Department Issues Housing Notice for Birds as a Precautionary Measure Against Avian Influenza

The Department today announced that the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Michael Creed TD, has made regulations under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 requiring flock keepers to confine all poultry and captive birds in their possession or under their control in a secure building to which wild birds, or other animals do not have access and to apply particular bio-security measures. The Regulations, entitled Avian Influenza (Precautionary Confinement of Birds) Regulations 2016, provide for precautionary measures, against avian influenza (bird flu).

These measures are being taken against a background where an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 was confirmed in a turkey flock near the coast in Lincolnshire, England, last week and also in a dead wild duck in Carmarthenshire, Wales this week. The H5N8 subtype of avian influenza has been responsible for a number of outbreaks of disease in both wild birds and poultry in several European countries since the end of October.

The Department would also like to remind those involved in arranging bird gatherings that these take place under a general licence the terms of which place responsibilities on organisers of such events, emphasising in particular the need to provide advance notification to the Department and the application of bio-security measures. Details on advance notification are available on the Departments website.

http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/avian_influenza/informationonshowsexhibitionsraces/

Although the H5N8 subtype can cause serious disease in poultry and other birds, no human infections with this virus have been reported world-wide and therefore risk to humans is considered to be very low.

Poultry flock owners should remain vigilant for any signs of disease in their flocks, maintain strict biosecurity measures and report any disease suspicion to their nearest Department Veterinary Office.

An early warning system is in place with Birdwatch Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Association of Regional Game Councils with regard to surveillance for signs of disease in wild birds.

The Department continues to closely monitor and assess the disease situation and maintains close contact with our counterparts in DAERA on the matter.

Further information:
Further information on avian influenza can be found here: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/avian_influenza/birdflunews/

A list of Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine offices and their contact details is available at: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/contact/


Q&A – Compulsory Housing of Poultry and Captive Birds in Ireland

23rd of December 2016

PART 1: THE INTRODUCTION OF COMPULSORY HOUSING MEASURES

Q1. Why has this measure been taken?

  • The H5N8 strain of avian influenza has been responsible for a number of outbreaks of “Bird Flu” in both poultry and wild birds in Europe since the end of October this year. It is a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza which means that it causes severe disease and often death in infected birds. As of today’s date (23/12/2016) 14 countries in Europe have confirmed cases of the disease in poultry and/or wild birds, including in Great Britain on the 16/12/2016.
  • While no cases of H5N8 avian flu have been found in the Republic of Ireland (or Northern Ireland), the risk of an avian influenza incursion has increased significantly as a result of the detection of the H5N8 virus in a wild bird in Wales on the 22/12/2016.
  • As a precaution, Ireland has introduced a specific set of regulations that require the temporary housing of all poultry and other captive birds until further notice. The regulations entitled the Avian Influenza (Precautionary Confinement of Birds) Regulations 2016 require all poultry and captive birds in the Republic of Ireland to be housed in a secure building or where this is not practicable, steps to be taken to confine them so that they are kept separate from wild birds.
  • Housing alone will not prevent an outbreak of avian influenza. All bird owners must also have robust biosecurity measures in place on their premises such as; preventing access to the holding by vermin, wild birds or any other animals, putting in place footwear disinfection points at all entry and exit points to and from the premises, limiting access to the premises to essential personnel only and ensuring that biosecurity protocols are followed by all personnel entering and leaving the premises as regards clothing, footwear, hand-washing and so on.

Further information on preventative biosecurity measures for flock owners is available at: Biosecurity Guidelines for Flockowners

Q2. How often has this measure been taken in the past?

  • This preventative measure has not been taken before in Ireland.
  • However it should be noted that when a confirmed outbreak of avian influenza occurs in an EU country, a Protection Zone of 3km is established around the infected premises and within that zone there is an automatic requirement to house all poultry and captive wild birds in order to reduce the risk of disease spread in high risk area surrounding the outbreak. In other words housing is deemed to be an important control measure when the risk of an avian influenza incursion is heightened.

