Defra restrictions lifted – hens to be allowed outside this week

Posted 11th April 2017 09:59am by

Hen keepers – there is cause for celebration! Defra has announced all poultry can be let back outside to free range on Thursday, 13 April.

This is wonderful news for those of you who have been in high risk areas. It’s been a challenging time for us all, but it’s fantastic to think your girls will be back outside in time for Easter.

Chief Vet Nigel Gibbens announced yesterday that the restrictions, which have been in place since 6 December, will be lifted from Thursday. However keepers must continue to maintain high biosecurity.

Mr Gibbens said: “We continually review our disease control measures in light of new scientific evidence and veterinary advice. Based on the latest evidence on reduced numbers of migratory and resident aquatic wild birds we believe that kept birds in the areas we previously designated as Higher Risk are now at the same level of risk as the rest of England and may now be let outside.

“However, all keepers must still observe strict disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of contamination from the environment, where the virus can survive for several weeks in bird droppings.

“This does not mean business as usual: the risk from avian flu has not gone away and a Prevention Zone remains in place, requiring keepers across England to take steps to prevent disease spreading. We continue to keep measures under review and keepers should check GOV.UK for regular updates.”

You can read the full announcement on Defra’s website.

The situation in Wales remains the same at present. Keepers must complete self-assessment form and then take one of three steps: allow controlled access outside; keep poultry totally separate from wild birds; house their poultry.

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.

We’ve been encouraging people to hold a Free Range Friday on 14 April to celebrate Easter, and the day has now taken on a new meaning! It really will be a Free Range Friday for all those girls who have been cooped up for over four months.

If you’d like to celebrate by baking some yummy treats with your girls eggs, you can read more about holding a Free Range Friday here.

We’d also love to see videos and photos of your girls emerging from their coops for the first time on Thursday. You can post them on our Facebook page or email them to

The BHWT has also started re-homing again and you can see a full list of our upcoming dates here.