BIRDS, chickens and hens will be under lockdown measures of their own next week and must be kept indoors following an outbreak of Bird Flu, with cases in North Yorkshire. 

From Monday, December 14, new housing measures to protect poultry and captive birds from avian influenza, otherwise known as bird flu, will come into force in England, Scotland and Wales. 

Owners and keepers will be legally required to keep their birds indoors, to follow strict biosecurity measures and take appropriate steps to keep their birds separate from wild birds.

The rules apply whether you have just a few game birds, waterfowl and pet birds or a thousand.

The RSPCA is urging people to follow Government advice and use the coming days to prepare for the new measures and safeguard animal welfare and prevent them from becoming sick with bird flu.

Vets should be consulted and where necessary additional housing should be put up.

The lockdown is designed to help limit the spread of the disease following confirmed cases in captive birds in Kent, Cheshire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Leicestershire, Norfolk and North Yorkshire, plus several more confirmed cases in wild birds.

Keepers can prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on premises, including:

  • housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
  • cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
  • reducing 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 using effective vermin control
  • thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
  • keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures
  • minimising 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

Siân Phillips, poultry welfare specialist at the RSPCA said: “Keeping hens has become more and more popular in recent years so it’s really important that owners follow Government biosecurity advice to help protect the health of their birds as well as to try and limit the spread of the virus. 

“All pet poultry owners need to stay vigilant for signs of disease and ill health in their flocks and it’s vital they seek veterinary advice if they have any concerns for their birds. 

“It’s also really important to report any suspected outbreaks of avian influenza to Defra. We would encourage all pet poultry owners to register their birds with the APHA so they can contact owners if there’s a disease outbreak in their area.”

The UK Government has worked with the Scottish and Welsh Governments to introduce the new housing measures at the same time, meaning that the restrictions will be applied across the whole of Great Britain.