ANGUS farmer Amy Geddes, whose backyard flock of hens, ducks and guinea fowl has been culled following an outbreak of H5N1 Avian Influenza, has added her voice to calls for vigilance against the disease.

“To suddenly lose our pet flock was very difficult and heart breaking especially for the kids," said Ms Geddes. "I want to thank the vets and Animal health team at Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) for the quick and professional manner in which they responded when our own vet contacted them.

Read more: Avian influenza confirmed in captive birds in Scotland

“The speed with which our flock quickly succumbed to the disease, most likely brought in by wild birds, shows how devastating any such outbreak can be, not just for backyard keepers like me but particularly for commercial poultry keepers," she said. “I would urge any poultry keeper, large or small, to fully comply with biosecurity measures to protect their birds and the wider Scottish poultry industry.

"It is essential everyone remains as vigilant as possible and reports any signs of disease in their birds at the earliest opportunity to their own vet or directly to APHA."

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “With the recent disease confirmations in wild and captive birds in the UK, it is not unexpected for avian influenza to be found in birds here. Temporary Control Zones have been put in place around the infected premises and we ask that the public remain vigilant and report any findings of dead wild birds.”

Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “We are conducting further tests to establish the pathogenicity of avian influenza H5N1 in a flock of birds in the Angus constituency.

“We have already made clear that all bird keepers – whether major businesses or small keepers with just a few birds – must ensure that their biosecurity is up to scratch to protect their birds from disease. Keepers who are concerned about the health or welfare of their flock should seek veterinary advice immediately. Private vets, or the local Animal and Plant Health Agency office, will also be able to provide practical advice on keeping birds safe from infection.

“If a single dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks), a single dead bird of prey, or five or more dead wild birds of any other species (including gulls) are found at the same place at the same time, this should be reported to Defra’s national helpline. Do not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds.”

When the infection first came to light, all the Geddes' birds were humanely culled and three kilometre and 10 kilometre Temporary Control Zones were set up around their premises to limit the risk of the disease spreading. Within these zones, a range of controls are in place, including restrictions on the movement of poultry, carcasses, eggs, used poultry litter and manure.

Read more: Take steps to keep Avian Flu at bay this winter

NFU Scotland’s poultry working group chair, Robert Thompson said: “Every poultry keeper, whether you have one hen in the back garden or a large poultry business, must take these biosecurity measures seriously and take steps to protect your birds from this devastating disease.

“While housing is not currently a requirement, all poultry keepers must take this opportunity to review their contingency plans should a housing order, similar to that introduced in December 2020, be necessary later this winter

“Scottish and GB poultry keepers have had to live with the heightened threat of AI at this time of year for several years now, linked to wild and migratory birds. Many will have already prepared for this eventuality and it’s crucial that everyone, including the public, remains vigilant and reports any signs of disease in birds at the earliest opportunity.”