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Avian influenza: Housing order comes into force

free-range hens indoors

FREE-RANGE poultry across Great Britain must now be housed in the latest bid to slow the spread of avian influenza.

Producers have had 11 days to prepare commercial flocks for the shut-in, which is likely to last until the spring.

See also: 4 key things to know about a free-range poultry housing order

It comes as another case of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza was confirmed on a wild bird rescue centre near Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire.

The housing order is in addition to the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, which makes high levels of biosecurity a legal requirement.

Failure to comply can result in up to three-months in jail or an unlimited fine.

Marketing

Free-range eggs and poultrymeat can continue to be marketed as such for 16 weeks despite birds being housed.

If the housing order lasts longer than 16 weeks, then stickers will be applied to packaging explaining that birds have been housed for their welfare.

A joint statement from Great Britain’s three Chief Veterinary Officers said: Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from 14 December onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds.

Protection

“We have not taken this decision lightly, but it is the best way to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.”