Birdkeepers in parts of England will be legally required to keep their birds indoors to help protect their flocks from avian flu.
Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds in Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex will be introduced from Wednesday after a decision by the UK’s chief veterinary officer.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said the housing order legally requires all birdkeepers in these hotspots to keep their flocks indoors and to follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect them from the disease, regardless of type or size.
Chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss is encouraging all birdkeepers in the affected regions to use the next few days to prepare, including taking steps to safeguard animal welfare, consult their private vet and expand housing where necessary.
The new measures build on strengthened biosecurity measures brought in as part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) last month, covering Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex.
The UK has faced its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza over the last year with more than 160 cases confirmed since late October 2021.
The introduction of the housing measures comes after the disease was detected at 16 premises in the affected areas since the beginning of September, as well as several reports in wild birds.
Ms Middlemiss said: “We are seeing a growing number of bird flu cases on commercial farms and in backyard birds across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and expect the risk to continue to rise over the coming months as migratory birds return to the UK.
“We are now taking further action to help protect flocks from this highly infectious and devastating disease.
“Keepers in these hotspots must continue to follow strict biosecurity standards to protect their flock, and should use the next few days to prepare and move their birds indoors.”