The UK is at increased risk of avian influenza (AI) over the winter months due to migrating birds and the ability of the avian influenza virus to survive for prolonged periods of time in the environment, particularly in low temperatures. The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) has put together some advice to help backyard poultry owners protect their birds from AI.
Maintain good levels of biosecurity:
- Maintaining good levels of hygiene and regularly disinfecting hard surfaces;
- Changing shoes before entering/leaving to avoid transferring faeces in/out of the poultry enclosure;
- Minimizing contact with wildlife by humanely controlling rodents and deterring wild birds. Contact with wild birds can be minimized by placing food and water in an enclosed area such as the coop, and preventing poultry from accessing ponds/standing water frequented by wild bird populations, for example by erecting temporary fencing;
- Where possible, keeping birds of different poultry species separate (e.g. ducks and geese should be separate from chickens).
What should I do if I suspect avian influenza?
Avian influenza is a notifiable disease. If it is suspected, it must be reported immediately:
- In England, contact the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301
- In Wales, contact your local Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) office on 0300 303 8268
- In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office
- For keepers in Northern Ireland, contact your local DVO.
A collection of resources relating to keeping backyard poultry, including information relating to AI, has been created on the BSAVA library. You can also access a Q&A for further information on the above here.