The Avian Influenza Prevention Zone covering Scotland will be extended until at least April 30, the Scottish Government has confirmed.
The renewed zone applies to all poultry and captive birds and comes into effect on February 28, 2017.
It permits keepers in all areas of Scotland to let their birds outside provided that they have enhanced biosecurity in place, and replaces the zone first declared on December 6, 2016.
A GB-wide ban on poultry shows and gatherings also remains in force.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy Fergus Ewing said: “Today’s declaration will be welcome news for many keepers eager to let their birds outdoors again. However, the risk from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 remains, with another confirmed case in domestic birds in England as recently as last week. It is essential that bird keepers comply with the biosecurity requirements set out in the declaration, and in further guidance available on the Scottish Government website.
“We have listened carefully to key industry stakeholders and are clear that allowing birds outside on 28 February, under enhanced biosecurity, provides the right balance between reducing disease risk and minimising the economic impact on Scotland’s vital free range poultry industry.”
Scotland’s Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas said: “I am writing to all Scottish bird keepers registered on the GB Poultry Keeper database to make them aware of the changing requirements within the AI Prevention Zone, and to provide a checklist of steps to take before letting their birds outside on February 28.
“Bird keepers will still have the option to house their flock, and for many this will continue to be the most practical way to comply with the requirements of the zone and minimise the risk of infection. However, under EU law, products from housed birds can no longer be marketed as ‘free range’ after February 28.
“Expert advice remains that consumers should not be concerned about eating eggs or poultry and the threat to public health from the virus is very low.”
The biosecurity measures required in the zone are set out in the text of the declaration, as well as further guidance.