As of Friday 16th December 2016 a confirmed case has reached the UK. A turkey farm in Louth, Lincolnshire, is the first confirmed case and the vast majority of the flock of 5,000 died from the outbreak. The remaining flock will by now have been culled.
Poultry and Captive Bird Restrictions & Protection Zone
The Government’s Chief Vet had, as a result of the outbreak, put in place measures to protect the UK. These measures apply whether you have 2 hens or 20,000 and covers all back garden keepers and small holders.
The current 30 day restriction, in place until 05th January 2017, is as follows:
“Keepers of poultry and other captive birds are now required to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.”
Having checked with DEFRA, those who fail to comply will be looking at a hefty fine.
As a result of this confirmed UK outbreak further restictions have been put in place in the vicinity of Louth, Lincolnshire:
“We have put in place a 3km Protection Zone and a 10km Surveillance Zone around the infected farm to limit the risk of the disease spreading.”
If you suspect you live within this Protection or Surveillance Zone please contact Defra by calling 03459 33 55 77 for further information.
Signs of Avian Flu
It is important to keep a close eye on your flock during this time. The Government advises that:
Clinical signs that poultry keepers should look for in their birds include a swollen head, discolouration of neck and throat, loss of appetite, respiratory distress, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid – although these vary between species of bird.
And further that:
If poultry keepers or the general public find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, they should report them to the Defra helpline by calling 03459 33 55 77.
Appropriate Steps to Protect Your Flock from Avian Flu
The Government press release identifies the following bio-security measures to be implemented:
- minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and wild birds
- making sure that feed and water can’t be accessed by wild birds
- taking all reasonable precautions to avoid the transfer of contamination between premises, including cleansing and disinfection of equipment, vehicles and footwear
- reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept
- implementing effective vermin control programmes around buildings where poultry or captive birds are kept
- thoroughly cleansing and disinfecting housing and equipment at the end of a production cycle
- keeping disinfectant at the right concentration at key points such as farm entrances and entrances to bird houses
In practice for a back garden keeper this would mean that if you have a big enough coop the easiest option would be to contain them within it. I know many have smaller coops that aren’t suitable for containment with food and water. In these circumstances you need to put a cover over your run or similar that will prevent wild birds coming into contact.
It needs to be remembered that migratory birds will fly over head and droppings can quickly pass contamination. As such ideally cover all sides of the run at upper levels and make sure the lower area is either covered or has such small mesh that no birds could come through. If you have a shed or other area you can contain your flock in this may be a good idea until the restrictions and risk has passed.
Keeping a clean coop and covered or enclosed run is more important that ever. Disinfect clothing and footwear before and after entering the coop or run, and keep contact to a minimum.
What If I don’t have a Run?
If you haven’t got a run or a large enough coop to contain your birds for the 30 day period, then the cheapest option would be to create you own lean-to run. This would be my preferred option. With some wooden posts, weld mesh, and a length of tarp to cover, you could easily pop something together in a morning that would last for the period of the restrictions.
We’ve a number of articles on the site which can help you in building a quick run, or a more substantial and long-lasting one should you choose to:
The second option is to buy a run if you don’t have the time to make your own.
Chicken Coops Direct have a number of budget ready made run options starting at £69, plus special run covers for £18.95. These can be viewed and purchased in the Extra Chicken Runs section – Chicken Coops Direct
Omlet also have a number of run options which can be viewed and purchased here – Omlet Chicken Runs