Friday, 10 February 2017

Plans to Relax the UK’s Avian Flu Housing Restrictions

After 28th February keeping your poultry housed will no longer be mandatory and only if your birds are located outside The High Risk Areas.

Flyte So Fancy's bird flu measures

With the Bird Flu Prevention Zone Measures due to expire on 28th February and the need for clarification regarding the UK’s Free-Range bird status, DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) have recently issued their proposals to lift the housing order from the end of February in some areas.

As poultry keepers ourselves we understand that the welfare of your flock is a priority and this is the news that all of our bored poultry have been waiting to hear! But wait. There are some preparations you need to make.

1.  Search the DEFRA Avian Flu Risk map

To identify the risk of Avian Flu to your flock, DEFRA have created an interactive map which defines the Higher Risk Areas in England See the Interactive Map here to find out if you fall within any restriction zones imposed by DEFRA.

2.  Identify the risk to your flock

The Protection Zone : Controls imposed if you are within a 3km radius exclusion zone around premises affected by confirmed cases of H5N8.
A Surveillance Zone : Restrictions imposed due to being within a10km radius of an affected premises.
Proposed Higher Risk Areas : Generally, these are areas which are near where wild birds (and in particular gulls and wild waterfowl) gather, such as lakes, marshes or estuaries; they include areas where cases of the avian flu H5N8 virus has been found.
Not currently in a Higher Risk Area? : Keep a check on the map as updates may mean that the areas change as new information gets recorded.

3. Choose a housing option most suited to you and your circumstances

Having ascertained which area or zone your flock falls, then all keepers of poultry and captive birds will also need to adopt one of the following three methods of separating their birds from wild birds and in particular from wild waterfowl:

a) Housing: Open to all areas of England / All zones. 
Although it is likely to provide the best protection for your birds from Avian Flu, keeping poultry housed will no longer be mandatory from 28th February. If you continue to keep your birds housed in temporary or permanent accommodation, then bird welfare must be monitored and suitable steps taken to ensure that the environment is suitably enriched –see our earlier blog 6 Top Tips to help your hens survive Bird FluContinued confinement is likely to affect your ‘free-range’ marketing status.

b) Total netting / aviaries / covered runs: Open to all areas of England / All Zones 
Allowing birds outdoors but only into a fenced run which is fully covered. Many of us have favoured this option throughout the Prevention Zone restrictions, keeping our flock separate from wild birds whilst maintaining room to scratch about and avoid boredom. If you have made do with a temporary structure and you are now considering erecting a more permanent solution, see our Poultry Protection Pens for secure and safe poultry runs.

c) Supervised access to enclosed outdoor areas: Only available after 28th February to areas outside the ‘Higher Risk Areas’ after a risk assessment.

There are some restrictions and to take advantage of this option, keepers will need to meet certain conditions. 
  • Areas must be made unattractive to wild birds, for example ponds have been netted, wild bird food sources removed
  • Action must be taken to reduce any existing contamination, such as cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, ensure wet/boggy areas are fenced off
  • Assessments must be made of the risk of birds coming into contact with wild birds or contamination from them.
  • You will need to make sure that outside areas (ranges) are fully fenced and that birds are not allowed to roam outside this fenced area.  This area must not include ponds or other areas of standing water.
  • Where possible, you should not allow domestic ducks or geese to range alongside other types of poultry.  
To see the full measures, see Annex 4 of DEFRA's Planned controls in England from 28 February 2017 here. Anyone planning to allow their birds outdoors from 28 February should begin to prepare now.  

Flyte so Fancy Electric Fencing for Chickens
Electric Fencing is ideal for separating and containing poultry

4. Maintain bio security measures

Irrespective of the number of birds or how they are kept, keepers of poultry and other captive birds must adopt these bio security measures at all times.
  • Take all reasonable precautions to avoid the transfer of contamination between premises, including cleansing and disinfection of paths, equipment, vehicles and footwear, See our DEFRA approved product range of disinfectants here 
  • Reduce the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry or captive birds are kept; 
  • Ensure feed, water and bedding has not been contaminated by or been in contact with wild birds and in particular gulls and waterfowl; 
  • Implement effective vermin control where poultry or captive birds are kept. See our range of baits and bait boxes here
  • Records must be kept of all vehicles and people that enter the part of a premises where poultry are kept. For sites with over 50 birds, foot dips containing a Defra-approved disinfectant should be used on entry and exit to both houses and outdoor areas/range where the birds are kept.
These measures will provisionally remain in place until the end of April 2017. This approach remains under review and is subject to change, with a final decision being confirmed at the end of February 2017.

If you have any questions why not leave a comment below or phone the FSF Team on 01300 345229. For the most up to date information and downloadable PDF copy of DEFRA's Planned controls in England from 28 February 2017 or for or keepers with over 1,000 birds visit website

Thanks for Reading


  1. We have 4 chickens, one died last night. We had in quarantine since start december, no idea why it died, are we supposed to report it?

  2. Thank you for getting in contact and sorry to hear of your loss. Taking into account the current situation, our suggestion would be to consider whether your chicken was displaying any of the symptoms, which would be swollen head; neck and throat discolouration; loss of appetite; respiratory distress; diarrhoea. In addition, and for your own piece of mind any general enquires regarding Avian Influenza can be made to the Defra Helpline: 03459 335577. For active or suspicious Avian Influenza related matters please contact your local APHA Office. A list with your local APHA offices can be found on the on the inter active map here (or see link in blog above),100542.14434999994&mapsize=&zoomOrID=zoom&advancedSearch= I hope that answers your enquiry, we appreciate that the death of a bird during this time is a concern for all chicken keepers. If you think we can help in any other way, please let us know. Many thanks

  3. I don't get this. If I am NOT in any of the 3 zones; Protection, Surveillance or Higher Risk, then do my birds need to be kept under cover? They have been so since the ban was introduced but I am wondering if it applies.

    1. Thank you for your enquiry. As we understand it, there is no change to the restrictions until after 28th February 2017. After which, it is worth checking the map again to see if anything is changed in your area and checking that DEFRA have not made any further amendments to their plans. If as you have observed you are NOT in a restricted zone of any sort, then your birds DO NOT HAVE to be kept under cover, though you may wish to do so. However, in order to let your birds out you are required to undertake a risk assessment and begin making any preparations to offer what has been termed as 'supervised access'. The highest risk of the virus is from wild birds, especially water fowl, so you must take all practical steps to deter them from accessing your birds (netting ponds). In addition you must continue with your bio-security (ie: disinfecting equipment, vehicles, footwear etc); manage vermin control and where possible keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other species. Plus of course, keep a look out for signs of sickness. [If you keep over 1,000 birds, then refer to the DEFRA info pages]. The easiest way to achieve a Supervised Access Area may be simply to erect some electric poultry fencing to ensure you know and can manage the areas your birds have access to. Hope that helps clarify things a little. Nothing changes until after 28th February.