Bird flu (avian influenza): how to prevent it and stop it spreading

Biosecurity and hygiene standards to keep birds safe from bird flu (avian influenza).

Applies to England

You should follow this guidance to prevent bird flu and stop it spreading.

If you’re in a disease control zone additional rules will apply.

The main causes of bird flu in poultry and other captive birds are contact with:

  • wild birds, in particular waterfowl such as geese, ducks and swans and gulls
  • faeces from infected birds
  • dirty footwear, clothing and vehicles and equipment

You can speak to your vet about the specific risks to your birds. They can give you advice about practical things you can do to reduce the risk of disease.

Read guidance on records you must keep, movement restrictions and other rules if you’re in a bird flu prevention or control zone.

Register your birds

If you have 50 or more poultry or other captive birds, you must register your birds within one month after they arrive at your premises. This is a legal requirement.

If you keep less than 50 birds, including any you keep as pets, you should register your birds.

Check if you need to need to register your captive birds of prey.

Registering your birds means the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) can contact you during a bird flu outbreak.

Keep your birds away from other captive and wild birds

Keep ducks and geese in a separate pen or building away from other birds.

Ducks and geese do not always show signs of bird flu. This means they can quickly pass it on to other birds, such as chickens or turkeys.

Do not let poultry or captive birds from neighbouring sites or properties near your birds.

Prevent contact with wild birds

Wild birds can spread bird flu. Your birds can get infected if they:

  • mix with wild birds (direct contact)
  • are exposed to wild bird faeces, feathers or carcases (indirect contact)

Your birds’ food, water, housing or equipment can be contaminated by direct or indirect contact.

Make your property or premises unattractive to wild birds. You can use:

Check outside areas around your birds’ housing daily and remove wild bird:

  • faeces
  • feathers
  • carcasses

Keep food, water and bedding in enclosed areas so wild birds cannot access them.

If bedding (such as straw and shavings) are stored outside they must be covered. Unwrap the bedding before you take it inside the bird house – only take clean bedding inside.

Regularly change the times you feed your birds. Wild birds can learn when poultry and other captive birds are fed and gather in the area.

Maintain bird houses and sheds

To maintain your birds’ housing:

  • prevent wild birds nesting or roosting on it
  • repair any holes or gaps to stop wild birds getting in
  • fix leaks to stop contaminated water getting in
  • fix blocked drains or downpipes to stop contaminated water getting in
  • remove moss from the roof – it attracts wild birds

Follow guidance to manage your birds’ housing and welfare.

If your birds are not housed

You must:

  • keep birds in fenced or netted outdoor areas – follow guidance about netting outdoor areas
  • prevent your birds accessing standing water – you can use netting to cover it (this does not apply in zoos)
  • keep food and water in enclosed areas so wild birds cannot access them
  • clean and disinfect all hard surfaces, concrete walkways, paths and similar surfaces regularly using a Defra-approved disinfectant
  • check your birds’ area regularly for contamination from wild birds and remove it – for example, faeces, feathers or carcasses
  • discourage wild birds by using bird scarers, such as scarecrows

Fence off or cover standing water and ponds

If you have open water on your premises fence it off and where possible cover it with netting to discourage wild birds. Water and wild birds can carry disease.

Control rodents and pests

Rats and mice can carry diseases on their feet and fur. Effective pest control will prevent diseases.

Control rats or mice with an approved rodenticide .

When using rodenticide make sure it does not risk the health of your birds. Read advice for rodent control and the safe use of rodenticide.

Wild animals such as foxes and dogs, cats and other livestock can also carry diseases on their feet and fur. Keep them away from your birds’ housing and food supplies.

Clean and disinfect housing

Keep your premises and birds’ housing clean at all times.

You must use a Defra-approved disinfectant.

Clean and disinfect regularly:

  • hard surfaces
  • equipment such as wheelbarrows, crates, containers, buckets and plastic egg trays
  • vehicles (to stop disease spreading between premises)

When using disinfectant you must:

  • use the correct volume and concentration of disinfectant, following the manufacturer’s instructions
  • follow the manufacturer’s recommended dilution rate
  • apply pollution prevention measures to stop excessive disinfectant runoff

Do not apply disinfectants close to drinking water supplies such as reservoirs, or surface water such as streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Keep all areas and access routes clean

This helps to stop wild birds and animals:

  • being attracted to your property or premises
  • entering buildings and stores

It will also reduce the risk of vehicles becoming contaminated.

Use clean clothing and footwear, and foot dips

You must wear clean footwear and clothing when you enter bird housing.

If you have more than one bird house you must have dedicated clothing or overalls for each house.

To access bird housing in clean footwear, you must do one of the following:

  • use a disinfectant foot dip before you enter and when you step out of bird housing using a Defra-approved disinfectant – this should be at least ankle deep and under cover so it’s not diluted by rain or exposed to UV light
  • use dedicated footwear which stays inside the bird housing – leave your general footwear outside

Do not walk on ground outside the bird housing in your disinfected or dedicated footwear.

