Following the outbreak of avian influenza across the UK, many pet owners will be anxious about the health and safety of their feathered friends. As of Monday 7th November, the government has ordered all captive birds and poultry to be kept inside as a precautionary measure.
It has been the largest ever outbreak of bird flu and the risk is such that owners should now consider taking further steps to ensure animal welfare. This includes taking your pet to the vet for a check-up or extending housing if the safeguarding order continues.
If you’re worried about the health of your animals, here are some tips on how to keep them safe from the outbreak.
Avian influenza and how it has spread across the UK
Since late October 2021, there have been more than 200 cases of avian influenza, with over 70 premises reporting cases in captive and wild birds. Norfolk, Sussex and parts of Essex have already been identified as hotspots.
Whilst there has been rapid spread across farms all over the UK, there is still a relatively small risk to public health and consuming poultry is still safe. However, with more stringent measures already in force, farmers and industry experts are already predicting a shortage in turkeys this Christmas.
How it spreads and how to keep your flocks safe
Avian influenza can be transmitted directly from bird to bird or can be transmitted through wild bird droppings. If you are keeping birds or poultry as pets, it’s important to keep them away from contact with wild birds.
Once you have put your birds safely indoors, ensure that they are healthy and comfortable by regularly inspecting them for signs of disease, keeping chickens and turkeys away from ducks and geese, reducing movement in and out of the enclosure and washing your shoes thoroughly before you enter.
Reducing the risk of infection
There are many ways in which you can safeguard your birds’ health and safety. First, keep their food and water indoors where they cannot be contaminated and regularly refresh all standing water.
Take care of the environment directly outside of the enclosure too. Wild birds are often attracted by spilled seeds and standing water, so regularly clean the outside of the enclosure and remove all bird baths and cover all ponds to reduce contact between them and your flock.
If you keep free range chickens, you can create a wider enclosure for your poultry with a polytunnel. That way, they can still run around and be safe from infection.
Symptoms of avian flu
Be always on the lookout for signs of avian flu. Symptoms include a significant loss of appetite, swollen heads and respiratory problems. If you suspect you have a case, report it immediately to your local animal health agency.