Avian Influenza: question and answer session

Following the success of the Westpoint|Minster Avian Influenza webinar we have compiled some questions, from the flock keepers that attended, and their corresponding answers.

If you missed the webinar it is available to watch on demand here.

1.      Are ducks and geese just likely to be carriers or do they suffer from the disease also?

They are more likely to be carriers than other birds and have been acting as such bringing disease into the country. However this particular AI strain has been killing more of them than other strains have done in the past.

2.      How will netting be sufficient, bird faeces can get through a net?!

If birds land on a range the volume of faeces they will deposit will be far higher than if they happen to defaecate as they fly over. This is about reducing risk rather than just removing risk altogether.

3.      In high risk areas netting is ok now, tarpaulins not required as previously indicated?

Yes nets that won’t let dove sized birds through are OK.

4.      What is the best type of bedding?

Shavings is one of the best and easily sourced bedding.

5.      What products can be used for red mites with the birds present?

There are many, just ask at your local agricultural merchant.

6.      What real impact on disease spread does housing of small numbers actually have particularly in areas with large numbers of released pheasants.

It’s more about protecting your birds and not triggering prevention and surveillance zones where government vets have to do a lot of testing, costing the taxpayer a lot of money and the then restrictions on trade from that area and the UK as a whole. Released pheasants count as wild birds and if disease is found in them there are fewer implications.

7.      Should we have biosecurity measures for pigs, if we have birds on site also?

DEFRA have recently confirmed that if AI is found in poultry where pigs are also present on a unit then, as well as movement restrictions, in worst case scenario the pigs may be culled as a dangerous contact. It is preferable not to have poultry on a pig unit, if unavoidable there should be clear separation.

8.      Are regular garden birds a risk? If mainly carried by waterfowl can we still keep feeding sparrows, small birds etc?

Feed from hanging feeders – that way there is no faecal oral spread of any diseases.

9.      As a college with collections of chickens, geese, ducks and aviary birds which are now inside, what other precautions should we consider?

Mainly to have a barrier system so that outside clothes and footwear are not worn when in with the birds.

10.   Have any commercial chicken layers units been infected as yet?


11.  Why is housing small domestic flocks is so important in the prevention of the spread of the disease? At this time of year the gamebirds remaining after the end of the shooting season are numerous and are wandering to find food. Given that these birds are very susceptible do they not present a much greater risk than a few domestic birds.

Please see earlier response in question 6 about what the government has to do with disease outbreaks.