Published: 05:00, 29 November 2021
| Updated: 15:05, 29 November 2021
Captive birds including chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese must be brought indoors by law from today, as the government continues its efforts to control outbreaks of bird flu.
The new rules, brought in by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) apply to both poultry and other captive birds across the UK and came into effect early this morning.
There have been growing numbers of confirmed cases of avian flu, also known as strain H5N1, across Great Britain in the last few weeks.
Wild birds migrating to the UK from mainland Europe during the winter months can carry the disease, which can lead to cases then appearing in poultry and other captive birds.
Alongside keeping their animals indoors, bird keepers are being instructed to follow very strict biosecurity measures to help limit the spread of the disease and keep their flocks safe. This will include regularly cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles and limiting access to non-essential workers or visitors.
Earlier this month an avian flu prevention zone was brought in across the whole of the UK while housing measures have been in place for parts of North Yorkshire since November 21 - but these restrictions have now had to be extended as the disease continues to spread.
Public health advice remains that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies say that avian influenzas also pose a very low food safety risk for consumers.
However anyone who sees dead or sick birds including swans, geese or ducks should not touch them or attempt to pick them up but instead report them to the government's dedicated helpline on 03459 335577.
In a joint statement the UK’s four chief veterinary officers said: "We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.
"Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday, November 29, onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds. We have not taken this decision lightly, taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease."
Poultry and captive bird keepers are also being asked to be extra vigilant for any signs of disease in their own birds or any neighbouring wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have concerns.
Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease in England to Defra's Rural Services helpline on 03000 200301.