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Avian Influenza restrictions to be lifted

Pet hen keepers can finally rejoice as a mandatory housing order introduced in November is to be lifted next week. 

From 7th November hen keepers in England and Wales were required to keep their birds under cover to protect them from contracting and spreading Avian Influenza. 

While necessary, the measures always prove incredibly tough on pet hens who are often used to free ranging around back gardens. 

BHWT rehomers had to get inventive to keep their birds hentertained, with some even setting up temporary night clubs in their hens’ runs, complete with disco balls and music! 

However, thankfully, the housing order will be lifted from 00:01 on Tuesday, 18 April meaning pet hens can once again enjoy free ranging in the spring sunshine. 

The move was confirmed by Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss who said bird flu risk levels have now reduced meaning pet hens no longer need to be housed and can be kept outside, unless in a Protection Zone. This is also great news for free-range farmers who can return to marketing their eggs as normal. 

In total, 330 cases of Avian Influenza have been confirmed across the UK since late October 2021, and DEFRA has warned that the virus may still be in circulation for several more weeks. 

Dr Middlemiss added: “Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe. 

“It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter that we are able to take this action. However, the unprecedented nature of this outbreak has proven it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.” 

Enhanced biosecurity measures should be taken to protect against bird flu, including: 

  • cleanse and disinfect clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing 
  • reduce 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 use effective vermin control 
  • thoroughly cleanse and disinfect housing on a continuous basis 
  • keep fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all farm and bird housing entry and exit points 
  • minimise 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 
  • be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns 

The BHWT has several upcoming rehomings at which enhanced biosecurity measures remain in place. To adopt hens, visit our adoption page, and for any further information please see our website.