More than 27,000 chickens have been culled due to an outbreak of avian flu.

The case of low pathogenic avian flu of the H5 strain has been confirmed at a commercial chicken farm in Suffolk, where the flock was culled to prevent the spread of disease.

The outbreak comes as a timely reminder for poultry keepers that with the arrival of colder weather, there is an increased risk from avian influenza in the UK from migrating wild birds, which might infect domestic poultry, particularly among ‘backyard flocks’ in areas where they might easily mix with wild migratory birds, especially wildfowl.

Owners who have a flock numbering more than 50 birds must register the flock. Even keepers with fewer than 50 are encouraged to register.

The Country Land and Business Association has created a list of prevention methods for keepers of ‘backyard flocks’.

These include: housing birds or in some way keep them separate from wild birds; considering creating a run outside the hen house to protect flocks; keeping feed and water either in the housing or in the run, but excluding wild birds; keeping a vigilant eye on health and if in doubt, calling the vet; providing water from a purpose-made drinker, not from natural sources that might be shared with wild birds; and practising biosecurity.

Signs of avian flu include loss of appetite, swollen heads, discolouration of neck and throat, diarrhoea and fewer eggs laid and respiratory problems. Despite being a highly infectious and deadly disease in birds, the risks to human health are very low and bird flu does not pose a food safety risk.

CLA North director Dorothy Fairburn said: “This latest devastating case is a reminder to all poultry keepers to instigate measures. Avian flu is a notifiable disease, and any suspected symptoms be reported to Defra or the Animal & Plant Health Agency.”