The highly pathogenic H7 strain of bird flu has been confirmed in free-range laying chickens at a 20,000-bird unit in Shenington near Banbury, Oxfordshire.

A 3km inner and 10km outer temporary control zone was established in June.

All birds on the premises have been slaughtered. However, further laboratory tests are in progress to identify the N-type of the virus.

DEFRA’s chief veterinary officer Nigel Gibbens urged poultry keepers to be extra vigilant: “I would stress the need to practice the highest levels of biosecurity and report any suspicions of disease to the local animal health office immediately.”

It is thought that six shoot syndicates are located within the zones.

BASC’s Christopher Graffius said it was working with DEFRA to explore ways in which the European regulations could allow for movement and release of birds: “There are no restrictions on shooting and the movement of carcases. Pest control and stalking can continue as normal. However, there are restrictions on the movements of chicks, eggs and birds and it is not possible to release gamebirds. In the event that there are no further outbreaks of H7, restrictions will be lifted by mid-July, which will still allow them to be released in time for the season.”