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Chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese forced into lockdown amid bird flu fears

The Government’s drastic measure to keep captive birds indoors comes after a number of confirmed cases of the contagious and deadly H5N1 strain of the virus

Everyone who keeps birds from farmers to families with chickens in the backyard, has been ordered to house them indoors (file photo)

All chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese will be forced into lockdown from Monday amid fears that bird flu could spread across Britain.

The Government’s drastic measure to keep captive birds indoors comes after a number of confirmed cases of the contagious and deadly H5N1 strain of the virus.

Areas affected include North Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumbria, Warwickshire, Dorset and Essex, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

And in a bid to save Christmas, everyone who keeps birds from farmers to families with chickens in the backyard, has been ordered to house them indoors to protect them from avian flu that could be brought in by wild birds migrating to the UK.

The legal requirement set out by Defra includes regular cleaning and disinfecting the birds’ housing areas and limiting access to them from non-essential workers or visitors.

Defra said the strict measures would also safeguard the Christmas poultry market and avoid a major cull (file photo)
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Image:

Getty Images)

It described the matter as “serious” and said it would be reviewed regularly but it could be months before the bird lockdown is lifted.

But today Defra said the strict measures would also safeguard the Christmas poultry market and avoid a major cull.

According to the National Farmers’ Union, nine million turkeys have already been earmarked for the festive season and a Defra spokesman said: “We are not anticipating any knock-on effect on turkeys reared for Christmas.”

The NFU said “vigilance is key with this disease” and said it was working with farmers to help them meet the mandatory lockdown rules which start on Monday.

NFU chief poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said: “Protecting bird health and welfare is our number one priority and, with an increasing number of confirmed avian influenza cases over the past few weeks, the introduction of national housing measures will help keep all birds, whether they are part of a commercial or back-yard flock, as safe as possible.

“These measures apply to all poultry keepers, whether you have one hen in the garden or a large poultry business.

“Poultry keepers only have a few days to prepare and implement the additional measures that are now required and, given the urgency of the situation, I encourage everyone to take action as quickly as possible.”

In a joint statement the Chief Veterinary Officers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland said: “We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease and are now planning to introduce a legal requirement for all poultry and captive bird keepers to keep their birds housed or otherwise separate from wild birds.

“We have not taken this decision lightly, taking this action now is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”

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