Q3. How does this measure help reduce the risk of spread of the disease?

  • Wild bird faeces are currently the major source of avian influenza virus for poultry and captive birds. Housing of outdoor birds will prevent their direct exposure to wild bird faeces.
  • Housing will also mean that birds are fed and watered indoors therefore the potential for feed or water to be contaminated by wild birds is also reduced.
  • However housing does not eliminate the risk of a disease outbreak and it is essential to have robust biosecurity measures in place on all holdings with birds. Such measures include; preventing access to the holding by vermin, wild birds or any other animals, putting in place footwear disinfection points at all entry and exit points to and from the premises, limiting access to the premises to essential personnel only and ensuring that biosecurity protocols are followed by all personnel entering and leaving the premises as regards clothing, footwear, hand- washing and so on.
  • Information about avian influenza clinical signs and the control measures that will be put in place in the event of an outbreak can be found at: Avian Influenza Control Measures & Clinical Signs

Q4. How long do I need to keep my birds in for?

  • The Regulations and therefore the requirement to keep birds housed will be in place until further notice but it will be reviewed 30 days from the date of introduction (23/12/2016).

Q5. Will I be compensated as a result of this requirement?

  • No. The Department is not required to compensate owners on foot of these measures.

Q6. Are birds in England, Scotland and Wales housed?

  • An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone covering the whole of England, Scotland and Wales was been in place since 6th December 2016, requiring that all poultry and other captive birds are housed or otherwise kept separate from wild birds.
  • Bird keepers must also apply heightened biosecurity measures where practical.
  • The zone will initially remain in place for 30 days but will be kept under review.

Q7. What is the situation in Northern Ireland?

  • A similar measure requiring the housing of all poultry and captive birds was also introduced by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland on the 23rd of December 2016. The measures will be in place in Northern Ireland for 30 days after which the situation will be reviewed.

PART 2: COMMERCIAL FREE RANGE AND ORGANIC FLOCKS

Q1. After housing are free range/organic birds considered to be free range for the purposes of marketing eggs?

  • Yes, free range and organic birds can be housed for up to 12 weeks without affecting the status of the meat or eggs produced where specific animal health legislation is introduced requiring this measure in order to protect the health of the birds.
  • The 12 week limit applies to individual birds/batches not premises as a whole.

Q2. After housing are there any implications for commercial free range/organic birds?

  • Commercial free range and organic flocks are required to meet specific animal welfare requirements which are set down EU legislation and even when temporarily housed this animal welfare legislation continues to apply. However as full housing represents a significant change to the standard environment for free range and organic birds, owners should monitor their birds closely for any signs of stress.

PART 3: BACK YARD POULTRY

Q1. What about small “back yard” poultry flocks?

  • Although the risk is lower in smaller flocks by virtue of the smaller numbers of birds, housing is still an important measure as it prevents contact between the poultry and wild birds and therefore the requirement to house applies also to small backyard flocks.

Q2. What if I don’t have housing for my birds?

  • If you keep your birds near your home, consider housing them in alternative accommodation, such as a garden building, a garage or redundant building that could be adapted to house your birds temporarily.
  • If you don’t have housing for your birds, you will be expected to take all reasonable steps to contain your birds, and to minimise contact between your birds and wild birds.
  • You can construct or adapt pens/buildings temporarily e.g.:
    • Use other barns, sheds, garages or out housesConstruct a lean-to veranda on the side of existing housesConstruct a pen using straw bales, with a tarpaulin roof, and bird-proof netting (25 mm aperture for light and ventilation)Use bird-proof netting to roof outdoor pens.
  • At the very minimum control measures to ensure that wild birds cannot access the feed and water supplies must be implemented such as:
    • Provide additional protection around the supplies (e.g. netting)
    • Prevent access to open water, and use mains or treated water for the birds
    • Install bird scaring systems
  • Remember to check for, and remove, hazardous and toxic substances such as rat bait before housing birds somewhere new, and make sure the birds have access to water and some environmental enrichment such as somewhere to perch (see Part 7, Q2 below for further details on environmental enrichment).
  • Where it is not practical to house, follow general guidance and practice good biosecurity- keep your birds, and birds’ food and water, separate from wild birds.
  • Further Department biosecurity advice can be found at Biosecurity Guidelines for Flockowners.

