Turkeys placed in lockdown to save Christmas dinner following new bird flu

TURKEYS are going into lockdown from Monday to protect them from a new bird flu — and ensure there are enough for Christmas.

A highly contagious strain has been spotted at a growing number of British farms in the past week and poses a risk to all poultry.

Government vets gave the order on Wednesday for all the birds to be kept indoors, by law.

Farms which cannot get them inside must take steps to keep their flocks away from wild birds.

It means turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens are in lockdown until Christmas. They can still be moved to slaughterhouses.

The move comes after confirmed cases of a particularly fast-spreading variant of bird flu in Britain, with 15 cases in England alone.

The strain is so contagious that as soon as one turkey or chicken gets it, its flock will all have it “within hours”, poultry experts say.

A source said “This is a big worry but we hope this will nip it in the bud quickly. When one goes down in a flock, they all go down.”

The National Farmers Union is working with its members to ensure they all have space to bring birds inside by Monday. It is understood bigger farms have capacity, and many high turnover ones keep them inside already.

Families with their own chickens at home must also get them inside.

While the avian flu is fatal to birds, there is little risk to humans.

The main concern is that if entire flocks of turkeys get ill there will not be enough for Christmas lunch.

About ten million turkeys are bred and sold each year in the UK and there are more than 1,000 farms for chickens and turkeys.

In a joint statement, the UK’s four chief veterinary officers said: “Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands, from Monday onwards you will be legally required to keep your birds indoors, or take steps to keep them separate from wild birds.”

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