The BVA and the British Veterinary Poultry Association (BVPA) are urging backyard poultry keepers to protect flocks from avian influenza by using practical biosecurity steps.

chickens
“Tight biosecurity is essential,” says BVA president Gudrun Ravetz. Image: Kamil Kurus/Fotolia.

A Government-enforced avian influenza prevention zone has been extended across Great Britain until 28 February after confirmed cases of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza were reported in wild birds and backyard flocks in Carmarthenshire and Yorkshire, and a swannery in Dorset.

Very real risk

BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said: “The confirmation of avian influenza in a number of small flocks shows the very real risk the disease poses to backyard flocks and the importance of keeping them separate from wild birds.

“We know not all backyard keepers will have to hand buildings they can immediately house their flocks in, so Defra’s leaflet gives practicable advice on alternatives, including temporary structures.

“Tight biosecurity, such as maintaining high levels of cleanliness and hygiene and not allowing visitors to come close to your birds, is essential.

“Signs of avian flu can vary between species of bird and could range from very mild signs like seeming ‘off colour’ or reduced feed or water intakes through to the severity of death. If you are concerned about your flock, speak to your local vet.”

  • Anyone with suspicion of the disease in their birds should contact the APHA on 0300 0200 301.

 

The BVA and the BVPA recommend the following tips to keepers of captive birds and backyard flocks:

  • Read and act on Defra’s avian flu factsheet, designed for keepers of small flocks of poultry, which includes advice on protecting your birds.
  • If you do not have a permanent building to house your birds in, think how you could adapt an outbuilding, such as a shed, or erect a temporary structure, such as a polytunnel, using netting to prevent contact with wild birds – the key is to stop contact between wild birds and your flock.
  • Think of your flock’s welfare while the prevention zone is in place – check for and remove any hazardous substances from any building where you are housing your birds, make sure there is natural light and the environment is interesting to reduce the risk of feather pecking by, for example, adding straw bales and perches.
  • Good biosecurity reduces the risk of infection – keep food and water supplies indoors where they cannot be contaminated by wild birds, feed your birds indoors and keep them away from standing water, keep movement in and out of enclosures to a minimum, and scrupulously clean footwear before and after visits.

 

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