ARCHIVE: Avian influenza (bird flu): Kept birds
Information relating to farmed, pet or otherwise kept birds including information on:
- Biosecurity and advice
- Worker protection advice
- Bringing birds indoors in event of an Avian Influenza Outbreak
- Bird fairs, markets, shows and other gatherings
- The National Survey for Avian Influenza Viruses of Subtypes H5 and H7 in Domestic Poultry
- Bird imports and exports
- Great Britain Poultry Register
- Game birds
- Rare breeds database
- Poultry Valuation Rate Cards
- Pet birds kept in your home
- Animal welfare
- Help lines and support for the farming community
If you suspect disease, act quickly and consult your vet. Avian influenza is a notifiable disease and must be reported to your local Divisional Veterinary Manager.
Good biosecurity should be practised at all times, not just during a disease outbreak. Taking the right measures can help protect your birds, your business, the industry and the community.
- Biosecurity leaflet for poultry keepers (PDF 86 KB) - Biosecurity and preventing disease - Peace of mind, a healthier flock and a more viable business.
- Protect your birds from the risk of disease (PDF 1 MB) - A short guide on how to protect your birds from the risk of avian influenza.
- Biosecurity poster for poultry keepers (PDF 86 KB)
- Local risk assessment - Advice on assessing risks of avian influenza where poultry are kept
- Avian Influenza - Biosecurity for Zoological and other Collections of birds
- See also: Disinfectant information.
Employers have a legal duty to protect their workers against risks to their health that could arise through work-related activities, and must assess such risks properly.
Advice on risk assessments and worker protection is primarily a matter for the Health & Safety Executive. Guidance on worker protection is available on the HSE website.
Keepers of poultry will wish to be vigilant, to take care if handling birds which appear to be unwell and to observe high levels of biosecurity.
During an outbreak or incident, Defra will take measures to protect its workers with the necessary personal protective equipment and drugs where appropriate.
There are jointly agreed procedures for investigating outbreaks of avian influenza in poultry involving Defra, the Department of Health, the HPA and Animal Health. These systems and protocols are designed to ensure that appropriate animal health and public health measures are taken to control disease. The Government has a stockpile of anti-viral drugs, which have been shown to be effective against AI and which would be issued to vets, contractors and workers potentially exposed to avian influenza during disease control activities. Seasonal flu vaccination would also be provided.
- Avoiding the risk of infection when working with poultry that is suspected of having H5 or H7 notifiable avian influenza (available on the HSE website) (PDF 110 KB)
We have produced guidance for bringing birds indoors in the event of confirmation of disease following consultation with industry, veterinary and welfare stakeholders.
One way by which the disease may spread to domestic birds is through contact with infected wild birds. Contact may be direct through mingling or indirect through faecal contamination of anything that may then come into contact with domestic birds such as feed, water, utensils or clothing. Therefore the risk of disease spread can be reduced by minimising contact with wild birds.
When restrictions apply, all bird keepers should feed and water their birds under cover in order to minimise the risk of contact with wild birds and anyone keeping birds outdoors must have a clear plan for housing or separating their birds.
The requirement to house birds means that the exercising and flying of pigeons and birds of prey is not permitted in a Protection or Surveillance Zones.
Following an outbreak of H5N1 Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) on a mixed poultry holding in the east of Germany, industry requested that Defra re-consider the assessed level of risk to the UK poultry industry. The level of risk remains unchanged. A summary of the discussion and conclusions of the National Exotic Poultry Diseases Expert Group (PDF 57KB) is available.
Bird gatherings are permitted.
- General Licence
- Scotland and Wales: A bird gatherings general licence is available for Scotland and Wales.
The European Commission requires all Member States of the European Union to undertake surveys each year for avian influenza in poultry.
Sampling for the annual UK avian influenza survey in domestic poultry begins each Spring. This routine annual survey has been running since 2003 and has been a success thanks to cooperation between individual poultry keepers, the poultry industry, Animal Health (AH), Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) and Defra.
The purpose of this survey is to detect avian influenza (AI) virus infections of subtypes H5 and H7 in different species of poultry and provides valuable information across the EU for an early warning system of H5 and H7 AI infections. Early detection is also essential for effective control.
