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Information for poultry keepers

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It is vital that all bird keepers in the UK continue to practice the highest levels of biosecurity and be vigilant for any signs of disease.

Our leaflet “How to keep your birds safe from Avian Influenza” contains guidance on how to look after your poultry while the Prevention Zone is in place, specifically for keepers of small flocks. 

A film in which Dr Gavin Watkins, Senior Veterinary Officer, provides advice on how to protect your birds from Avian Influenza (external link) is also available.


Good biosecurity should be practised by poultry keepers at all times. Effective biosecurity measures will help protect poultry keepers, their birds and the public. Keepers of poultry should be vigilant and if their birds appear to be unwell seek advice from a veterinary surgeon.  If you suspect one of your birds has avian influenza, it is vital to report it immediately to your nearest Animal and Plant Health Agency office (external link).

Employers also have a legal duty to protect their workers against risks to their health that could arise through work-related activities. Guidance on worker protection is available from the Health and Safety Executive (external link).

Contact with Wild Birds

Disease can spread to domestic birds through contact, direct or indirect, with infected wild birds. Therefore the risk of disease spread can be reduced by taking all possible measures to protect your birds from contact with wild birds:

  • where possible, feed and water your birds under cover
  • keep everything clean – spilled feed, litter and standing water attract wild birds and vermin
  • make sure your clothes, footwear and hands are clean before and after contact with birds, visitors should do the same
  • be vigilant, if your birds are sick, contact your vet immediately
  • signs to watch out for include breathing problems, loss of weight, and falling egg production.

If you keep 50 or more birds you are required to register your birds with the Great Britain Poultry Register. Call free on 0800 634 112. Poultry keepers with less than 50 birds are also encouraged to register.

Backyard flocks 

If you keep a small flock of poultry or ‘captive birds’, you have an important role in preventing further disease outbreaks. An outbreak of bird flu in a backyard flock has the same impact on poultry keepers and trade in poultry as an outbreak on a commercial farm.

The above points are covered in our one page leaflet - Help protect your birds from the risk of bird flu (August 2017) - print this and keep it handy, or put a copy on your noticeboard.

This was put together by Defra and the Scottish and Welsh governments, with support from: 

Bird Flu and Gamebirds: Revised Guidance Issued

If you’re involved with gamebirds you should read the advice (external link) published on the Game Farmers Association website. You need to maintain good biosecurity at your premises. This advice has been put together by seven leading countryside and shooting organisations (BASC, CA, CLA, GFA, GWCT, NGO and SGA) and endorsed by Defra, the Scottish and Welsh Governments and DAERA in Northern Ireland.

Once game birds have been released they are classified as wild birds. The person who released the game birds is no longer classed as the ‘keeper’ of the birds.

You can continue to feed and water released game birds but you should make reasonable efforts to minimise the chance of other wild birds accessing their feed and water, for example by placing it under cover. You should use commercial feed and fresh or treated water.

Pet birds kept in your home

Your pet bird should not catch avian influenza if you do not allow it to come into contact with wild birds. You should therefore follow these simple steps:

  • avoid contact between your pet birds and wild birds or their faeces
  • always clean up after dealing with your birds, especially wash your hands
  • do not bring wild bird droppings into your home through dirty clothes and shoes
  • make sure that any new bird comes from a reputable source.