Defra announces changes to the GB poultry register

Chickens

All birdkeepers, regardless of the size of their flock, will be required to officially register their birds under new measures announced by Defra.

The announcement follows a long-standing ask from the NFU dating back to 2017, for the government to urgently review the GB poultry register. 

Defra consulted on the changes in March last year and has this week announced that the government, along with the devolved administrations, has agreed to make the following changes in England, Wales and Scotland: 

  • The threshold for mandatory registration will be reduced from 50 birds to 1, which means all poultry and captive bird keepers will be legally required to register their birds.

  • Poultry keepers will be required to review their poultry register entry annually to ensure their details are up to date.

Key dates

The requirement for all poultry keepers to register will come into force in autumn 2024, with the requirement for an annual review to be introduced 12 months later. Psittacines and passerines (budgies, parrots, canaries and similar species) that are kept indoors or in a dedicated ‘bird house’ without any outside access will be exempt from the above changes.

In England and Wales, keepers are encouraged to register their birds ahead of the legal deadline on 1 October 2024.

Bird keepers will need to provide information, including their contact details, the location where birds are kept and details of the birds (species, number and what they are kept for).

Protecting the national flock

The government said the changes would help manage potential disease outbreaks, such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease, and limit any spread. 

The information on the register will also be used to identify all bird keepers in disease control zones, allowing for more effective surveillance, so that zones can be lifted at the earliest possible opportunity and trade can resume more quickly following an outbreak of avian disease in Great Britain.

NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead said the NFU was pleased to see Defra and the devolved governments taking steps to improve the accuracy and the relevance of the information it holds on poultry keepers of all scales and sizes.

These changes should help the government communicate important information to all poultry keepers in a more timely manner.

NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead

He said: “It’s important that the government now focuses on making the process of registering, reviewing and updating the GB Poultry Register as straightforward as possible to minimise the administrative burden on all poultry keepers.

“The NFU is also calling on the government to ensure that these new requirements will help remove restrictions imposed on poultry farmers when non-commercial poultry are affected by notifiable disease.

“These changes should help the government communicate important information to all poultry keepers in a more timely manner, which in turn will help protect the health of the national flock.”

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said this information “will be vital in helping to inform future risk assessments and maintain our commitment to continually building our extensive avian influenza research portfolio”. 

There have been more than 360 cases of avian influenza across Great Britain since October 2021, including a significant number of backyard flocks.

For more information on registering your birds, visit: GOV.UK | Poultry and other captive birds: registration rules and forms.


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