The government of Northern Ireland is urging all poultry farmers and people with backyard flocks to register with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) as a biosecurity measure to protect flocks from highly pathogenic avian influenza.

DARD Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Perpetua McNamee said strong biosecurity is needed as avian influenza (AI) hit the U.K. in late 2014 and 2015.

“As we approach autumn and with the arrival of  increased numbers of  migrating birds, I advise bird keepers to remain vigilant and continue to practice high standards of  biosecurity on their premises. AI can be spread to domestic birds through contact with infected wild birds. Contact may be direct or indirect through fecal 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 minimizing contact with wild birds. These measures all help to mitigate the risk of a disease outbreak in local poultry flocks,” said McNamee.

"Bird keepers should contact their private veterinary practitioner if they detect signs of disease in their birds. AI is a notifiable disease and must be reported as soon as possible to the local Divisional Veterinary Office.”

Indoor caged pet birds are exempt from registration.

Registration forms can be found on the DARD website.