Q3. Once my birds are housed do I need to do anything differently? Will housing create any problems for them?

  • When birds are not used to being housed, it may create problems for their welfare. Environmental enrichment (e.g. perches or straw bales) may be required to reduce stress (see Part 7, Q2 below for further details on environmental enrichment).
  • Birds will need to be checked more often than usual to ensure that:
    • Feed and water are kept fresh, and free from faecal contamination
    • There is no evidence of behaviour such as feather pecking or cannibalism
    • In hot weather or cold, wet weather, that the birds have sufficient ventilation
    • Overcrowding is not becoming a problem (particularly with fast-growing birds)
    • There is no evidence of disease

Q5. My birds are under wire netting. Will it be okay to let them out under this or do I need to cover the roof in plastic?

  • It is okay to let your birds out under wire netting, though if possible covering the roof would prevent wild birds from perching on the roof and defecating into the run.

Q6. What if none of the mentioned housing steps are possible?

  • The very minimum you should do is isolate any food and water from wild birds, as available food and water may attract wild birds.
    • By feeding and watering your birds under cover, the possibility of attracting wild birds may be reduced
    • Provide extra protection to feed and water stations to avoid attracting birds
    • Regular inspection of feeding and watering areas should be carried out to observe for signs of wild birds
    • Rotate feeding times as wild birds may ‘learn’ when captive birds get fed
    • Prevent your birds from accessing open water sources. Only provide mains or treated water and ensure all storage tanks and reservoirs are covered.
  • The use of additional deterrents could be considered to help keep wild birds away. Suggested methods include:
    • Spike strips to deter perching
    • Flutter tape, flashing lights and scarecrows

PART 4: CAPTIVE BIRDS OTHER THAN POULTRY

Q1. Does the housing order apply to pigeon fanciers, aviaries and zoos?

  • The preventative housing measures apply to all captive birds. Many zoos already house their birds or have aviaries that keep captive birds separate from wild birds.
  • Currently there are no restrictions or measures extended to avian-associated sport or recreational pursuits. However this may change in the future as the avian influenza situation in Ireland changes.
  • Exercising and flying of pigeons is still allowed as currently pigeons are not of significance in the transmission of this strain of avian influenza.

Q2. Can I fly my birds of prey?

  • You can still fly birds of prey but you should avoid contact with wild birds as birds of prey are also susceptible to avian influenza.
  • Hawks don’t usually predate grounded birds. They are therefore less likely to indirectly contact a source of virus such as infected faeces.
  • You should always monitor your birds and make sure they are healthy report any suspicions clinical signs to the Department at Department Local Offices or to the Department’s Avian Influenza helpline: Tel: 076 1064403.

Q3. Can I still use birds of prey for pest control?

  • You can still fly birds of prey but you should avoid direct contact with wild birds (i.e. catching the birds).

Q4. If assessed by a veterinary surgeon and clear of any symptoms, can injured wild birds still be treated, rehabilitated and released?

  • If avian influenza is not suspected, birds can be treated, rehabilitated and released.

PART 5: GATHERINGS AND SHOWS

Q1. Am I still able to show birds as they will be kept in baskets and cages, etc?

  • Gatherings of poultry and other captive birds have not been banned but they can only take place under a general licence the terms of which place the responsibility on organisers of such events to:
    • Provide advance notification to the Department of such gatherings
    • Apply specific preventative bio-security measures
  • Further details on this licensing procedure can be found at: http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/avian_influenza/informationonshowsexhibitionsraces/

Q2. Should I cancel shows/fairs etc?

  • Not necessarily. However the licencing system referred to at Q1 will apply to any gathering of birds.

PART 6: GAME BIRDS AND SHOOTING

Q1. Am I still able to go shooting?

