The updated restrictions went into effect on 28th February 2017. For many it has been good news – although some restrictions are still in place at least their flock can semi-free range and stop sqwarking at the injustice of their recent containment! I know there have been a lot of unhappy hens this past few months, and hopefully many are already enjoying a good dig in the grass and having a good flap of their wings.
In case you haven’t read the updated restrictions, or are confused on how they apply to your and your area, I am going to do a quick recap and explanation. Some in areas that are very high risk will still need full containment either housed or netterd – thankfully though those areas are few and far between so the majority of readers should have happied flocks.
March 2017 Avian Flu March Restrictions
The Government Guidances states:
“The best way to avoid contact between poultry and wild birds is to keep them housed in a suitable building. However, the new targeted approach is designed to give keepers options and allow free range production to continue.
- Keepers in higher risk areas must continue to keep birds housed or netted. This is because, based on extensive scientific advice, we believe the risk from wild birds in these areas to be higher. These areas are close to large bodies of water where wild waterfowl congregate. We have published a paper outlining the rationale behind these areas and you can see if you are in one using our interactive map.
- All other keepers can choose to continue to house birds or let birds outside into fenced areas, but must follow strict Defra guidance to reduce the risk of infection. This includes a risk assessment to check that outside areas are not contaminated and the risk of contact with wild birds is low. If you have any concerns you should continue to house your birds or keep them in covered runs or netted areas.”
They further go on to explain:
“For most keepers, housing of birds is no longer required by law, and they can let their birds outside provided they take specific precautions against avian flu. This allows as much free-range production as possible to continue.
Poultry keepers must continue to follow the existing animal welfare rules.
In England, we’ve defined a number of areas as ‘Higher Risk Areas’ (HRAs). What keepers must do depends on whether they are in one of these areas.
1. Check if you’re in a Higher Risk Area
Check on our interactive map if your premises is within a Higher Risk Area (HRA). We only consider that you’re in an HRA if the whole of your premises is within the HRA.
2. If you’re not in an Higher Risk Area
You can allow birds outdoors into fenced areas provided the areas meet certain conditions:
- you have made the areas unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources
- you have taken action to reduce any existing contamination, such as cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, you have fenced off wet or boggy areas
- you have assessed the risk of birds coming into contact with wild birds or contamination from them
Our guidance explains what you must do before you start allowing birds outdoors.
You can still keep your birds housed (in permanent or temporary sheds), or in a fenced run which is wholly covered by netting.
3. If you are in a Higher Risk Area
You must either:
(a) keep your birds housed, in permanent or temporary sheds; or
(b) allow birds outdoors but only into a fenced run which is fully covered by netting
Our guidance explains this in more detail.
4. If you’ve got more than 500 birds
If you keep more than 500 birds, you must take some extra biosecurity measures. These include identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles is restricted. You must clean and disinfect vehicles, equipment and footwear. Our guidance explains this in more detail.”
If you are a back garden keeper the first thing you need to do is head over to the government website and check their interactive map. On this map you simply need to enter your postcode and if you are under a large brown shading then you remain within a restricted zone. If this is the case you are Higher Risk and need to follow the same restrictions as have been in place the past 3 months – either house your birds or net them off from wild birds within a contained run whilst mantaining higher biosecurity measures.
In the event you are not in a restricted area you can let you flock out with some considerations. You need to assess the risk from wild birds in the garden and make some adaptations such as netting off ponds and keeping feed where wild birds won’t access it. You also need to keep up higher biosecurity measures – so get the cleaning solutions out more regularly, clean paths as well as housing, and careful with you boots not to track wild bird muck into your poultry areas. It is pretty much common sense stuff, but keeping on top of it is important as the risk from Avian Flu is still high in the UK.