Following a decision by the UK’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Christine Middlemiss, all areas of England will be subject to a mandatory housing order from 00:01 on Monday 7th November.
The mandatory measures are an extension of the ones already in place over parts of East Anglia, including Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex. The decision to implement a housing order across all areas of England comes after the national risk of bird flu in wild birds was increased to ‘very high’.
The UK is still battling the biggest outbreak of avian influenza on record, and so the decision to implement a UK-wide housing order will not come as a surprise to most bird owners.
From the 1st to the 31st October 2022, there were 88 confirmed cases of avian influenza across the UK, including Scotland and Wales. These cases were confirmed on a large number of commercial poultry premises, as well as within a number of backyard flocks.
The mandatory housing order makes it a legal requirement for all poultry and captive birds to be housed indoors and to follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their birds from avian influenza.
Giving a week’s warning, Ms Middlemiss encouraged bird keepers across England to use this time to prepare for the order, by consulting their private vets, paying attention to animal welfare and expanding premises if needed.
In a statement, Christine Middlemiss said “We are now facing, this year, the largest ever outbreak of bird flu and are seeing rapid escalation in the number of cases on commercial farms and in backyard birds across England. The risk of kept birds being exposed to disease has reached a point where it is now necessary for all birds to be housed until further notice.”
“Scrupulous biosecurity and separating flocks in all ways from wild birds remain the best form of defence. Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday 7 November onwards you must keep yours indoors. This decision has not been taken lightly, but is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”
In support of this decision, the statement claims that whilst housing birds does reduce the risk of disease incursion in kept birds, but that housing birds will not solely protect the health and welfare of the poultry. Further measures including stringent biosecurity and restricting access for non-essential people are also encouraged.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has advised that the risk of bird flu on public health remains very low.
At this moment in time, there is no indication that the measures will extend further than England.
How long will the housing order last?
The housing order will stay in place until further notice. There is no indication that the order will or will not be lifted before the 16 week marketing threshold for free-range eggs.
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