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A chicken run. Shutterstock/Art_man

Legal requirement to confine poultry over bird flu fears to be lifted on Friday

It means that eggs can be classified as ‘free range’ again as hens are let out and about.

A LEGAL REQUIREMENT to keep poultry confined or indoors amid a bird flu outbreak is to be lifted from this Friday 29 April.

The legislation requiring the precautionary confinement of birds was introduced on 22 November to mitigate the risk of bird flu in poultry and other birds.

Three avian flu outbreaks were notified to the Department in November and December – two in Monaghan and one in Galway. In January, Dublin Zoo took flamingos and penguins indoors over bird flu fears, and Fota took in its penguins and macaw.

There’s currently a derogation in place on the ‘free range’ label for 16 weeks, meaning that after a bird, like a chicken, has been housed for 16 weeks the ‘free range’ label has to be changed to say something like ‘barn-reared’, for example. 

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine said that the requirement to confine poultry and other birds was being withdrawn partly due to the fact that no case of bird flu has been confirmed in Ireland in wild birds for a period of four weeks.

Other reasons include the reduced numbers of migratory waterfowl and increasing environmental temperatures and daylight hours.

Removing the requirement to confine birds means that all poultry and bird owners may allow their birds access to open areas from this Friday.

“The birds will be allowed access back out to vegitation and they’d be free to roam back outside in the field and scratch and pick grass and other normal behaviours,” the vice-chair of the IFA’s national poultry committee Brendan Soden told Morning Ireland.

The Department is still urging flock owners to remain vigilant “as there is still the possibility of the virus being present in the environment or being transmitted to their flock by wild birds”.

Enhanced biosecurity requirements to ensure that poultry cannot come into contact with wild birds; that all areas that poultry have access to must be fenced; that they are restricted from access to permanent standing water; and restrictions on the assembly of live birds for the purposes of show or sale also remain in place (SI No 592 of 2021).

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