Bird flu in Yorkshire: Restrictions to be lifted as bird flu threat decreases
The move from the Chief Veterinary Officers means birds such as chickens and other captive birds can be allowed outside for the first time since November last year from Tuesday April 18.
However those within protection zones, where cases of avian flu have been recorded, will have to continue to be housed.
It comes after the risk of the spread of the disease, which has seen more than 330 cases confirmed across the country since late October 2021, has reduced.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the decision means that from Tuesday, eggs laid by hens with access to outside range areas can return to being marketed as ‘free-range’ eggs.
But bird keepers are being urged to maintain scrupulous biosecurity standards, as these remain essential as the risk of avian influenza continues.
It said that while the risk of bird flu has been reduced to ‘medium’ for premises with poor biosecurity, the enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) will remain in force as infection may still be circulating in the environment for several more weeks. The risk of bird flu remains assessed as low where good biosecurity is applied.
Those who intend to allow their birds outside are advised to use the upcoming days to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds. This will include cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.
Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe.
“It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter that we are in a position to take this action. However, the unprecedented nature of this outbreak has proven it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.”
Protective action includes disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds; reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where birds are kept, to minimise contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and use effective vermin control; minimising direct and indirect contact between captive and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds.
DEFRA also encourages all keep to register their flocks, which is a legal requirement for those who have 50 of more birds.