As of today, free range poultry will see the outdoors for the first time in months after the Department of Agriculture lifts the requirement to confine/house poultry and other birds.
The legislation requiring the confinement of birds was introduced on the 23 December 2016, and was introduced as a precautionary measure against Avian Influenza (bird flu).
The Department has said that the decision to lift the confinement requirement is based on a reducing risk of an avian influenza incursion – including the fact that no case of bird flu has been confirmed here in wild birds for a period of 8 weeks, reducing numbers of migratory waterfowl and increasing environmental temperatures and daylight hours.
Lifting the requirement to confine birds means that all poultry and bird owners can now allow their birds access to open areas and runs.
However owners should not be complacent as there is still the possibility of the virus being present in the environment or being transmitted to their flock by wild birds.
Bird owners should continue to remain vigilant, monitor their birds for any signs of disease and implement strict disease control measures. In particular birds should be fed indoors or under cover where feasible.
The change also means that free range flocks will regain their status for the purposes of marketing free range eggs and poultry meat and there will no longer be a requirement for additional labelling.
However only eggs produced and birds slaughtered from 25 April 2017 can be marketed as free range. Product produced prior to this date will have to be marketed as non-free range.
For further information on appropriate disease control measures please see the Department of Agriculture website.