Avian influenza (bird flu)

Avian influenza (bird flu) is a notifiable animal disease.

If you suspect any type of avian influenza in poultry or captive birds you must report it immediately by calling the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

Failure to do so is an offence.

Low risk to public health

The UK Health Security Agency continue to advise that the risk to public health from the virus is very low.

The Food Standards Agency advice remains unchanged, that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers. Properly cooked poultry and poultry products, including eggs, are safe to eat.

Information for bird keepers

Housing order introduced

Mandatory housing measures for all poultry and captive birds have been introduced in England following a decision by the United Kingdom's Chief Veterinary Officer.

The housing measures legally require all bird keepers to keep their birds indoors and to follow stringent biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks from the disease, regardless of type or size.

Housing your birds during a disease outbreak may impact the welfare of your birds, especially if they're not used to being housed for long periods. Guidance on what measures you can take has been published by central government.

Registering flocks

Flocks of 50 or more birds must be registered with the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

While flocks of under 50 do not, you can voluntarily register them even if they are pets. The advantage of doing so is the Animal and Plant Health Agency will notify keepers of outbreaks of disease in their area such as Avian Flu.

More information

Kent County Council has published a webpage which includes advice and links to other guidance and checklists for bird keepers.

What to do if you find a dead bird

Reporting dead birds

Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds that you find.

Report to the Defra helpline by calling 0345 9335 577 if you find:

  • A dead bird of prey or owl
  • Three or more gulls or dead wild waterfowl, for example swans, geese or ducks.
  • Five or more dead birds of any species.

Defra may then collect some of these birds and test them to help understand how the disease is distributed geographically and in different types of bird.

Not all birds will be collected. Wild birds are susceptible to a range of diseases and injuries and not all dead birds will have been infected with avian influenza.

Where dead birds are not required for surveillance purposes it is the landowner's responsibility to safely dispose of the carcases.

Disposal of dead wild birds on public land

Where dead birds are on public land it is the council's responsibility to safely dispose of the carcases as animal by-products. You can report a dead bird on public land here.

Disposal of dead wild garden birds found at domestic premises

After contacting the Defra Helpline (03459 33 55 77) to report the dead wild birds, if the birds are not required for surveillance purposes, Defra advises that members of the public should follow the advice below for the disposal of dead garden birds.

Disposal in household waste refuse

If possible, wear disposable protective gloves when picking up and handling dead wild birds (if disposable gloves are not available, a plastic bag can be used as a make-shift glove).

When the dead wild bird has been picked up, the bag can be turned back on itself and tied. It should then be placed in a second plastic bag, tied and disposed of in the normal household waste (lidded bin outside)


The dead wild bird can be buried, but not in a plastic bag.

The depth of the burial hole must be sufficient to prevent animals scavenging and gaining access to it - at least 60cm deep is advised. The burial location must not be near any watercourses, or likely to contaminate local water supplies.