Avian influenza text service launched for Northern poultry farmers

A text service has been launched to keep poultry farmers and bird keepers updated with the latest avian influenza threats.

The service – which is run by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) – will inform bird keepers of any disease outbreaks.

The chief veterinary officer for Northern Ireland, Robert Huey, is urging bird keepers to remain vigilant to the threat of avian flu as the migratory cycle begins.

Huey said: “The department has recently launched a new text alert service for all bird keepers to receive immediate notifications of disease outbreaks or other important disease information. This will enable bird keepers to take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.”

‘A real and constant threat’

Huey added: “The risk of avian influenza remains a real and constant threat as the disease continues to circulate in Europe. With autumn upon us and decreasing temperatures, wild birds are starting their migratory cycle in preparation for winter.

“Wild birds increase the risk of avian influenza being spread through contact with domestic birds. I therefore urge bird keepers, especially those with free range systems, to remain vigilant and continue to practice high standards of biosecurity on their premises.”

Poultry farmers can sign up to the service by texting ‘BIRDS’ to 67300.

Texts sent to 67300 may be charged at your standard mobile network rate, however, there is no charge to receive text messages from this service.

If you wish to be removed from this service, please text ‘NOBIRDS’ to 67300. Further details are available on the DAERA website.

Poultry farmers who have already registered their flock with a valid mobile number will have automatically been subscribed to this service and should have been notified by text.

Those who did not receive a text have not been subscribed.

Official advice

Contact may be direct or indirect through faecal contamination of anything that may come into contact with domestic birds such as feed, water, utensils or clothing.

The risk of disease spread can therefore be reduced by minimising contact with wild birds.

Whether you run a large commercial farm or keep just a few pet chickens in your back garden, taking these few simple steps can help to keep your flocks disease free:
  • Keep the area where birds live clean and tidy, control rats and mice and regularly disinfect any hard surfaces. Clean footwear before and after visits;
  • Place birds’ food and water in fully enclosed areas that are protected from wild birds, and remove any spilled feed regularly;
  • Put fencing around outdoor areas where birds are allowed, and limit their access to ponds or areas visited by wild waterfowl;
  • Stay aware of the latest avian flu advice issued by DAERA. Bird registration forms are available to download here. Bird keepers who have not yet registered their birds should do so immediately;
  • Avian influenza is a notifiable disease. Anyone who suspects an animal may be affected by a notifiable disease must report it to their local Divisional Veterinary Office.

Members of the public are also encouraged to report dead waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or gulls, or five or more dead wild birds of other species in the same location, to the DAERA helpline on: 0300-2007840.