DEFRA has urged poultry producers to maintain the highest standards of biosecurity after announcing an end date to the UK’s poultry housing order.

All four nations of the UK will remove the legal requirement for poultry to be housed that has been in place since late November last year.

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The changes are understood to be based on both migratory birds having left the UK to return to summer breeding grounds, and because ambient temperatures are increasing – helping to reduce the amount of the virus in the environment.

The housing order will lift from 00:01 on Monday 2 May 2022, the Chief Veterinary Officers have confirmed.

The remaining elements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, which makes biosecurity a legal requirement, will remain in place beyond that date.

Prepare ranges

Those who intend to allow birds outside are advised to prepare ranges for the release of birds.

Defra has released guidance for doing so, which can be found here.

Defra said this would include cleaning and disinfection of hard surfaces, fencing off ponds or standing water, and reintroducing wild bird deterrents.

The UK has faced its largest-ever bird flu outbreak, with more than 100 cases confirmed since late October.

‘Scrupulous biosecurity’

In a joint statement, the four Chief Veterinary Officers said: “Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe.

“It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers and vets, who have played their part in keeping flocks safe this winter, that we are in a position to take this action.

“However, the recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s vital that bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.”