Hold a bird gathering under the general licence
What counts as a bird gathering, the conditions you must meet to hold a gathering under the general licence, and biosecurity advice for bird gathering organisers and participants.
You don’t need to apply for the bird gatherings general licence.
You can hold a bird gathering under this licence as long as you meet its conditions and give the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) at least 7 days’ notice.
The terms of this licence were changed on 20 December 2016 in the light of the risk of avian influenza (bird flu). All gatherings of poultry (including chicken, geese, ducks, pheasants, turkeys and guinea fowl) are banned in England until further notice – they are not allowed under this general licence. Similar bans have also been put in place in Wales and Scotland. Our avian influenza (bird flu) guidance has more details on the current situation.
This licence is only valid for gatherings of certain species of birds so you must check the terms of the licence carefully. At the moment, the licence mainly covers aviary birds or pigeons. Gatherings of poultry are not allowed under this licence.
You could be prosecuted if you don’t meet the licence conditions. Your permission to operate under this licence could be suspended or withdrawn.
What counts as a bird gathering
This section explains how we expect the term ‘bird gathering’ to be interpreted under the terms of this licence.
A bird gathering involves bringing together birds from different locations, and afterwards either moving them back to their original locations or moving them to new locations. The rules on bird gatherings apply to all bird keepers, whether the birds are kept commercially, as a hobby, or as pets.
We intend the following to be classified as bird gatherings:
- bird fairs, markets, shows, sales or exhibitions
- birds brought together, including in vehicles, for pigeon racing
- birds which are brought together from different locations, and which are then moved onto other locations in 13 days or less (and if you sell birds as a dealer or via the internet and you operate in this way, then you are holding gatherings)
- catching-up of wild game birds (where they come from multiple locations to a single location and are then moved onwards to different premises)
We intend the following not to be classified as bird gatherings:
- collection of birds at a licensed slaughterhouse for slaughter
- where all of the birds brought together have come from the same premises and then return to that premises afterwards
- a sale of birds which have all come from the same single premises (a dispersal sale or ‘re-homing’)
- a show involving only eggs (provided the eggs are not hatched, and no live birds are present)
- birds which are brought together from different locations, but where no further birds arrive in the next 13 days, before the birds leave the premises (and if you sell birds as a dealer or via the internet, and you have not moved birds onto your premises in the 13 days prior to sale, then this activity is not classified as a gathering)
- catching-up of wild game birds (where they have come from multiple locations but are then moved to a single location afterwards, and remain there for breeding or other purposes)
- commercial breeding or rearing of poultry or other captive birds
(The above lists are not intended to be comprehensive.)
In all cases you need to make sure that effective biosecurity practices are adopted.
You must notify your local APHA Office at least 7 days before a bird gathering. You’ll need to give them the following details:
- date or dates of the gathering
- location of gathering (address and postcode)
- types and numbers of birds expected
- purpose of the gathering - such as show, sale, racing
- your name, address and contact number, and an email address and mobile number if you have them
APHA will tell the local authority about the gathering.
Avian influenza risk
Tell APHA if you suspect your birds have avian influenza.
Defra or APHA could amend or withdraw this licence immediately depending on the risk of the spread of avian influenza (bird flu). As set out above, the terms of the licence were changed on 20 December 2016.
Prevent disease spreading
You must try to prevent the spread of disease in the following ways.
Make sure any containers you take to gatherings haven’t been contaminated with material from birds that aren’t at that gathering.
Dispose of (or treat to remove the risk of disease transmission) anything birds had access to, including:
- any other material of bird origin
- anything left at the gathering which has been contaminated by the birds
Waste which may have been contaminated needs to be double-bagged, and then disposed of by a suitably licensed waste disposal operator.
Clean and disinfect parts of the premises contaminated by birds or materials (apart from areas covered by grass).
Make sure any containers left at the premises are cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible and before they’re used again.
Use a Defra-approved disinfectant.
