Bird flu: Defra unveils new compulsory bird registration rules

Bird owners will need to provide information, such as their contact details and the location where birds are kept
Bird owners will need to provide information, such as their contact details and the location where birds are kept

Defra has announced compulsory registration requirements for all bird keepers as part of a new measure to combat avian influenza outbreaks.

Under the changes there will be new requirements for all bird keepers - regardless of the size of their flock - to officially register their birds.

Current legislation dictates that only those who keep 50 or more poultry must do so.

Owners will need to provide information, including their contact details, the location where birds are kept and details of the birds, such as species, number and what they are kept for.

In England and Wales, keepers have until 1 October 2024 to register, while in Scotland, the deadline is 1 September.

Keepers will also be legally required to update their information on an annual basis.

By registering, they will receive updates relevant to them, such as on any local bird flu outbreaks and information on biosecurity rules.

Defra said this would help to manage potential disease outbreaks, such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease, and limit any spread.

The information on the register will also be used to identify all bird keepers in disease control zones. Defra said this would for more effective surveillance.

The changes come following the UK’s worst ever outbreak of avian influenza, with more than 360 cases in poultry since late October 2021.

Christine Middlemiss, the UK's chief veterinary officer (CVO), said these new rules would enable the government to "have a full picture" of any disease situation.

She said: “This information will be vital in helping to inform future risk assessments and maintain our commitment to continually building our extensive avian influenza research portfolio.”

Sheila Voas, Scotland's CVO, added that the changes to bird registration was a necessary step to help protect the health of kept birds and the general public.

“We have faced challenges during previous outbreaks in clearly communicating the changes in both risk and mandatory biosecurity requirements to bird keepers, particularly smallholders and backyard keepers.

"This approach will enable us all to be better prepared and protected against a future pandemic.”

This proposal follows a 2023 consultation and takes forward the recommendation from the 2018 Dame Glenys Stacey Review.

The new rules cover owners of backyard flocks, birds of prey and pigeon fanciers, but do not affect caged pet birds.

Defra said the requirement would be set out in legislation shortly.