The latest advice on Avian Bird Flu

How can I reduce the risk that Avian Influenza poses to my flock?

Practice strict bio-security to avoid bringing the virus onto your property. These measures include disinfectant footbaths outside the run and discouraging wild birds from your garden and chicken run (i.e. covering). If you keep waterfowl as well as chickens, then they must be housed apart as waterfowl are the main virus carriers. Also be careful to keep separate footwear for use outside your property.

What are the clinical signs or symptoms of Avian Influenza

Symptoms include a swollen head, closed eyes, respiratory distress (problems breathing), lethargy, sudden death, discolouration of face. Ducks and geese may show less or different symptoms, so if you are in any doubt, then you should consult your vet. If you suspect that your birds might have AI please call the DEFRA reporting helpline on 03459 33 55 78. It is well worth registering your flock here to receive updates via text and email.

What changes can I make to my chicken housing to reduce the risk of Avian Influenza?

You will need to make sure that your chickens have more than enough space in their run to be kept there 24/7 for some months, we advise where possible 4ft squared per bird. The run should ideally have weldmesh no larger than 1/2” aperture, and a cover which will keep out the rain and wild bird droppings.

How do I keep my chickens from pecking each other if they are confined?

The prime reason for bullying and feather pecking is lack of space, so ensure that there’s plenty of room in your run and utilise the vertical space by fitting in some perches or branches higher up in the run. Provide extra covered feeders and drinkers, ideally at opposite ends of the run to prevent clustering around the resources. Provide varied enrichment in their run and change them regularly to maximise interest (see our beginner’s guide for ideas). Above all, be vigilant and watchful for any bullying and use Nettex Anti Feather Pecking Spray to minimise the risk. Mites can also cause irritation and pecking, and the risk is far greater when your flock is confined to their run for long periods of time, be vigilant and tackle any mite issues with the Nettex Total Mite Kill range.

How can I support my chickens’ immune systems during an Avian Influenza outbreak?

Birds that are already immune suppressed (e.g. from stress or worm burden) are more likely to contract any illness, such as AI. A key stress factor during an AI outbreak is prolonged confinement. Nettex Poultry Vit Boost Tonic in their water helps to support the immune system. Have you considered your worming strategy? Speak to our Registered Animal Medicines Advisor today.

Am I at risk of contracting Avian Influenza from my flock?

Risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standard bodies advise that Avian Influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Do not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds that you find and instead report them to DEFRA on 03459 335578. There is no impact on the consumption of properly cooked poultry products including eggs.

What disinfectants should I be using?

You should use a disinfectant which has been approved by DEFRA, and tested to kill off the Avian Influenza virus, such as Nettex Poultry Virocur, Virkon LSP and Progiene Coxicur. Consider boot dips, sprays and good hygiene around feeders and drinkers.