Garden poultry keepers are being advised by the National Farmers’ Union that avian flu precautions apply to those with a few birds as well as commercial operations.
After avian influenza was recorded in domestic and wild birds on the near continent, Defra introduced a ‘poultry housing order’ on December 6 requiring all poultry to be housed in a way that keeps them away from wild birds for 30 days.
NFU’s East Midlands director Richard Hezlet, said: “Even if, like me, you keep a few hens for eggs for your own use, those birds are at risk from avian influenza.
“Defra has said that the risk of migratory birds bringing this highly infectious strain to the UK is heightened during the time that wild birds, particularly water fowl, migrate from mainland Europe.
“It may not be an easy thing to do, to house your hens, ducks or geese, but keeping them, and their food and water away from contact with wild birds, is really important.
“The cost of an avian influenza outbreak would be enormous – possibly millions of pounds for a commercial producer. This strain poses no danger to people, but is deadly for birds, so we must do everything we can to prevent it infecting our flocks.”
Defra has now issued practical guidance for poultry owners which says that where birds cannot be housed, such as ostriches or geese, their food and water should be ‘isolated from wild birds’.
It suggests owners of domestic flocks should consider housing them in out buildings or garages and suggests using mesh to stop wild birds getting through ventilation.
For larger numbers of birds it suggests using ‘temporary netted structures’ or polytunnels,
Defra advice can be found at www.gov.uk/government/news where a pdf of the updated advice can also be downloaded.