'Devastating' restrictions affect Cumbrian farmers as government aims to combat avian flu

All bird keepers in England must keep their poultry indoors from today as the UK faces its largest ever outbreak of avian flu.

The mandatory housing measure applies to all areas of England and places a legal requirement on all keepers to follow stringent biosecurity practices to protect their flocks from disease.

Farmer Ian Mounsey, who had already put his 16,000 strong flock of chickens into his shed when the restrictions were announced last week, spoke to our reporter today.

He said: "It's pretty devastating at the moment but these measures have got to be taken because if we don't do them, the consequences of catching bird flu could be astronomical."

Free range hens can be kept indoors for a maximum of 16 weeks before their eggs must be marketed as barn eggs.

In Scotland birds are still allowed outside but under stricter biosecurity measures.

Over 200 cases of avian flu have been confirmed across the UK since last October and the disease has been detected at more than 70 premises since the beginning of last month, as well as in wild bird populations.

Last week we spoke to Cumbria County Council's director of public health Colin Cox who told us: "Bird flu is a really unpleasant thing to get into a flock. It can be absolutely devastating. It can wipe out an entire flock very very quickly."

"It's really important to keep your birds indoors because all of the birds in the flock would need to be culled if they were exposed to bird flu."

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