Countryside Online

A membership for people who are passionate about rural life.

Biosecurity reminder for all poultry keepers

Biosecurity reminder for all poultry keepers

Free range chickens smallholding_53778

Newcastle Disease affects chickens and other captive and wild birds and has been confirmed in 13 cases so far across Europe.

Areas of Belgium – East and West Flanders – and Luxemburg have been infected with the highly pathogenic strain of the disease picked up in June after outbreaks first began in April. In addition to this, the Netherlands and Germany are also considered to be at risk.

The threat level in the UK has been raised to medium by Defra, which is working with stakeholders across the country to raise the awareness level of the disease.

Commercial poultry keepers should administer appropriate boosters and remain vigilant in biosecurity practices, whereas those smaller poultry flocks and backyard keepers are being asked to enhance biosecurity.

How to spot Newcastle disease

As the disease develops affected birds may show some of the following signs:

  • respiratory distress such as gaping beak, coughing, sneezing, gurgling, rattling
  • nervous signs characterised by tremors and paralysis and twisting of the neck
  • unusually watery faeces (diarrhoea) that are yellowish-green in colour
  • depression
  • lack of appetite

Affected hens may also suddenly produce fewer eggs. Eggs that are laid may be soft-shelled.

The disease may lead to intense clinical signs, with a sudden onset leading to likely death. Or it may have a lesser affect, with breathing problems and lower egg production the only detectable clinical signs. 

Things to be aware of

  • Ensure all equipment is clean and do not share with other poultry enterprises.
  • Disinfect vehicles on and off site and park away from poultry buildings where possible.
  • Receive essential visitors only and ensure they use foot dips and hand sanitisers at all entrances. If you or your staff has contact with other poultry make sure you take appropriate precautions before moving between sites, for example changing clothes, taking a shower and disinfecting footwear.
  • When buying new birds it's important to check the origin of any birds you purchase and if they are being imported make sure they are accompanied by a health certificate.

    NFU poultry adviser Aimee Mahony said: “Defra’s updated outbreak assessment has increased the UK’s risk of an incursion of Newcastle Disease in poultry to medium. This acts as a timely reminder for all poultry keepers to review their biosecurity protocols. Recent outbreaks of Newcastle Disease in Belgium have occurred in smallholder and commercial flocks, so whether you have one chicken in your back garden or a larger enterprise it’s important to ensure you have the necessary precautions in place to help prevent disease.”

    Find out more about Newcastle Disease at 


    Have your say on this

    Your comment will be checked by our moderation team and may be used in other NFU publications. Commenting guidelines

    Post a comment:

    Back British Farming

    Back British Farming

    Become a member