Animal farms in Sheffield move flocks under cover to protect against bird flu

Workers at Heeley City Farm, where netting has been installed over enclosures to protect its flock from bird flu

Workers at Heeley City Farm, where netting has been installed over enclosures to protect its flock from bird flu

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Animal attractions in Sheffield are keeping their feathered flocks under cover as part of national efforts to prevent the spread of bird flu.

Heeley City Farm, Graves Park Animal Farm and Whirlow Hall Farm are among the sites taking precautions to keep their birds safe.

Heeley City Farm's Rachel Griffiths besides the birds which are being kept under protective netting there

Heeley City Farm's Rachel Griffiths besides the birds which are being kept under protective netting there

Avian Influenza, as the highly contagious disease is also known, has not been found in birds in Sheffield, and there is no danger to visitors at farms in the city.

But the Government has imposed national restrictions following a handful of outbreaks at farms and backyard flocks elsewhere in the country, including one in North Yorkshire.

It has ordered all poultry keepers to reduce the risk of infection by preventing their flocks coming into contact with wild birds.

At Whirlow Hall Farm, notices advise visitors the hen house is closed to the public, following advice from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Hens are also being kept locked up at Graves Park Animal Farm in Norton, where a member of staff explained they had been moved to different sheds to give them more space.

"They've been kept indoors since the start of January and we've had one or two visitors ask where they are, but there are signs up to explain," added the worker.

At Heeley City Farm, some birds have been allowed outside where netting is in place to prevent contact with wild birds, but the chickens are confined to the stables and a foot dip is in place to reduce the risk of infection.

"Visitors can still see our birds and feed them. We just don't want any contact with members of the public or with wild birds," said Sarah Wild, the farm's animal and education tutor.

"For us the sooner the restrictions are lifted the better, but we don't want to risk the health of our birds."

She added that the farm had hoped to get a new flock of chickens this spring but was holding off until they would be able to stay outside.

"Generally, people are curious to find out what's happening. A few people have been concerned they might catch bird flu but we've explained there's not risk to any visitors," she said.

"All our animals are healthy. There are no sniffles or anything like that but we're keeping an extra close eye on them to make sure they don't become poorly."

DEFRA says avian flu has been circulating among wild birds in Europe for several months, and the nationwide 'prevention zone' requiring poultry flocks to be isolated from wild birds is in force until the end of February.

It says keepers planning to allow their flocks outdoors after this must take action now to reduce the risk of infection by following guidance published on its website.

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