Limit and control access to your birds

The risk of disease can increase if lots of people have access to your birds.

Keep a record of all people that visit and leave your birds’ housing (names, contact details, dates, times and purpose for the visit). This does not apply to zoos.

You can use records to contact people if you get a confirmed case of bird flu or Newcastle disease.

Protecting the welfare of your birds

You are responsible for the welfare of your birds.

When they need to be housed make sure they are calm and comfortable.

Read about how to manage your birds’ housing and welfare.

Adding new birds to your flock

If you buy new birds, always check their health before you bring them to your property.

Keep new birds separate from the rest of the flock. Talk to your vet about this and agree a monitoring programme.

You must put new birds in housing that has been cleaned and disinfected.

Use separate equipment when you handle new birds or isolated flocks.

If possible, have different people to handle new birds. If this is not possible handle the new birds last.

You must change into clean clothes and footwear when you go between new birds and your existing flock.

If you have more than 50 poultry and game birds you must register them.

If you have fewer than 50 birds you can still register them. Defra will contact you if there’s a bird flu outbreak in your area.

Rules for bird shows and gatherings

Check the rules for bird gatherings.

You must tell APHA if you’re holding a bird gathering.

If your premises has over 500 birds

There are extra requirements you need to follow to keep your birds and premises safe from disease.

You must separate your premises into 3 different parts:

  1. Poultry or captive birds (live birds): in the Lion Code this area is known as the ‘specific’ area, and in Red Tractor this is a ‘defined biosecure area’.
  2. Private use: in the Lion Code this area is known as the ‘general’ area, and in Red Tractor this is a ‘defined biosecure area’.
  3. Restricted access (biosecure barrier).

Rules for the live bird part

You must:

  • restrict access to essential authorised personnel only
  • make sure all bird keepers change their footwear before entering and leaving
  • use different coveralls or overalls for each bird area or house
  • only allow essential equipment and vehicles to enter
  • clean and disinfect the outside of any vehicles, including strawchoppers, forklifts and pallet trolleys (particularly wheels and wheel arches) when entering and leaving
  • clean and disinfect equipment that enters or leaves
  • keep records of any vehicles and personnel that enter and leave

You must clean and disinfect housing and equipment at the end of a production cycle and when new birds are introduced.

Rules for the private part

You must:

  • restrict access to essential personnel only
  • carry out full biosecurity practices when entering and leaving
  • have a clear boundary between the private part and the live bird part
  • hold waste and fallen stock in biosecure facilities in this part, completely separate from the live bird and the restricted access biosecure part
  • clean and disinfect the exterior of any vehicles, including fork-lifts and pallet trolleys (particularly wheels and wheel arches) when entering and leaving

Egg producers should:

  • make sure the packing, handling and storage of second quality eggs are managed in a biosecure way
  • clean and disinfect plastic egg trays before they’re used
  • keep records of egg production

Rules for the restricted access (biosecure barrier) part

You must:

  • restrict access to essential personnel only
  • not let any non-essential vehicles enter
  • not feed wild game birds within 500m of this part of the premises

All bird keepers must regularly inspect bird housing including roofs, gutters and downpipes for holes and leaks.

Repair any holes or leaks immediately. Water can carry disease.

Keep records of bird movements, deaths and eggs

Keep records of:

  • any birds that die
  • movements of birds and eggs, on and off your premises
  • your birds’ food and water consumption
  • how many eggs your birds produce

Damaged eggs, dead birds and manure

These can carry disease. Dispose of them quickly and appropriately. Follow guidance for:

Bird flu vaccinations

Poultry and most captive birds cannot be vaccinated against bird flu. Vaccination is not a routine measure to control the disease.

Zoo birds in England can be vaccinated, but you must get authorisation from APHA.

Read the bird flu vaccination guidance and apply to have your zoo birds vaccinated.

Protecting people from bird flu

Bird flu mainly affects birds. It can affect humans and other mammals. The UK Health Security Agency advise that the risk from this bird flu strain is very low.

The Food Standards Agency advise that it is safe to eat properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs.

For more advice go to the:

Follow Health and Safety Executive advice to protect workers from bird flu.

Download biosecurity checklist and posters

If you’re in an AIPZ, complete the self-assessment checklist to make sure you’re meeting the minimum standards to protect your birds against bird flu.

Representatives from APHA or local authorities may ask for it if you are in an AIPZ and they inspect your premises.

You can download posters about biosecurity requirements for bird keepers to help keep your birds safe.

Landowners, local authorities and other organisations can download and print bird flu posters to display on site when there is a risk of bird flu or if bird has been detected in the area.

Published 4 November 2022
Last updated 12 December 2023 + show all updates
  1. Updated the text around registering birds and added new link to online service for registering less that 50 birds.

  2. Updated to reflect that the avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) has been lifted.

  3. Mandatory housing measures in England and Wales have been lifted. Housing measures are still in place in some bird flu control zones.

  4. Added a link to the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone self-assessment checklist.

  5. First published.