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How to keep your birds safe from
Avian Influenza (bird flu)
Avian Influenza, also known as bird flu, is a disease that affects all types of poultry including chickens, ducks and geese.
A severe strain of the disease, H5N8, has recently been found in wild and captive birds in the UK. This guide is designed
to help keepers of small flocks of poultry look after their birds while there is a prevention zone in place.
This information has been put together by Defra with the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and
British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA).
How bird flu spreads
Bird flu can be passed from wild birds to poultry, causing birds to fall ill and die. It can be
transmitted directly from bird to bird or via the environment, for example in wild bird droppings.
To reduce the risk of bird flu spreading from bird to bird there is currently a legal requirement for all
birds to be housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.
This means if you keep poultry, including chickens, ducks or geese, even as pets, you must take action
to prevent contact with wild birds and protect them from this potentially fatal disease.
Risks to human health are very low and bird flu does not pose a food safety risk.
Protecting your poultry
Where possible, move birds
into a suitable building,
like a shed or outbuilding
adapted to house them, or
a new temporary structure
like a lean-to or a polytunnel.
Put netting over openings to
stop wild birds getting in and
remove any hazardous substances.
It is your responsibility to ensure your birds’ welfare while
indoors and keep them calm and comfortable:
• If you keep several types of birds, house chickens or
turkeys in separate enclosures from ducks and geese.
Check the birds regularly to ensure they are healthy
and have enough food, water and dry bedding.
• Keep the environment interesting to reduce the risk
of feather pecking. Add fresh bedding, straw bales,
perches and objects such as cabbages, scatter feed
or grain on the floor and add grit to litter to encourage
birds to scratch.
• Make sure birds have natural light where possible and
are not permanently in the dark. Light should ideally
follow typical day and night patterns.
• You may want to consider nutritional supplements in
drinking water that can help keep birds calm.
• Skin parasites like red mite can be a problem in birds
kept indoors and can make birds more irritable. Advice
on controlling parasites can be obtained
from your vet.
Reducing the risk of infection
If you don’t have a suitable building to move your birds
into, or the welfare of the birds would suffer if moved
indoors, you must take sensible precautions to keep them
away from wild birds.
You should follow these steps to reduce the risk of
infection via the environment, for example in wild bird
droppings, even if your birds are inside.
• Keep food and water supplies inside where they can
not be contaminated, feed birds inside and keep them
away from standing water.
• Where birds remain outside, set up a temporary
enclosure covered with netting that wild birds
can not access.
• Minimise movement in and out
of your birds’ enclosure and clean
footwear before and after visits.
• Keep the area where your birds live
clean and tidy, removing spilled feed.
Signs of Avian Flu
Signs include loss of appetite, swollen heads and
respiratory problems. If you suspect bird flu call the
Defra helpline on 03000 200 301.
Further information
Further details can be found at
6 January 2017

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