Bird flu update: ALL bird keepers must act now before November 29th housing deadline
November 26, 2021
There has been a major development in the bird flu outbreak that affects ALL bird keepers right now; this includes keepers of backyard hens and other poultry, pet/captive birds, smallholdings, and commercial farmers. Our head vet, Louise, shares the latest update and tips for reducing stress on birds during this time.
You may have seen this in the news; a new housing order will come into force across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, from 00:01 on Monday 29th November to protect birds from avian flu this winter.
From 29th November, it will be a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep birds indoors (or separate from wild birds if they cannot be housed indoors) and follow strict biosecurity measures, aimed at limiting the spread and eradicating this killer disease.
Advice for bird keepers – act now!
Bird keepers of all types are being encouraged by Government Chief Veterinary Officers, to use the next few days to prepare. The new housing and strengthened biosecurity measures are being enforced on November 29th and you should;
1. Take steps to safeguard animal welfare:
- Put up additional housing where necessary
- Decrease the time birds spend outdoors a little more each day before the 29th
- Call us on 01603 898984 if you notice any signs of illness in your birds or nearby wild birds – see bird flu symptoms below.
2. Take extra precautions:
- Regularly clean and disinfect equipment, clothing and vehicles when entering and exiting sites/homes
- Limit access to non-essential workers and visitors
IMPORTANT: DO NOT pick up or touch dead or sick birds, or their droppings, keep other animals away too. Report suspected or confirmed cases of bird flu in England by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline – 03000 200 301.
See more in-depth details about these new measures here: Bird Flu Latest
Tips for minimising stress on birds housed indoors
Keeping outdoor birds indoors for a period of time can cause them to become stressed, as can making the move suddenly. Louise advises that ideally this type of change is best done gradually, by reducing how much time your birds spend outdoors a little more each day.
Once they are housed indoors for the long run (avoid extra time outside the day before), your focus should be on enrichment. Bored and stressed birds tend to lay less eggs, and can develop worrying behaviours and health issues.
Contentment can easily be confused with boredom so it is wise to keep a close eye on them. Louise’s chicken enrichment tips include providing a series of indestructible objects such as footballs they can play with, and items they can destroy, like broccoli and cauliflower heads.
Is bird flu a risk to humans?
Public health advice is that the risk to human health from this avian virus remains very low. According to food standards bodies, the food safety risk also remains very low, and properly cooked poultry products including eggs are not a risk.
Signs & symptoms of bird flu:
Bird flu outbreaks are caused by avian influenza viruses. Most types cause a mild infection in birds, however, H5 and H7 strains can present as a very deadly virus.
Type 1 (H5 & H7) – Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Clinical signs can vary between bird species and include:
- Swollen head
- Blue discolouration of neck & throat
- Loss of appetite
- Respiratory distress (gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling)
- Fewer eggs laid
- Increased mortality
Type 2 – Low Pathogenic Avian Influenza (LPAI) can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds won’t always show clear signs of infection.