Farmer fears for the Christmas turkey due to avian flu outbreak 

By Charlie Hawes

Keith Evans / Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) Sign / CC BY-SA 2.0

A Leicestershire farmer fears for Christmas turkeys as avian flu returns to Britain in the worst outbreak on record. 

An announcement from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on Monday, November 7, stated that Great Britain is in an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) and by law, people with poultry must follow strict biosecurity rules including the housing of all birds to prevent bird flu and halt the spread. 

Craig Langton, a farmer from Burton Overy, Leicestershire, has about 200 laying chickens, supplying eggs to local customers, but the hens must now be kept inside for their safety.

A hen with half a dozen eggs back in the summer before the AIPZ was declared.

Mr Langton said: “The order from APHA to keep all hens indoors from Monday(NOV7) means that the hens which would usually be able to roam outside, or ‘free range’, must stay inside.

“Hens suffer badly if they get it, so we are keeping on top of hygiene and security to ensure they stay safe.

“Some species of birds like ducks, swans and geese can carry the flu without showing it, so it’s important to make sure our hens are separate,” said Mr Langton.  

The lockdown is affecting all bird owners, from people with a couple of backyard chickens to mass scale farmers. 

Bird flu is also affecting people’s chance of having the traditional turkey for Christmas, as farms across Great Britain that contract the flu must have their stock humanely culled.

“Let’s just say we have a frozen turkey crown saved for Christmas, just in case,” added Mr Langton.

The APHA report explains that some of the signs of bird flu include sudden death, swollen heads, lack of coordination, and drooping of wings. 

If you are worried about the health of any birds, including those in the wild, you must report it to the APHA directly or contact the DEFRA helpline on 03459 33 55 77 even if symptoms are mild. 

For more information from the APHA on bird flu and to keep up to date with the latest situation visit its website: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/bird-flu-avian-influenza-latest-situation-in-england

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