Welsh poultry farmers brace for imminent bird housing order

Poultrykeepers in Wales are being urged to make preparations now for a bird housing order which comes into force on Friday 2 December, to counter the spread of avian influenza.

Interim chief vet for Wales, Gavin Watkins, has warned of a “heightened risk” of disease for Wales over the winter months.

He said keeping all birds indoors will “build extra resilience” to the biosecurity measures already introduced through the Wales avian influenza prevention zone.

See also: Bird flu housing order to be introduced in Northern Ireland

To minimise the risk of virus entering bird houses, the Welsh government is also making it a mandatory requirement for poultrykeepers to complete a biosecurity self-assessment checklist.

“The latest data suggests a westward spread of avian influenza to Wales in the coming months – and increased risk of birds being infected outside – through increased viral survival times and a possible further spread in the range of wild birds carrying the virus,” said Dr Watkins.

“The biosecurity and housing measures we are introducing will provide additional protection for birds and resilience for our poultry sector.”

Prepare now

Dr Watkins is encouraging birdkeepers to prepare for the introduction of the new measures, by making sure housing is suitable, with the housed environment enhanced to protect bird welfare. 

He added that housing is only really effective if accompanied by rigorous biosecurity to keep the virus out of bird houses.

“This is best done by completing the biosecurity checklist, which will be compulsory for all keepers.”

NFU Cymru was quick to point out that the new measures apply to all poultrykeepers, “whether you have one hen in the garden or a large poultry business”, and urged everyone to remain vigilant.

“Our sincere hope is that these housing measures, alongside the existing and additional biosecurity requirements that we are undertaking, will help minimise the impact of avian influenza on the Welsh poultry sector,” said NFU Cymru poultry board chairman Richard Williams.

So far, there have been five cases of avian influenza in Wales since 1 October, the most recent at a premises near Buckley in Flintshire on 7 November.

The regions

The Welsh move follows a decision in Northern Ireland to introduce a housing order from today (Monday, 28 November).

This means that Scotland remains the only region of the UK without a housing order planned or in place.

This is despite continued cases north of the border, with the Scottish government reporting a third case near Turriff, Aberdeenshire, on Sunday (27 November), in a free-range laying flock.

This followed an earlier case near Banff, Aberdeenshire, on 18 November.

Defra has also reported further cases in England over the weekend, including an outbreak at a barn egg unit near Bromsgrove, in the West Midlands, affecting some 32,000 birds.

It is understood the 24,000 free-range birds in an adjacent unit will also be culled.

There have been more than 120 outbreaks of avian influenza in England since the start of October.