In recent months, we have seen a number of confirmed cases of Avian Influenza, otherwise known as Bird Flu, across the UK. The Government put in place measures to try to reduce the spread of the disease to protect our major poultry businesses, hobby keepers and wild bird populations. These are set out below.

Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from bird flu is very low.

The Food Standards Agency has said that on the basis of the current scientific evidence, Bird Flu poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Visit the bird flu pages on the GOV.UK website for further information and latest updates on housing rules.

Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in place across England

On 11 November 2020, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) came into force across England. It followed a number of confirmed cases of bird flu in England. The 'housing requirement' within this was lifted at 11:59pm on 31 March 2021.

From 1 April 2021, the amended AIPZ Order came into force. It is now a legal requirement to keep free ranging birds within fenced areas. You must fence off ponds, watercourses and permanent standing water. Please see the AIPZ declaration on the GOV.UK website (opens PDF).

High standards of biosecurity remain essential as infection may still be present in the environment. These include:

  • Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures
  • Clean footwear before and after visiting birds, using a disinfectant approved by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on the the GOV.UK website at entrances and exits
  • Clean and disinfect vehicles and equipment that have come into contact with poultry
  • Keep areas where birds live clean and tidy, and regularly disinfect hard surfaces such as paths and walkways
  • Humanely control rats and mice
  • Place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly
  • Make sure there is no direct contact with poultry or other captive birds on other neighbouring premises
  • Avoid keeping ducks and geese with other poultry species, where possible
  • Keep birds separate from wildlife and wild waterfowl by putting suitable fencing around outdoor areas they access
  • Keep a close watch on birds for any signs of disease and report any very sick birds or unexplained deaths to your vet
  • Keep records (other than in a zoo) of all vehicles that enter any part of the premises where poultry are kept and of all people who come into any direct contact with the poultry
  • Keep records of all poultry, captive bird and egg movements, have these available to an inspector or veterinary inspector on demand

If you intend to allow your birds outside after 31 March 2021, you must take action to prepare the outside areas before you release your birds.

Read DEFRA's guidance on how to prepare for when your free-range birds can be let outside again and the measures which apply in the AIPZ (opens PDF).

Extra biosecurity measures for keepers of more than 500 birds

The AIPZ continues to require you to take additional measures if you keep more than 500 birds you must take some extra biosecurity measures. These include:

  • Identifying clearly defined areas where access by non-essential people and vehicles are restricted
  • Cleaning and disinfecting vehicles, equipment and footwear
  • Keeping records of vehicles and personnel entering and leaving the live-bird part

The full controls can be found on the GOV.UK website:

Additional biosecurity guidance and self-assessment checklist to support the AIPZ

In addition to the rules introduced by the AIPZ, DEFRA has published accompanying guidance on 'Biosecurity and preventing welfare impacts in poultry and captive birds' on the GOV.UK website to help bird keepers understand what is being asked of them.

DEFRA also requires all bird keepers complete a copy of the biosecurity self-assessment checklist on the GOV.UK website. You must make the checklist available to any Government or local authority official supporting the disease control work on request.

Reporting concerns about breaches of rules

If you have concerns that someone is breaching the current Avian Influenza rules, you can report this to our Contact Centre on 01733 747 474. We will ask you to provide the following details:

  • Address / premises where you believe the breach is taking place
  • What rules you believe they are breaching and how / when
  • Type and number of birds affected

The information will be passed through to the relevant team who will contact you if any further details are required.

Symptoms of bird flu

The main symptoms of bird flu (avian influenza) are:

  • Swollen head
  • Blue discolouration of neck and throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fewer eggs laid
  • Increased mortality

Report sick or dead birds - wild or captive

To report a dead wild bird, please contact DEFRA on 03459 33 55 77 and select Option 7.

If you suspect any type of bird flu in poultry or captive birds, you must report it immediately calling the DEFRA Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. Failure to do so is an offence.

Stay updated

We will endeavour to update this page when further information becomes available. For the most up to date information, please visit the Avian influenza (bird flu) guidance on the GOV.UK website.

You can also find further information about the AIPZ on the GOV.UK website.

APHA Animal Disease Alert Subscription Service

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) provides a subscription service which notifies subscribers when there is an exotic notifiable animal disease outbreak in the UK. Subscribe to receive animal disease alerts on the GOV.UK website.