visual deterrents such as mannequins or scarecrows, or something a little smaller in scale such as flags, streamers or windmills. 

The main thing to remember is to be vigilant. Keep a close eye on your hens and do your best to prevent them coming into contact with wild birds. 

Is it safe to let my hens out now flockdown is over? 

Defra has deemed the risk level to be low enough that captive birds are able to free range safely again, and we would encourage this if it’s what your birds are used to most of the time. 

As mentioned above, keep an eye on them as you know them best, and if you have any concerns about their health or wellbeing please contact our Hen Helpline on 01884 860084 or consult your vet if you need emergency treatment. 

Other than that, enjoy the gentle chicken chatter that can resume across your garden once more! 

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