Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds come into force across Wales today (Friday, December 2), meaning it is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Wales to keep their birds indoors or otherwise separated from wild birds.

Keepers must also complete and act upon a bespoke biosecurity review of the premises where birds are kept. This is to minimise the risk of virus entry in bird houses, which usually results in high mortality.

These measures, interim chief veterinary officer Dr. Gavin Watkins said, are being taken to get ahead of the avian influenza (bird flu) virus spread.

“We are taking further preventative action to help protect poultry and kept birds,” he said.

“The biosecurity and housing measures we are introducing in Wales will provide additional protection for birds and resilience for our poultry sector.

“We will continue to keep the situation under constant review,” he added.

Housing order

Mandatory housing measures for all kept birds and poultry also come into force across Northern Ireland today. In England, they have been in force since November 7.

The UK is in the midst of its largest-ever outbreak of the disease, the majority of these being in England.

There have been 122 confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in England since October 1, 2022, and 255 since the H5N1 outbreak started in October 2021.

In Wales, there have been fewer outbreaks; 10 since the outbreak began in 2021 and five since September 2022.

However, according to Dr. Watkins, there is evidence that the threat will spread westwards.

“The latest data suggests a westward spread of avian influenza to Wales in the coming months, and increased risk of birds being infected outside, through increased viral survival times and a possible further spread in the range of wild birds carrying the virus,” he said.

This is one of the reasons that led to the introduction of today’s housing measures.

“I want to thank all keepers for the steps they have taken to keep birds in Wales safe from this devastating disease, steps which we know have protected birds,” Dr. Watkins added.

“The additional measures announced today will build on that effort. If implemented rigorously, our birds will be protected.”