The flocks that are chosen for sampling are drawn from a random list of poultry premises selected from across the UK. The survey includes chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and feathered game classified as poultry. Each premises is contacted in advance by Animal Health to arrange a convenient time for sampling. Blood samples are taken from a number of birds on each premises by Animal Health staff. The samples are then screened for the presence of antibodies to avian influenza viruses of subtypes H5 and H7. At present, around 400 premises are sampled each year.
Since the start of the survey, only a few blood samples have been positive for avian influenza H5 or H7 antibodies during the UK survey. When this occurs, veterinary inquiries may be carried out and further samples taken to ascertain whether avian influenza viruses are present or not. In previous years positive findings were all due to past infections with H5 or H7 AI viruses, and following further investigations, no active infection was found to be present in those flocks.
Further information on the survey in a printable format (PDF 25 KB) is available here.
How does taking part in the Poultry Survey help my industry
- Finding disease early limits the potential spread - this helps to protect your neighbours, public health and the countryside
- This survey information feeds into the EU wide survey aimed at detecting avian influenza virus infections and giving a better understanding of how common these infections are in different types of poultry - you can help the bigger picture
- Make people aware that you have taken part in the survey if you wish - let your industry and consumers know that you are helping protect your industry.
There are three categories of birds – poultry, captive birds and pet birds. Import and quarantine requirements are laid down in EU legislation.
Poultry and captive birds imported into the EU from third countries must enter at designated Border Inspection Posts, where they are subject to veterinary inspections. All consignments are subject to documentary and identity checks to ensure that the conditions of import, set out by Community legislation are met.
Birds imported from third countries must undergo a period of quarantine. From the time of import, live poultry, or eggs once hatched, must be isolated for six weeks to check they are not carrying disease.
Captive birds may be imported from other EU Member States provided they do not come from any area under official restrictions because of an Avian Influenza outbreak. Quarantine for imports of captive birds from other EU member states is not required.
Pet birds may be imported from either EU or third countries subject to conditions outlined here:
- Pet birds from other EU Member States and
- Pet birds from outside the EU.
- Information is also available on our animal imports and animal exports pages within the International Trade area of the Defra website and within the Personal Food and Plant Imports pages.
- International Trade: Importer Information Notes - Live birds and hatching eggs.
- We also advise that you regularly check the International Trade - Customer Information Notes (CIN) pages for updates and any changes in import and export procedures.
Defra, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government, backed by the poultry industry, has established the Great Britain Poultry Register to gather essential information about certain species of birds only held on commercial premises in Great Britain. This information will help reduce the impact of an outbreak of avian influenza. Further information...
Many millions of game birds will be imported to the UK over the coming months. Most will arrive as hatching eggs or chicks, but up to 3 million birds will be imported as 8 week old pheasant poults or 18 week partridge chicks which may have been reared outdoors. Defra and the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) have issued the following guidance on imports to Gamekeepers and their veterinarians.
Separating flocks from wild birds
Following consultation with key industry, veterinary and welfare stakeholders updated guidance has been issued for Preparing for avian influenza - Separating domestic birds from wild birds. Page 7 of the guidance advises that if a housing requirement is introduced pheasants, partridges and other game birds should be housed wherever possible and, as a minimum, all feeding should take place under cover. However, where game birds are being raised for release it may be that these measures cannot be properly put in place. Bird scarer systems may need to be adopted. If the disease risk is high, careful consideration may have to be given to culling birds. Specialist advice is available from representative organisations and Animal Health.
Advice on game shooting is available here.
Working with stakeholders Defra have agreed a list of rare breeds of poultry and other captive birds in line with Articles 13 & 40 of the Avian Influenza Directive 2005/94/EC (see Policy & Legislation section). This Legislation allows for instances where Avian Influenza is confirmed on a premises, and any birds on that premises that are listed as a rare breed (by Defra) may potentially benefit from the derogation from culling, providing such derogations do not endanger disease control.
Defra consulted with key stakeholders on the definition of a rare breed, and agreed that the following four rare breed criteria must be fulfilled:
a) be a native domestic breed predominantly or significantly domiciled in the UK. The term “significantly domiciled” has been included to cover breeds where the UK holds the world’s largest viable population and
b) have less than 1000 pure bred females in the UK for poultry or less than 100 breeding pairs in the UK for other captive birds and
c) have bred true for a significant number of generations (50 years for both poultry and other captive birds) and
d) is recognised by a governing body and accepted as a standardised breed.
The final list of rare breeds is available.
