Poultry keepers are being urged to prepare for avian flu and reduce the risk of disease in their birds over the winter, and in response the Public Protection Partnership has shared information on how to prevent the spread.

The UK’s Chief Veterinary Officers are encouraging poultry keepers to take action now to reduce the risk of avian flu over the winter.

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The UK is currently free from avian flu, but over the last year, 26 outbreaks were confirmed in kept poultry and captive birds and in over 300 wild birds.

As winter approaches, the risk of migratory wild birds infecting domestic poultry will rise and therefore it is vital that poultry farmers and bird keepers take action to improve biosecurity standards.

In a joint statement, the UK’s four Chief Veterinary Officers said: "Avian flu is a continued threat to all poultry keepers, and as winter approaches we need to be ready for the increased risk of disease that migrating birds pose to our flocks.

"We encourage keepers across the UK to implement strong biosecurity practices now, including regular shed maintenance checks, cleaning and disinfecting footwear and signing up for our email and text alerts.

"Making these tasks a regular fixture of your disease control plans now will make a significant difference in the fight against avian flu this winter and for years to come."

There are several measures that can help to keep flocks disease free. All keepers – whether they run a large commercial farm or keep just a few pet chickens in their back garden – can get ahead of the game and take these steps to reduce the risk of disease before the migration of wild birds begins again this winter:

  • Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly clean and disinfect any hard surfaces
  • Keep chickens and turkeys completely separate from ducks and geese
  • Conduct regular maintenance checks on their sheds
  • Clean moss off the roofs, empty gutters and remove vegetation between sheds where birds are kept
  • Draw up contingency plans for storing bedding and dealing with pests
  • Place birds’ feed and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl
  • Clean and disinfect footwear before and after entering premises where birds are kept

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Jane Howorth, founder of the British Hen Welfare Trust said:"For those of us that enjoy keeping a few pet hens in our gardens, now is the time to start gearing up to protect them during the migration season when avian flu becomes more of a threat.

"It’s no more taxing than having to book any other family pet in for an annual health check, but is so important both for the safety of your own birds as well as that of the national commercial flock."

You will find lots of advice and information on how best to help your birds on our website at www.bhwt.org.uk.