Birds must be kept indoors to help combat avian flu Welsh Government says

The Welsh Government says it's trying to bring in extra measures to protect poultry and captive birds. Credit: PA

Birds in Wales must be kept indoors or separated from wild birds from Friday 2 December in an effort to stop the spread of avian flu.

The Welsh Government has said that new biosecurity and housing requirements will mean poultry and captive birds have to be kept inside over the winter months due to a heightened risk of the virus.

There has been an unprecedented incursion of avian influenza into Great Britain and Europe in 2022.

Bird keepers are being urged to ensure that housing is suitable and complete a biosecurity checklist to keep bird houses up to the required standard. People are being asked to consult their vet should they need further advice.

The Interim Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Dr Gavin Watkins, has said steps are being taken now to build extra resilience to measures introduced in October through the Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone.

Dr Watkins said: “The latest data suggests a westward spread of avian influenza to Wales in the coming months, and increased risk of birds being infected outside, through increased viral survival times and a possible further spread in the range of wild birds carrying the virus. 

"Having assessed the evidence, we are taking further preventative action to help protect poultry and kept birds. The biosecurity and housing measures we are introducing in Wales will provide additional protection for birds and resilience for our poultry sector. 

"We will continue to keep the situation under constant review.

“I want to thank all keepers for the steps they have taken to keep birds in Wales safe from this devastating disease, steps which we know have protected birds.

"The additional measures announced today will build on that effort.  If implemented rigorously, our birds will be protected.”

Public health advice remains that the risk to human health from the virus is very low and food standards bodies advise that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.

All poultry will have to be moved indoors in Wales to prevent the spread of the virus. Credit: PA

The National Farming Union Cymru says it welcomes the news that mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds is to be introduced.

NFU Cymru Poultry Board Chairman Richard Williams has said: “Following the NFU Cymru Poultry Conference on Monday 21st November, NFU Cymru wrote to the Minister for Rural Affairs to ask that Welsh Government urgently introduce mandatory housing measures to help reduce the risk of the virus causing further devastation to our poultry flocks.

"I am pleased that Welsh Government has listened to our concerns and our sincere hope is that these housing measures, alongside the existing and additional biosecurity requirements that we are undertaking, will help minimise the impact of Avian Influenza on the Welsh poultry sector.

“These measures apply to all poultry keepers, whether you have one hen in the garden or a large poultry business, and I urge everyone to remain vigilant.

“This is a really challenging time for the Welsh poultry sector, but producers are doing all they can to protect their birds and to maintain production of healthy, nutritious and affordable poultry meat and eggs for our consumers to enjoy.”

Samuel Kurtz MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs has said: 

"I and the farming unions have called for this housing order for over a two weeks, so I'm pleased that finally Welsh Government have used their common sense and implemented these necessary changes.

“Avian Flu is rightly a matter of serious concern. This disease does not respect borders nor traditional biosecurity methods, so our efforts to tackle this virus must be targeted, pre-emptive and proactive in response, hence my call for a housing order over a fortnight ago.

“These new measures should now provide additional shielding for commercial poultry, protecting the industry from wild birds. I just hope the Minister's delay in implementing the changes hasn't negatively impacted Welsh businesses.

“The Welsh Government must now turn their attention to supporting the poultry industry from further financial hardship, without further delay.”