This is not a closed list, and if evidence can be provided to support all four rare breed criteria, Defra will consider all further submissions to include additional breeds on the list. Equally, a breed can be removed from the list if it no longer fulfils all criteria.
This is a simple method for the determination of value of poultry where approved valuers are not available. The value of the birds is related to species, type, age, sex and husbandry system and can then be read from prepared valuation rate cards.
Where a Valuation Rate Card is available for the poultry to value, the system can be used by an Animal Health officer. The valuation cards are available here.
- Avoid contact between your pet birds and wild birds
- Do not allow contact with wild bird faeces.
- Remember not to introduce wild bird faeces from outside on your clothes or shoes by instituting sensible hygiene measures
- Ensure that any introduced bird comes from a reputable source
- if your bird becomes ill contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.
Poster: Pet birds, cats and other animals - Information on Bird Flu (PDF 134 KB)
Farmers and others involved with the keeping of poultry have a duty of care to their animals. They should anticipate problems (including those associated with disease control measures) and make appropriate plans to mitigate the effects. This should form a routine part of their business planning processes. In the normal course of business, a poultry keeper would expect to assume responsibility where it becomes necessary to cull birds for welfare reasons. The introduction of disease control measures does not alter this obligation and normal business planning should cover action necessary to protect the welfare of poultry in the event of an emergency. In an actual outbreak, Defra, the RSPCA and other organisations may be able to provide advice and practical assistance, for example, by facilitating access to shelter and material for temporary housing.
If all other options are exhausted and welfare problems are still a risk, poultry keepers should be prepared to undertake welfare killing on farm. This should only be carried out by appropriately trained and qualified personnel and where necessary advice should be sought from the keeper’s own veterinary adviser. Depending on the circumstances of the case and the particular outbreak, Defra will provide guidance on the most appropriate route for disposal of such carcasses and issue licences where appropriate.
Defra will only consider introducing a Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme to facilitate killing and disposal of birds as an absolute last resort when all other options have been exhausted, and only if necessary to prevent an unacceptable deterioration in welfare standards. If introduced, a disposal scheme would only apply to birds that cannot be moved under licence to a slaughterhouse, abattoir or purpose built killing plant. No payment will be made to poultry keepers for birds slaughtered / killed under such a scheme. This is in line with the policy set out in the Government’s response to the FMD Inquiries (November 2002). This states that “experience has shown that payments to farmers under such schemes can provide a disincentive for them to take responsibility for looking after their animals, and may also create a false market”.
Ventilation Shutdown (VSD) was approved as an emergency method of killing poultry for disease control purposes in 2006 under Schedule 9, paragraph 2 of the Welfare of Animals (Slaughter or Killing) Regulations 1995 as amended.
Ministerial authority to use VSD will only be given as a last resort where Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza infection has been confirmed and where there are overriding concerns about public health.
Guidance on the authorisation and use of VSD:
- Field report instruction (PDF 74 KB)
- Guidelines for killing poultry using VSD (PDF 273 KB)
- Seeking authority to kill poultry during bird flu outbreak (PDF 366 KB)
Note: The sourcing and supply of equipment required to carry out and monitor the use of VSD is currently being arranged.
Farming Help on 07002 326 326 offers support including hardship grants for members of the farming community affected by events such as flooding and disease outbreak. They provide a visiting service, pastoral support, and are in regular contact with the Samaritans. www.farminghelp.org.uk. The Samaritans number is 08457 90 90 90.
HM Revenue & Customs
HM Revenue & Customs will help individuals and businesses finding it difficult to meet their tax obligations due to flooding or disease outbreak, including a deferment of taxes and duties where taxpayers are unable to pay as a result of severe difficulty. The Helpline is on 0845 366 1207 and is open seven days a week from 8.00am to 8.00pm. Tax credit recipients are asked to continue to use the helpline number 0845 300 3900.
The RSPCA Farm Animal Welfare Hotline provides advice, and if the issue cannot be resolved over the telephone, have frontline staff trained in both farm animal welfare and biosecurity who could visit and offer practical help. The RSPCA telephone number is 0870 753 8333.
Defra's Helpline on 08459 335577 is open from 9am - 5pm 7 days a week.
- Defra factsheet - Information on clinical signs, transmission and disease control.
- Guidance on the disposal of Poultry.
- Disinfectant information
- GB Poultry Register.
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Page last modified: 10 March 2011