Specific biosecurity advice for participants
If you are exhibiting, showing or racing birds, you should:
Before setting out
- check all your birds to ensure that there are no signs of serious disease, and that the birds to be exhibited are healthy
- ensure that transport containers are clean and if practicable, disinfected: they should not contain bedding material, including shavings or paper shreddings
On arrival at the gathering
- only take essential equipment into the venue and ensure that it is either disposable, or capable of being cleansed and disinfected
- only take in enough feed for the duration of the gathering
- at the gathering, wear clean clothing that has not been used in your bird housing: consider bringing a change of clothes to wear after the event
- change your footwear: you should wear clean and disinfected footwear, or wear disposable overboots
During the gathering
- ensure that only the owner of the birds, and the judges, handle them - they should clean their hands between each bird
- ensure that any sick birds are immediately removed from the show area and placed in a separate isolation area
After the gathering
- make sure containers and reusable equipment taken into the gathering are cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible and before being used again
- change your clothes, preferably after leaving the gathering, or at least before entering the bird housing on returning home
- we recommend that on return from the gathering you should:
- keep birds taken to the gathering separate from the remaining birds for at least two weeks
- keep all new birds quarantined in a building well away from the main bird housing for at least 30 days
- to prevent cross contamination, tend to isolated birds separately: wear different clothes when doing so
- if you have any concerns about the health of your birds, please contact your veterinary surgeon
Specific biosecurity advice for organisers
As the organiser (licensee) of a bird gathering, you are responsible for ensuring that:
Before the gathering
- you provide biosecurity advice (see ‘Specific biosecurity advice for participants’ above) to all attendees before the gathering
- you make available disinfectant approved under the Poultry Order
- you make disposable overboots available for visitors to the gathering
On arrival at the gathering:
- any birds which appear unwell are not allowed to enter and that veterinary advice is sought
- containers used to carry birds have no visible contamination with droppings or other material of bird origin other than that which has occurred during transportation; they should not contain any bedding material
During the gathering
- a veterinary surgeon is available during the whole time that the birds are present at the gathering (they do not need to be present but you must be able to contact them if required)
- any signs of avian notifiable disease are reported to APHA using the single point of contact numbers in England and Wales or the Duty Vet in Scotland
- in the event of suspicion of disease, no birds, equipment or people are allowed to leave the premises until APHA have confirmed that this can be permitted
- only the owner of the birds, and the judges, handle the birds - they should clean their hands between each bird
- sick birds are immediately removed from the show area and placed in a separate isolation area
After the gathering
- any feed to which birds had access, and all bedding, droppings, feathers, dander, overboots or any other contamination left at the end of the gathering are:
- disposed of so that birds do not have access (this should include double-bagging, followed by secure removal by a suitably licensed waste operator); or
- treated in order to remove risk of transmission; or
- disposed of as Category 1 or 2 animal by-products in accordance with Animal By-Products Regulations
- all equipment used to exhibit birds and not removed by exhibitors is treated as soon as possible with a disinfectant approved under the Poultry Order
- any cages, crates, baskets or other containers remaining at the place where the gathering has taken place are cleaned and disinfected as soon as possible after the gathering and before being used again
Keep records for 3 months
You must keep records of bird gatherings for at least 3 months after each event, including:
- name, address and contact number of anyone moving birds to and from the gathering
- types and numbers of birds exhibited, raced, bought or sold at the gathering
APHA may ask you for this information.
Contact your local APHA office if you want advice on bird gatherings or you suspect avian influenza.
Published: 14 May 2015
Updated: 13 April 2017
- We've added more information about what does or doesn't count as a bird gathering.
- We've added some clearer information about what does or doesn't count as a bird gathering.
- Added biosecurity advice for bird gathering organisers (licencees) and participants.
- Updated following the announcement of a temporary suspension on certain bird gatherings from 20 December 2016.
- Removed reference to vet assessment as this is a general licence and is therefore not carried out on a case-by-case-basis.
- First published.