Flockdown – a special housing order requiring all poultry farmers and birdkeepers to keep their birds indoors – will end on Monday May 2.
The UK Government confirmed the rules, which have been in place since November last year to help prevent the spread of bird flu, will be lifted from 00.01am on Monday May 2.
Chief Veterinary Officers from across the UK said this means poultry and other captive birds will no longer need to be housed unless they are located in a protection zone.
They said although the housing measures are being lifted, all poultry gatherings will remain banned and all birdkeepers must continue to maintain “scrupulous biosecurity” to prevent the spread of bird flu.
According to Defra, the UK has been dealing with its largest ever outbreak of bird flu with more than 100 cases of the disease reported across the country since late October 2021.
This included an outbreak at Auchtygills Farm near Strichen – a breeding unit for one of Scotland’s largest egg producers, Farmlay Eggs, which has a throughput of five million eggs per week.
In a joint statement, the chief vets said: “Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe.
“It is thanks to the hard work of all birdkeepers and vets, who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter, that we are in a position to take this action.
“However, the recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s vital that birdkeepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.”
The biosecurity measures all birdkeepers must continue to follow include: cleansing and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles before and after contact with birds; limiting access to non-essential people to poultry units; and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering and when leaving bird enclosures.
Farmers and birdkeepers are asked to seek prompt advice from their vet if they have any concerns, and members of the public are advised not to touch or pick up any dead or sick birds and to report them to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77.