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How to beat Bird Flu this Winter

It was almost a year ago that DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced an Avian Influenza protection zone, triggered by an outbreak of H5N8 Bird Flu, most likely brought in by the winter migration of wild birds to the UK. A precautionary measure of enclosing flocks was put in place to keep domestic poultry separate from wild birds in a bid to contain the outbreaks.

Many poultry keepers were simply not prepared for the effects of DEFRA's Avian Flu restrictions which saw many birds housed indoors for a period of over four months! Birds became stressed and the free-range egg status was compromised and for some there was the heart-breaking and devastating culling of flocks.

Thankfully, we have not had a confirmed new case in the UK for several months now but, let's not be complacent in the coming winter; let's make sure we take precautions now. Be prepared!

As you may know, the Bird Flu (Avian Influenza) disease can spread from bird to bird by direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces. The main risk of infection is likely to come from wild birds using the same ground and feeders as your chickens. We hope this simple FAQ checklist will answer your most common Bird 'flu concerns. All products mentioned can be found in our Bio-Security for Poultry Section

Nigel Gibbens, the Government's Chief Veterinary Officer has been advising poultry keepers to stay vigilant and continue to take practical steps to continue with the bio-security and to be prepared, as the risk of a new outbreak is more likely at this time of the year.

What does DEFRA mean by 'keep birds inside'?

DEFRA may advise Poultry Keepers to keep their birds 'inside', but what exactly does this mean.

The advice to keep birds 'inside' can mean just keeping your birds confined to their run but the run should have a covered roof. If you don't have a run, you could construct a temporary one from old pallets and small mesh wire.

The main concern is to ensure that wild birds cannot access the run, so any holes in the fence or wire need to be small (e.g. half inch by one inch mesh will keep wild birds out).

For ideas about the ideal chicken run, take a look at Poultry Protection Pens & Runs, we have many sizes and styles to suit a range of budgets and house styles, most of which are in stock.

If the roof is open to the elements, then passing birds can land on it, or fly over, and any excretions will land inside the run. The best way to prevent droppings from wild birds, that might have been exposed to avian flu, would be to cover your existing run to essentially create a 'roof'.

The simplest and most cost-effective solution is to use a tarpaulin. Our PVC Rainshades are ideal for this.

A more permanent solution could be to cover the roof with polycarbonate sheets, or other lightweight roofing materials, that are perhaps readily available from builder's merchants.

A little tip here though is to try and make sure that by adding a roof covering you are not making the run too dark for the birds. They do need as many good daylight hours as possible to be able to assimilate their calcium intake and produce good eggs.

What if I have to confine my birds to their house?

If DEFRA announce a restriction, it applies to all poultry and captive birds. For some of us it just not practical to create an outdoor covered run area. In this instance, birds will need to be confined to their hen house.

More frequent cleaning will help to keep the birds clean and the addition of products such as BioDri Sanitising Powder will help alleviate the build-up of moisture created by condensation of having birds in a confined space. Using HempBed-E Bedding, which is super absorbent and contains eucalyptus, will also help reduce humidity and keep the air fresher.

In this case you might also have to consider adding a light to the house, set to come on during certain hours, so that can replicate daylight.

Another consideration is that bored, tightly confined, birds can begin to get restless and bully each other leading to feather pecking or injury. To help prevent this we would recommend placing items to act as a distraction, such as the Boredom Buster or perhaps a few playful items such as hanging up a cabbage.

Feeders and Drinkers will need to be kept inside (or under cover), away from contamination. Hanging feeders may be an easy option helping to keep the bedding dry and minimise the amount of spilt food in such a confined area.

Which Disinfectant can I use against Bird 'flu?

There are many poultry disinfectants on the market but not all are specifically approved by DEFRA for use against Avian Influenza.

The most popular one is Virkon S Disinfectant which comes in sizes from 50g to 5kg tubs. Also approved, at the right dilution rate, is Bi-OO-Cyst and Bio-VX Powder by Biolink. These can be used for cleaning the house, feeders and drinkers (rinse well with fresh water) and for creating a simple foot bath.

A disinfectant footbath can be anything from washing up bowl to a tub trug, filled with a disinfectant solution that can be walked through by all of the family on entering and exiting the poultry area. Try our Recycled Tyre Troughs as a cheap but robust footbath.

Virkon S Tablets or powder is probably the most cost-effective product as once made up, it can be reused. Protective and disposable gloves and masks are a practical consideration when handling and cleaning your birds to avoid spreading any potential contamination.

Summary and Further Reading

In summary

No free ranging | Prevent access by wild birds and their droppings | Cover your runs | Bring feeders and drinkers inside | More frequent cleaning | Footbath before entering | Boredom busters | No movement of livestock | Keep vigilant.

Symptoms of Avian Flu and further guidance can be found on the DEFRA website. If you have any serious concerns about the health of your poultry, please seek prompt advice from your vet.

For poultry supplies delivered to your door Flyte So Fancy offer next working day delivery for orders placed before 2pm (Mon-Fri). We do our best to stock everything you need to keep your flock happy and healthy. If you need guidance about which products to choose, please do call us on 01300 345229.

Further reading
can be found on our Blog Pages, which are regularly updated, The Flyte so Fancy Blog or revisit our previous Blogs - Flyte so Fancy 2016 Blog - for hints and tips, as well as our Youtube Channel - Flyte so Fancy YouTube