Poultry keepers have been urged to maintain strict levels of biosecurity across their flocks after compulsory housing measures were lifted on March 31.

The compulsory housing measures for poultry and captive birds were introduced across Great Britain in December, as one of a range of measures to stop the spread of avian influenza.

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Poultry and other captive birds will no longer need to be housed unless they are in a protective zone, and are now allowed to be kept outside.

However, the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) remains in force and additional mandatory biosecurity measures have also been introduced as infection may still be present in the environment for several more weeks.

Poultry keepers must 'take action'

Those who intend to allow their birds outside from today must follow guidance and take action to prepare the outside areas.

When released, owners should continue to take extra precautions and birds should be kept in fenced or enclosed outdoor areas, while feed and water must be provided under cover where wild birds cannot gain access.

Good biosecurity is the most effective method of disease control available and bird keepers should apply enhanced measures at all times to prevent and mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.

Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers have reminded all bird owners that they, regardless of flock size, should not be complacent.

In a joint statement Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said:

"Whilst the lifting of the compulsory housing order is welcome news, rigorous biosecurity remains the most important thing bird keepers can do keep their birds safe.

It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers, who have played their part and kept their flocks safe this winter, which has allowed us to take this action today.

"However, the recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity."