Second batch of ‘cannibal chickens’ to be culled as disease spreads to another farm

A second cull of livestock infected with bird flu is set to take place as the government tries to keep a lid on the outbreak.

An poultry expert has warned that if placed in “confined spaces” the “cannibalistic chickens” would be viciously tearing into each other.

Poultry lockdowns have hit thick and fast with a worrying rise in avian flu cases over the past year.

“Highly pathogenic” sources of the virus strain have been traced back to a farm near Norfolk, with a “3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone” in place around the chickens.

Although the birds will be “humanely culled”, it sees a second farm in the UK struggling to deal with the rise in cases.

Anthony Allen of Cotswolds Chickens said that the virus and the implications of the disease is the “biggest issue it presentsto chicken keepers”.

Such an issue leaves farmers worried for the side effects of the virus, which Allen added was “cannibalism” in “confined spaces”.

Chicken expert Allen said during an interview with BBC Radio 4 that “keeping chickens in confined spaces can bring all sorts of issues which can end in cannibalism.”

A statement from the government website read: “In the United Kingdom, there have been 136 confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 since 1 October 2022.”

Egg shortages had worried some farmers with avian flu cited as a problematic reason behind a downturn in egg stocks and there is a fear that Christmas dinners are at risk as half of free range turkeys have been hit by bird flu too,

Poultry farmers said a “big, big shortage” will mean many families will miss out as whole flocks have been wiped out in the worst ever outbreak.

Industry bosses revealed that 600,000 of the around 1.2million free range birds due to be sold this Christmas have already died or been culled because of the disease.

Around one million of the 8.5 to 9million total supply of turkeys for Christmas have been affected.

At a Commons hearing, British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths said the problem was “huge”.

“This year is the worst bird flu outbreak that we’ve seen,” he told MPs. “Around 1.6million birds have been culled because of bird flu on farms.

“So it’s huge and the ongoing costs for industry and food production are potentially enormous.”

Mr Griffiths said around 36% of poultry farms were currently under restrictions linked to bird flu.

Paul Kelly, who runs Kelly Turkeys in Colchester, Essex, said the spread of the outbreak was “devastating”.

The poultry farmer, who is nicknamed the “King of Turkeys”, warned: “There will be a big, big shortage of British free range turkeys on the shelves this year.”

He added: “We have one farm with 9,500 [turkeys]. The first infection was on Thursday evening and by Monday lunchtime they were all dead.”