Avian influenza housing measures lifted on 2 May

25 April 2022

Biosecure poultry worker in poultry shed

The mandatory housing measures which have been in place across the UK since 29 November 2021 were lifted on Monday 2 May 2022.

Poultry and other captive birds no longer need to be housed, unless they are in a Protection Zone, and are allowed to be kept outside.

While the risk of avian influenza has been reduced to ‘low’ for premises with good biosecurity and ‘medium’ where biosecurity is suboptimal, 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. All poultry gatherings will remain banned.

Movement restrictions and licensing requirements will still apply within disease control zones. You can check if you are within a disease control zone using the APHA’s interactive map.

Advice for poultry keepers

Poultry keepers are advised to use the upcoming days to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds, including cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water, and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.

You can read Defra's guidance on preparing to let birds outside here: Gov.uk | How to prepare for when your free range birds can be let outside again

Chief Vets statement

In a joint statement, the UK's four Chief Veterinary Officers 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 recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.”

NFU comment

NFU poultry board chair James Mottershead said: “Poultry farmers have worked incredibly hard to minimise the threat of avian influenza and it will be a great relief that they can now allow their birds outdoor access again.

“While the threat of avian influenza has reduced, it is still incredibly important that everyone who keeps birds remains vigilant and continues to follow enhanced biosecurity measures. This is crucial whether you are a commercial farmer with thousands of birds or a backyard keeper with one hen in the garden.”

Free range status

At 00:01 on Monday 21 March, the 16-week grace period that was in place for the marketing of free range eggs ended. This means that eggs from hens temporarily housed in barns for their welfare can no longer be marketed as free range.

Eggs laid by hens with access to the outdoors after 00:01 on 2 May can once again be labelled as free range.

NFU members: Log in to read our briefing on Egg marketing and labelling

Be vigilant

Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns.

Public health advice remains that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.

If disease is suspected

Poultry and captive bird keepers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.

Bird keepers should report suspicion of disease in England to Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268.

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