The UK’s chief veterinary offices are encouraging poultry keepers to take action now in order to reduce the risk of avian flu as winter encroaches.

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

As the cold season sets in the risk of migratory wild birds infecting domestic poultry rises.

“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,” said the UK’s four chief veterinary officers in a joint statement.

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.”

Several measures can be taken to help keep flocks disease free, which include:

  • 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.

Echoing this message, 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.”

The government continually monitors for incursions of avian flu. When a case is confirmed, restrictions on the movement of all birds and products of animal origin around the premises are put in place.

These restrictions also impact farms in the surrounding area.