When there's talk of a disease outbreak it's only natural to worry about pets or livestock.
Find out where you can get the latest information, and what to do if you suspect that some animals you own or have seen may be infected.
- If you see a wild bird that is sick and appears to have bird flu, avoid contact with the bird - including feathers and waste.
- Seek advice from your vet
If you are concerned about the health of your animals, you should always seek expert advice from your vet.
- Keep up-to-date with Defra
The latest information on disease outbreaks, including precautions to take and how to report disease, is available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Visit the Defra website
Call the Defra Helpline: 03459 33 55 77
- Contact us
If you are worried about the health or welfare of some animals you have seen, call our cruelty line: 0300 1234 999.
Bird flu advice and what to do
Bird flu (also called avian influenza) is a notifiable, infectious disease that affects both wild and kept poultry. The disease is taken very seriously as it's devastating to birds, spreads very fast and whilst some strains have the potential to jump from birds to humans, this is very rare.
On Wednesday 3 November 2021, the UK's devolved administrations made a decision to declare an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of the UK to help mitigate the risk of the disease spreading.
- Bird flu is a notifiable animal disease. If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on: 03000 200 301. In Wales, contact: 0300 303 8268.
- If you find dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, you should report them to the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77 - please select option 7). DO NOT TOUCH OR PICK UP any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.
All bird keepers (whether you have pet birds, commercial flocks or just a few birds in a backyard flock) must keep a close watch on them for signs of disease and maintain good biosecurity at all times. This is especially relevant if your birds are in a Higher Risk Area (HRA). If you have any concerns about the health of your birds, seek prompt
advice from your vet.
You should register your poultry, even if only kept as pets, so Defra can contact you during an outbreak. This is a legal requirement if you have 50 or more birds. Poultry includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeon (bred for meat), partridge, quail, guinea fowl and pheasants.
If you should find a sick or injured bird, please call the RSPCA on 0300 1234999. Due to the potential risks to your own health and safety, we would advise you not to approach or handle the bird yourself. If you have already touched the bird, please wash your hands immediately, along with any surfaces you may have made contact with. We're providing our officers with the correct PPE and training as set out by recent government guidelines so they can respond as soon as possible.
For the latest information and advice, including how to keep your own poultry safe in England, please visit the Defra website.
For poultry keepers in Wales, please see the Welsh Government website.
In addition to the government advice, there is also a simple guide put together by us, Defra, the NFU and other organisations providing best practice advice to help backyard flock keepers to protect their birds from bird flu.
It's a legal requirement for all bird keepers (whether they have commercial flocks, a few birds in a backyard flock or pet birds) to follow strict biosecurity measures. Keepers with more than 500 birds need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and site vehicles need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
The prevention zone means bird keepers must:
- Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example by netting ponds, and by removing wild bird food sources.
- Feed and water kept indoors or enclosed areas to discourage wild birds.
- Minimise movement in and out of bird enclosures.
- Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy.
- Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
Bird flu and handling baby birds
The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone remains in place. In light of the upcoming baby bird season, UKHSA and Defra have updated their position on the public handling of sick and injured birds.
Birds you can and can't handle
Defra/APHA has assessed that the risk of avian influenza in live Passerine baby birds is very low. Passeriformes (perching birds) include the common garden bird species such as:
Where these baby birds have been found outside a nest and need to be handled following our guidance detailed below, the handler should wash their hands thoroughly after handling to avoid contamination with other infectious organisms.
This handling advice does not apply to waterfowl (ducks, geese and swans) and other contact with wild birds should still be avoided.
This assessment has been made on the basis of the type of Avian Influenza A (H5) strains currently circulating in the UK and continental Europe as of April 2022. Other strains would require a reassessment if and when they arise.
What to do with the birds you can handle
For nestling or fledgeling common garden birds (including pigeons), you can either:
- attempt to reunite the young bird with its parents
- take the young bird to a vet or wildlife centre (call first to make sure that they can take the bird)
Make sure you wear gloves or use a towel to handle the bird. You must also wash your hands thoroughly after handling the bird.
Check to make sure it's a safe bird to handle
For the purposes of identification of a bird the advice is:
- Many fledgling and young birds found are passerines (perching birds)
- Water birds (water fowl) such as ducklings, cygnets or goslings, can be identified simply by the fact that they have webbed feet from birth
If you capture the bird, keep them in a box and don't allow anyone else to touch or handle them. The bird should then be transported in the box and kept in a well-ventilated environment, for example open the windows of your car and keep the box in the back.
Found a dead baby bird
Anyone who has found a dead baby bird should follow Defra's advice for the public.
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