Poultry owners warned to protect their flocks

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The discovery last Friday of avian bird flu in a small backyard flock of birds in North Yorkshire means poultry are being kept locked in until at least February 28.

Following a peregrine falcon being found dead – and later testing positive for H5N8 avian influenza – in Dumfries and Galloway last month, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) had asked anyone who has hens, whether it be for business or as pets, to keep them indoors, so they have no contact with wild birds, between December 6 and January 6.

However, subsequent discoveries across the country, including the flock in Yorkshire, has extended the period of restrictions.

All keepers of birds are advised to be vigilant over the health of their livestock, and to check with the DEFRA website or their local veterinary practice for advice on appropriate measures.

Scottish rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Confirmation of the arrival of the virus throughout the UK highlights how essential it is that bird keepers comply with the avian influenza prevention zone.”

Poultry shows and gatherings have also been cancelled during the outbreak.

Bird owners worried about their charges being kept inside have been advised to keep them stimulated by giving them children’s toys, or hanging up food in bales.

Any birds found with the disease will lead to the culling of the entire flock.

DEFRA has issued advice on what to do if you find a dead wild swan, or a group of dead birds in a small area.

Contact it by calling 0845 9335577 and do not handle the carcasses unless it is essential.