Pests, animal nuisance and welfare

Avian flu

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (H5N8 and H5N2) has been detected in kept poultry and wild birds in several locations locations and therefore an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was introduced across England on 11 November 2020.

Update: From 14 December 2020 it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow strict biosecurity measures.

Read more on the government website

Similar zones are in place in Wales and Scotland. The Zone will be in place until further notice and will be kept under regular review

The Prevention Zone applies to everyone who keeps poultry or captive birds in England, whether they have commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock. The Zone introduces mandatory biosecurity measures.

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low.

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

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

Biosecurity Measures

All poultry keepers should:

  • minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
  • clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a Government approved disinfectant at entrances and exits
  • clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry
  • keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
  • humanely control rats and mice
  • place birds' food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet
  • keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet

If you keep more than 500 birds you must take some extra biosecurity measures. They include:

  • identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles are restricted
  • cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and footwear
  • keeping records of vehicles and personnel entering and leaving the live-bird part

Further detailed guidance can be found on the GOV.UK website

If you suspect any type of avian influenza you must report it immediately by calling APHA on 0300 020 0301. Failure to do so is an offence.

Signs of the Avian Influenza disease

The disease spreads from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces and poultry affected may show the following symptoms:

  • 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

Low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) is usually less serious. It can cause mild breathing problems, but affected birds will not always show clear signs of infection.

Reporting dead wild birds

If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese, or ducks) or other dead wild birds such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (0345 933 5577).

APHA Alerts Subscription Service

The APHA Alerts Subscription Serviceprovides registered users with the latest news on exotic notifiable animal disease outbreaks in Great Britain. Alerts may also be sent outside of a disease outbreak.You can subscribe on the government website

Poultry register

If you own, or are responsible for, poultry flocks of 50 or more birds (not necessarily of the same species) and even if your premises are only stocked for part of the year, then you must, within one month of their arrival at your premises, register your flocks.

For poultry flocks of fewer than 50 birds, whilst the law does not require you to register them, we still encourage you to do so as this means we can contact you quickly if there is an outbreak of disease. Further information and links to the relevant registration forms are available from the government website

Page last updated: 04 Dec 2020