Bird Flu

The UK is currently facing its largest ever outbreak of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu. It began in autumn 2021.

Bird flu circulates naturally in wild birds so when they migrate to the UK in winter they can pass the disease on to poultry and other domestic birds. The disease mainly affects birds but can also affect humans and other mammals.

Avian influenza (or bird flu) is a notifiable animal disease.

Keep birds indoors to reduce risk of avian flu

People who keep birds and poultry are being asked to keep their birds indoors to limit the spread of bird flu.

The mandatory housing measures introduced by the UK's chief veterinary officer, make it a legal requirement to keep the animals inside and to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect flocks from disease.

The new rules come into force on 7 November 2022 and apply to anyone keeping birds, whether it’s a few hens in a back garden, rearing game birds or a large commercial farm. 

Wild birds migrating from mainland Europe during the winter period can spread Avian influenza to poultry and other captive birds.

The risk to public health from the virus remains very low and the Food Standards Agency advises that the disease poses a very low food safety risk.

For guidance on how to spot avian influenza (bird flu), what to do if you suspect it, and measures to prevent it, visit GOV.UK.

Reporting suspected bird flu in poultry or captive birds

If you suspect any type of bird flu in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately in England by calling the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (also known as Defra) Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.  Failure to do so is an offence. 

Reporting dead wild birds

You should call the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77) if you find:

  • one or more dead bird of prey or owl
  • 3 or more dead gulls or wild waterfowl (swans, geese and ducks) 
  • 5 or more dead birds of any species

Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find. Keep away and do not let your pet (especially dogs) go near.

For the very latest situation with restrictions and outbreaks visit GOV.UK. The GOV.UK website also includes advise for  the public and how to spot bird flu.  

Safety measures

Good biosecurity is an essential defence against diseases such as avian influenza and is key to limiting its spread.

To help all bird keepers comply with biosecurity rules, Defra maintains updated biosecurity guidance and self-assessment checklists.

If you have any concerns about the health of your birds, seek advice from your vet straight away.

You should also register your poultry, even if only kept as pets, so you can be contacted during an outbreak. This is a legal requirement if you have 50 or more birds. Poultry includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, pigeon (bred for meat), partridge, quail, guinea fowl and pheasants.

Defra Alerts Service

You can sign up to Defra’s alerts service to keep up to date with the latest news.

Help for the farming community

Defra is working in partnership with Farming Help organisations to support their work to help the farming community through challenging times. If this affects you, please either contact them on 03000 111 999 or visit the Farming Help website

Kent Animal and Plant Health Emergency Plan

For further information, please see Kent County Council's animal and plant health emergency plan (PDF, 2.4 MB) setting out the planning and response framework for notifiable and other serious animal or plant disease outbreaks within the administrative boundary of Kent and Medway, as well as outlining the broader community impacts of such an event.