Avian housing order introduced in NI

Mandatory housing measures for all kept birds and poultry are to come into force across Northern Ireland (NI) from midday on 28 November in a bid to combat the growing threat of avian flu.

The housing order legally requires all bird keepers, including owners of pet birds, commercial flocks, backyard and hobby flocks, to keep their birds indoors or otherwise separate from wild birds and is part of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in NI.

The introduction of the mandatory housing measures includes a ban on certain bird gatherings.

So far this year in NI, there has been one confirmed case in a captive bird holding and, since April, there have been 21 confirmed wild bird cases. Positive cases in wild birds, commercial and backyard flocks, across Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, continue to occur and, in recent months, have been on the rise.

Mandatory housing measures for all kept birds and poultry are to come into force across Northern Ireland (NI) from midday on 28 November in a bid to combat the growing threat of avian flu

Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Robert Huey said: “In order to protect the national flock, we must try to avoid a repeat of last year, which was NI’s worst ever outbreak of avian flu and resulted in the cull of approximately 80,000 birds. This is devastating for the owners and has the potential to savage our £450 million poultry industry.

“Avian flu is a cunning and determined virus and will exploit any and all gaps in your biosecurity, which is the best defence you have against an outbreak. No one is safe from an incursion and cases in NI will increase significantly over the coming months unless we all take immediate action now.

“Anyone who keeps birds and poultry, not just those in the commercial sector, will now have a legal obligation to adhere to the housing order requirements, which are there to protect your flock. Avian flu will wipe it out in a matter of days and the costly and emotional task of culling and disposal, is something you will want to avoid. An incursion into a flock, or even a small captive bird holding, can have significant consequences not just for the owner but for wider industry and our ability to trade.”

Dr Huey continued: “While it is vital that you comply with the housing order, there are also a range of other actions you can take to protect your flock:

Ensure feed and bedding is protected from rodents and wild birds

Make sure there are no gaps in your housing

Clean your footwear every time you visit your birds

Humanely control rodents

Regularly clean and disinfect hard surfaces

“These actions should become a regular, repetitive and instinctive part of your bird-owning routines. These are not one-off events, but something you should do every single day, and come as naturally as providing food and water for your birds.”

DAERA reminds you that it is a legal requirement for all bird keepers to also register their birds (unless they are kept within your own home). This enables us to contact you with important disease information giving you the best opportunity to protect your birds. You can use the online bird registration form https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/bird-registration-form.

The Department has developed a biosecurity self-assessment tool which is available at https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/biosecurity-self-assessment-tool to help bird keepers in the review of their biosecurity arrangements. The checklist can be completed online and saved to your device.

DAERA also encourages you to sign up to the text alert service simply by texting 'BIRDS OPT IN' to 07860 098672. This will allow you to receive immediate notification of any important disease information, allowing you to protect your flocks at the earliest opportunity. Text 'BIRDS OPT OUT' to 07860 098672, to STOP receiving these text messages.