How to prepare for when your free-range birds can be let outside again (publishing.service.gov.uk)

The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) requiring enhanced biosecurity (declared at 17:00 on 11 November 2020) remains in force across the whole of England. But following a reduction in the risk of avian influenza to both wild and kept birds to ‘medium’. Wednesday 31st March 2021 will be the last day poultry and other captive birds will need to be housed as a requirement of the AIPZ.

Housing restrictions end at 23:59 on the 31st March 2021. All other biosecurity measures in the AIPZ remain in force until further notice and are a legal requirement for all bird keepers in England (whether they have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock).

Further details of the measures that apply in the AIPZ can be found in the AIPZ declaration. The housing measures apply from 14 November 2020 to 31 March 2021, all other AIPZ measures remain in force until further notice.

High standards of biosecurity remain essential as infection may still be present in the environment. If you intend to allow your birds outside after 31 March you must take action now to prepare the outside areas. Read our guidance on How to prepare for when your free-range birds can be let outside again (PDF, 69.4KB, 3 pages).

How to prepare for when your free-range
birds can be let outside again
Bird flu (Avian Influenza) is spread between birds through direct contact or indirectly via
faeces, droppings or contaminated objects, land or water. If poultry, such as chickens or
turkeys, are infected with bird flu they will likely show signs of illness, whereas waterfowl
such as ducks and geese can carry it without becoming ill, and therefore can easily spread
it to other birds.
The increased risk of bird flu is likely to persist in the UK for several weeks or possibly
months, but there are a number of actions that you can take to help protect your birds.
Actions you need to take to protect your birds
Make the range (the outdoor area birds have access to)
unattractive to wild birds, particularly wild waterfowl,
corvids (e.g. crows and magpies) or gulls
• Net or cover ponds – you must net or cover any ponds that are within the fenced
range area. You should also consider netting ponds or larger bodies of water within
100m of the perimeter of the outdoor area if within your premises. If this is not
possible you should take steps to deter birds from accessing them.
• Fence off ponds, streams, standing water or wet or boggy areas – whilst the
Avian Influenza Prevention Zone measures is in place, poultry must not be allowed
access to areas around ponds, streams, canals or other wet areas as there is a
much greater risk that these areas have been contaminated by the droppings of
wild birds.
• Remove any wild bird feed sources – check the range and surrounding areas for
any feed sources that might attract wild birds: these are most likely to be associated
with wet areas but also include spilt grain, seeds and uncovered feed bins. All
feeding must be undertaken under cover.2
Keep wild birds off the range
There are several ways that you can deter wild birds (in particular gulls and wild waterfowl)
from landing on and feeding on the range. These include regularly walking the area, using
predator decoys and using wild bird visual bird scarer or other novel bird scaring devices
(for example, light lasers).
Bird scarers can annoy and disturb the public so please use them in a considerate way.
Good Practice Guidance can be found in the NFU Code of Practice.
Decontaminate and sanitise the range
Where the range has not been used for several months it may have been contaminated by
wild bird faecal matter. This is particularly important if you are changing the area accessed
by free ranging birds. For example, when moving mobile arks or fencing off areas not
previously used for poultry.
The virus that causes avian influenza can still be infective in faeces or droppings and other
contaminated material for around 50 days (longer in wet conditions or in standing water). If
wild birds have had access to your ranges and other outdoor areas, you must take steps to
reduce the levels of contamination.
You could:
• Cleanse and disinfect concrete and other impermeable areas – use a
government- approved disinfectant at the recommended dilution rate for
Diseases of Poultry Order. Appropriate pollution prevention measures must be
followed (see section below).
• Decontaminate the range – it may be possible to reduce the level of the virus
present in heavily contaminated areas by exposing surface to sunlight and
drying. This could be done by harrowing or raking the range to break any buildup of faeces followed by the use of some government-approved disinfectants at
the recommended dilution rate. Many approved disinfectants will quickly become
inactivated when sprayed on organic material (such as soil) so are unlikely to be
effective. You should consult the manufacturer for advice on whether the product
you want to use is likely to be effective and follow appropriate pollution
prevention measures.
• Add shavings or woodchip – the resin in shavings and woodchips has some
virucidal properties and may help reduce the virus load in wet areas. You should
consult your private vet before considering this option as warm wet conditions
can result in an increased risk of aspergillosis – a fungal disease that affects the
respiratory tract of birds.
• Drain wet patches and areas of standing water – In the longer term and
subject to obtaining the necessary consents and agreements, consider whether it
is possible to fill in or drain any permanent ponds or areas of standing water.
Consult the relevant authorities before undertaking any permanent works that 3
might impact on biodiversity.
Reduce spread by people or objects
Limit the number of people who have access to the range and ensure that they have no
contact with any other poultry or birds.
If people have to enter the range, ensure they have dedicated footwear and outer clothing.
For sites with over 50 birds, foot dips must be used on entry and exit to houses and
outdoor areas/range where the birds are kept. Remember to change or disinfect your
footwear when accessing houses from the range. This includes the use of footpaths and
signage at the entry and exit to ranges where footpaths cross these areas.
Disinfectants: pollution prevention and control
You do not need to get prior approval from the Environment Agency in England, Scottish
Environment Protection Agency in Scotland, or Natural Resources Wales in Wales before
applying any disinfectants to concrete areas or the range area provided the volume and
concentration of disinfectant applied is similar to that applied in routine cleansing and
disinfection operations.
Appropriate pollution prevention measures must be followed in all cases to stop excessive
uncontrolled disinfectant run off. Disinfectants must not be applied close to drinking water
supplies or surface water bodies.
March 2021