  • There are currently no restrictions in place for shoots, but this situation may change and you should monitor the Department’s website regularly for the most up to date information on avian influenza controls before going shooting.
  • While out shooting if you observe any dead wild birds, in particular 3 or more of same species and 5 or more of multiple species other than common garden birds or pigeons, please report this to DAFM as soon as possible. The contact details for Department offices are available at: Department Local Offices or to the Department’s Avian Influenza helpline: Tel: 076 1064403). Information on high risk species of wild birds is available at: High Risk Wild Bird Species

Q2. How does compulsory housing affect game birds?

  • Game birds that have already been released are classified as wild birds. Those people that release game birds are no longer classed as the ‘keeper’ of the birds once they have been released.
  • Where the released game birds continue to be fed and watered this can continue though other wild birds should have had no contact with the feed and water. Commercial feed and fresh or treated water should only be used.
  • If they remain in pens, contact with wild birds should be restricted, for example, through netting, roofing, etc., and the other above mentioned measures should be followed to keep wild and captive birds apart.

PART 7: OTHER RELEVANT INFORMATION AND QUESTIONS

Q1. What cleaning and disinfecting products should be used and is there a protocol in place to dispose of the waste?

  • A list of DAFM approved disinfectant products can be found here. It is important to use one that is listed as being effective against avian influenza.
  • Many of these are widely available from farm co-operatives for example.
  • The waste can be treated as normal as long there is no suspicion of avian influenza.

Q2. What can I do to keep my birds happy while they are kept indoors?

  • It is important that you consider introducing activities for your birds if they are used to having large spaces to roam, as their welfare is very important. This is particularly important for smaller backyard flocks as commercial free range flocks will already have environment enrichment in place such as perching and nesting facilities and litter for foraging. There are a variety of environmental enrichment options for captive birds, including poultry. Suggested environmental enrichment includes:
    • Hanging objects that are safe for the birds such as old CDs and cabbage or kale leaves from perches or the ceiling of the enclosure for them to peck
    • Provide foraging items inside like hay, dirt clumps, (non-toxic) weeds or old wood stumps
  • To prevent boredom frequent changing these activities will help stop birds losing interest in them and will help reduce stress levels and provide mental stimulation for them.

Q3. What about turkeys, ducks and geese?

  • Keepers of turkeys, ducks and geese are also required to house their birds. There are distinct challenges with housing larger species of poultry and care must be taken not to compromise the welfare of the birds after housing. Please consult with your veterinary practitioner for advice if you are concerned about the implications of housing for larger birds.

Q4. Can I vaccinate my birds?

  • No. The vaccination of poultry and captive birds against avian influenza is not currently permitted.
  • An exception for vaccination of zoo birds is permitted in the EU, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

Q5. Who do I report non-compliance with the housing restrictions to?

  • The introduction of compulsory housing and separation requirements is designed to minimise the risk of poultry or captive birds becoming infected with avian influenza. They should be implemented where practical alongside improved biosecurity measures. Unfortunately not all birds may be able to be housed and therefore likely that some poultry and captive birds will still be outside.
  • You should contact your Department Regional Veterinary Office to report any potential non-compliance. Contact details for regional details available at: Department Local Offices or call the Avian Influenza Hotline at 076 1064403.

Further information on avian influenza can be found at:

Department’s website

http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/avian_influenza/

Situation in Europe with H5N8:

https://ec.europa.eu/food/animals/animal-diseases/control-measures/avian-influenza_en

Information on avian influenza clinical signs in poultry and control measures:

http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/animalhealthwelfare/diseasecontrols/avianinfluenzabirdflu/ informationforthegeneralpublic/4621AvianInfluenza.pdf

Information on biosecurity for flock owners, including advice on temporary housing:

http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/animalhealthwelfare/diseasecontrols/avianinfluenzabirdflu/poultryindustry/4670BioSecuritylr.pdf

Contact details for Department Regional Offices

http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/contact/localoffices/

Avian influenza helpline: Tel: 076 1064403

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