WEST Somerset poultry keepers have been told to observe new controls aimed at combatting avian flu by their MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger.

He says he has “particularly concern over backyard poultry keepers” with a handful of chickens who may think the rules “do not apply to them”.

Mandatory housing measures were introduced by the UK's chief veterinary officer on Monday, November 7 as the UK faces its largest-ever avian influenza outbreak.

Under the measures, all bird keepers are legally required to keep their birds indoors and follow biosecurity measures to protect their flocks from the disease.

The housing measures come after an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was introduced in Devon, Cornwall and parts of Somerset on August 31.

All bird keepers must continue to follow biosecurity measures including restricting site access for non-essential people, ensuring workers change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles regularly.

Mr Liddell-Grainger, who represents Bridgwater and West Somerset, says poultry farmers are facing other challenges including soaring energy and feed costs.

Somerset County Gazette: Ian Liddell-Grainger, the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset.Ian Liddell-Grainger, the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset. (Image: UK Parliament)

He said: “But that is nothing compared with the strain they would experience if large swathes of the national flock were completely wiped out - a possibility that it would be foolish to dismiss.

“We also have to consider the effect on wild birds. Sea birds are already dying in numbers and some of our most-cherished species such as swans will be at great risk the longer this epidemic runs.

“My particular concern is over backyard poultry keepers - those who run only a handful of chickens and who may think the housing orders do not apply to them.

“They certainly do. Even one chicken in someone’s garden being infected by a wild bird could weaken our defences and cause another cluster of cases.

“The entire poultry sector is in this together and such is the enormity of the risk facing commercial flocks that amateur keepers absolutely must observe and apply the rules.”

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

The Food Standards Agency's advice that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk remains in place.