Avian flu risks UK

Keep your Chicken Safe – Avian Flu is Here


All poultry owners must keep their birds inside from Monday, 29th November by law. The highly dangerous and contagious strain has arrived in the UK. Keep your birds safe.

Sadly, avian flu is back in the UK. If you are a backyard chicken-keeper reduce the risks and keep up-to-date with the latest requirements.

by Emma Johnson

Keeping chickens is really rewarding but there is more to it than simply collecting eggs. Avian flu highlights the importance of many of the considerations when keeping them.

What is Avian Flu?

Avian Influenza is a notifiable animal disease. It is a highly contagious viral infection of which the UK has two kinds:

Avian Influenza (AI) – within this category, there are highly pathogenic (HPAI) or low pathogenic (LPAI). Ducks and geese are common carriers. During migration, the UK birds are at higher risk.  Most birds who get the highly pathogenic infection will not survive, those with lower pathogenic infections can recover.

Newcastle Disease – caused by para-myxo virus and affects fowls, turkeys, geese, ducks, pheasants, partridges, guinea fowl, and other wild and captive birds. In addition, ostriches, emus, and rhea may also be affected. Although humans are not normally affected they can get short-term eye infections.

What are the Symptoms?

There are a number of Avian Bird Flu Symptoms to look out for from the obvious to slightly more unusual:

  • Respiratory issues – coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling, gaping beak, nasal and eye discharge
  • Digestive system – diarrhoea, loss of appetite
  • Appearance – swollen head, blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • Behaviour – fewer eggs laid
  • Death

How Avian Flu Spreads

As with many virus and bacterial infections, the spread takes place as a result of:

  • Direct contact with an infected bird
  • Airborne particles and spray
  • Faeces from infected birds

How to Prevent the Spread

At Home

DEFRA is advising all members of the public to take extra care, particularly with good hygiene.

If you keep birds:

  • Be extra vigilant with good hygiene – cleaning the coup regularly, checking water and feeders.
  • Check your birds – make sure your birds and healthy, look for sneezes, coughs, watery eyes etc.
  • Rodents – watch for vermin and prevent them from getting access to your birds.

If the government announce further lockdown measures the rules are simple and you must follow them. That can include preventing wild birds from getting access to your birds, usually, this means they are not allowed outside. You should also remove feeders and water points from the outside areas to prevent wild birds from getting in. The government also advise covering the coop to prevent wild bird droppings.

Out and About

Preventing spread is not limited to chicken and other foul keepers. Everyone can help to reduce the spread.

Visiting nature reserves – there is a risk you will stand in wild bird faeces. Clean your boots with a disinfectant when you get home.

Wild Swimming – this activity is increasingly popular, and swimmers should take care. When leaving open water clean your clothes, wetsuits, boats and paddleboards thoroughly. Wash and use an appropriate hand gel before eating, drinking or touching your face or mouth or going near your own fowl. If you are vulnerable, you may need to consider not swimming while there is an outbreak.

Contact – limit your contact with poultry or wild waterfowl.

How you don’t catch Bird Flu

Contrary to advice from some, you will not catch bird flu from eating fully cooked chicken or eggs

What to do when you suspect Bird Flu

All concerns must be reported immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on

03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.

To keep ahead of the bird flu battle, register your birds with Defra Rural Services. Although the scheme is voluntary for 50 or fewer birds it is essential.

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