For many thousands of homes in Britain, keeping hens in the garden is a wonderful experience.

Organisations such as the British Hen Welfare Trust are involved in extensive re-homing of hens from British farms, while other farmers deal direct with the public locally.

If you keep hens at home please be aware of your responsibilities as a poultry keeper. The threat of diseases such as Avian Influenza – or bird flu – is constant and failing to adhere to basic biosecurity principles places your hens and the 24 million other free range hens in danger.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has a national poultry resister which will ensure you are kept up to date with any threats to your birds’ health. If you have fewer than 50 hens, registration is voluntary. If you have 50 hens or more, you must register online.

The importance of biosecurity

Every UK egg and poultry farm is at risk from avian influenza – or bird flu as it is commonly known – which has been found in the UK after being brought in by migratory birds from Europe.

Winter is usually the high-risk period, and in 2017-18 all poultry farms were ordered to shut their livestock away for two months to mitigate the chance of an outbreak.

A single case of bird flu in a free range egg unit would result in every bird having to be culled to halt the spread of the virus.

This is not only awful for the birds but devastating for the farmer and their family who have to go through seeing entire flocks being destroyed through no fault of their own.

That’s why anyone who keeps poultry must adhere to strict biosecurity protocols.

If you suspect any type of bird flu you must report it immediately by calling the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

In Wales, contact 0300 303 8268.

In Scotland, contact your local Field Services Office. Failure to do so is an offence.

Visit the Defra website for all the information you need on how to protect your chickens from bird flu, and follow @BFREPA on Twitter for regular bird flu updates.