DEFRA, the Welsh government and DAERA in Northern Ireland have said they will end the legal requirement for poultry keepers to house their flocks on 18 April.
The decision was made based on reduced risk levels to poultry and captive birds.
While the housing order will be lifted, an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ), making biosecurity a legal requirement, will remain in place in all three nations. Scotland did not impose a housing order on poultry this winter.
The scale of avian influenza outbreaks across the UK have been unprecedented with over 330 cases confirmed across the country since late October 2021.
While Defra’s risk of bird flu has been reduced to ‘medium’ for premises with poor biosecurity, the enhanced biosecurity requirements that were brought in as part of the AIPZ will remain in force as infection may still be circulating in the environment for weeks. The risk of bird flu remains assessed as “low where good biosecurity is applied”.
Those who intend to allow their birds outside are advised to use the upcoming days to prepare their outside areas for the release of their birds.
This will include cleansing and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water and the reintroduction of wild bird deterrents.
Chief veterinary officer for Wales, Richard Irvine, said: “I am pleased to be able to confirm the lifting of the compulsory housing order will take place in Wales on 18 April.
“I know this will be welcome news for bird keepers, who have housed their birds since December, and I want to thank them for all their efforts in keeping their flocks safe.
“What is essential now is that keepers, whether it be for a few birds or thousands, keep practising rigorous hygiene and biosecurity measures to prevent outbreaks of avian influenza.
“This includes continuing to complete the mandatory biosecurity self-assessment checklist to help keepers identify what is needed to protect their birds.
“It’s also vital everyone remains vigilant for any signs of disease in their birds and wild birds, reports it and seeks advice immediately if they have any concerns.”