With the decline in the number of Avian Influenza cases in Europe, including the UK, Defra Veterinarians have decided the time is right to abandon the compulsory housing order on all poultry.

So, from 23.59hrs (one minute to midnight) on 31st March, the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone regulations will be lifted. The removal of the housing requirement does not lessen the rest of biosecurity, which should be continued everywhere.

Let’s hope that the release of the birds on 1st April, does not make April Fools of us all, by them remaining in their houses! Particularly young flocks, who have not been out at all, may well decide to avoid the experience. This goes for some older flocks as well, which have just adjusted to indoor existence.

There have certainly been reports of good egg colour whilst housed, which may get somewhat paler in flocks with some feather loss, and, if the recent sunny weather continues.

How much different it would have been if the AIPZ had continued beyond the statutory 16 weeks.

Preparation had already been advised for free-range producers to change their ID numbers on eggs from 1 -UK to 2 -UK (Barn).

All packaging would have to cover up ALL mention of “free range” and “barn” substituted.

These would have been very expensive and difficult measures.

However, on 26th March, an outbreak of H5N3 in turkey breeds in Cheshire was declared low pathogenicity.

On 27th March, an H5N8 outbreak was found in broilers in Uttoxeter, Staffs. This led to Restriction Zones being set up and the birds culled.

On 29th March, a second case in Cheshire was reported.

France has also relaxed measures imposed on producers in S.W. area and returned to normal production.