Bird flu (avian influenza)

Advice and guidance for birdkeepers

Following the introduction of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across Great Britain on 17 October 2022, the Chief Veterinary Officer announced that mandatory housing measures for poultry and captive birds would be lifted on Tuesday 18 April 2023.

Important biosecurity measures remain essential.

Poultry and other captive birds no longer need to be housed indoors and can be kept outside, unless they are in a protection zone or captive bird monitoring controlled zone.

Eggs laid by hens with access to outside range areas can return to being marketed as ‘Free-Range’ eggs.

Anyone who allows their birds outside must prepare outside areas for the release of their birds. This includes cleansing and disinfecting hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.

Guidance on biosecurity can be found on the national GOV.UK website.

Details of the current terms of the national Avian Influenza Prevention Zone Declaration are also available on the national GOV.UK website.

Spotting symptoms

Be aware of symptoms and check your birds regularly for these:

  • swollen head
  • blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • loss of appetite
  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • diarrhoea
  • fewer eggs laid
  • increased mortality

Get advice on symptoms and how to report concerns on GOV.UK

Reporting disease symptoms or concerns

If you keep birds and notice possible Bird Flu symptoms you are legally obliged to report these to DEFRA’s rural services helpline on 03000 200301 as this is classified as a ‘Notifiable Disease’. 

If you find one or more dead bird of prey or owl, three or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese, ducks) or five or more dead wild birds of any species, you should report this to the DEFRA helpline: 03459 335577. You should not touch or pick up any sick or dead birds you find.  

Registering your stock

If you keep more than 50 birds (whether all the same species or a mixture) you must register them by law with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). 

If you keep less than 50 birds you're also strongly encouraged to register your birds with the APHA.

Registering also makes it easier for APHA to communicate with you if there's a confirmed case in your area.

Registering for bird flu updates

Sign up to APHA's free disease alerts service for bird keepers to keep up to date with the latest Avian Influenza developments. 

Risk to human health

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said that avian influenza is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low. 

Nevertheless you are strongly discouraged from touching dead birds or those showing symptoms of the disease. 

The Food Standards Agency has said that, on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products (including eggs) are safe to eat.

The NHS website has more information.

If you employ people who work with poultry or work with poultry yourself, you can also read Health and Safety Executive advice on protecting workers from avian influenza.

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