New housing measures are to be introduced as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in Northern Ireland (NI) from 23 December, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has announced.
The decision to introduce a housing order in NI follows the detection of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI H5N8) in seven wild birds across NI in recent weeks.
Under the new housing measures all bird keepers in NI will be legally required to keep their birds indoors and follow strict biosecurity measures. This applies to owners of pet birds, commercial flocks in addition to backyard or hobby flocks.
Announcing the decision to introduce a housing order, Minister Poots said: “I took the decision to introduce the new housing measures in order to limit the spread of avian influenza. It is now a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds. This decision was reached after extensive consultation with industry.
“This is another necessary precautionary step that builds on the strengthened biosecurity measures that were announced when the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was introduced on 1 December.”
The Chief Veterinary Officer for NI, Dr Robert Huey added; “I am urging all flock keepers to please take action now to improve biosecurity so as to reduce the risk of transmission of avian influenza to poultry or other captive birds.
“I would like to remind bird keepers that an outbreak of avian influenza in a small backyard flock will impose the same restrictions on movements of birds as if it was found on a commercial farm.
“To assist all bird keepers in complying with the new rules we have developed a biosecurity - self assessment tool which is available on the DAERA website. If avian influenza were to enter our NI flock, it would have a significant and devastating impact on our poultry industry, international trade and the wider economy.
“I would encourage all flock keepers including backyard and hobby keepers to use the coming days to prepare for the new housing measures, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their vet and where necessary put up additional housing in preparation for the introduction of the mandatory housing order from 23 December.”
Poultry and captive bird keepers are advised to be vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and any wild birds, and seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns. They can help prevent avian flu by maintaining good biosecurity on their premises, including:
- housing or netting all poultry and captive birds
- cleansing and disinfecting clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after contact with poultry and captive birds – if practical, use disposable protective clothing
- reducing the movement of people, vehicles or equipment to and from areas where poultry and captive birds are kept, to minimize contamination from manure, slurry and other products, and using effective vermin control
- thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting housing at the end of a production cycle
- keeping fresh disinfectant at the right concentration at all points where people should use it, such as farm entrances and before entering poultry and captive bird housing or enclosures
- minimising direct and indirect contact between poultry and captive birds and wild birds, including making sure all feed and water is not accessible to wild birds
The new housing measures will be kept under regular review.
Please register your flock (even if you only have one bird) so that DAERA can reach you directly with future communications and updates. You can register by contacting your local DAERA Direct office or online via the DAERA website.
DAERA encourages all bird keepers to sign up to the text alert service simply by texting 'BIRDS' to 67300. This will allow you to receive immediate notification of any important disease information, allowing you to protect your flocks at the earliest opportunity.
The advice from public health officials is that the risk to public health from this strain of avian influenza is very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that it poses a very low food safety risk.
Avian Influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must, by law, report it to their local DAERA Direct Office.