Bird flu: Strict rules for chickens

The South African government has replaced its ban on the sale of live chickens with a set of strict conditions under which it may be sold.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana said the ban was introduced to prevent the spread of the H5N8 bird flu virus. The decision led to widespread concern across the country because of its impact on people’s livelihoods.

“The step was taken in the interest of the country and the greater poultry industry and I assure you, it wasn’t taken lightly,” said Zokwana.


However, officials and poultry producers have found a solution where disease control and traceability can be improved, while ensuring that micro-enterprises can continue their operations. Buyers and sellers with more than five live chickens, for any purpose other than direct slaughter at a registered slaughterhouse, must meet the following requirements:

  • Only registered buyers and sellers – including commercial farmers and traders who buy and sell chickens – must register at the Poultry Disease Management Agency. The PDMA is an independent organisation and will keep a record of those buying and selling live chickens. All information will remain confidential.
  • Only registered buyers and sellers will be allowed to trade and each must ensure the other party is also registered.
  • Farmers can only sell chickens if a vet or animal health specialist has certified that it is healthy.
  • Traders can only sell healthy chickens and need to keep prescribed records.

Buyers and sellers registered at the PDMA must sign an undertaking that they will comply with required control measures. These conditions apply to sellers of among others live braai chickens, live laying hens, live breeding hens and young laying chickens ready to start laying eggs (point of lay pullets). 

Vaccination against the disease 

Zokwana said there have been lots of enquiries about the vaccination of chickens against the disease.

“I was advised by my team of experts that it won’t be in the best interest of the country or producers.”

Vaccination of birds will create an endemic situation and will affect monitoring efforts and South Africa’s export certification. “All our trading partners want products from a country free from avian flu and where vaccination is not used.” Zokwana called on poultry owners, farmers and the public to be alert and to report high mortality rates among chickens and other birds at the nearest state veterinarian.
Enquiries: Registration forms for the sale and purchase of live chickens are available on the website: and Contact the PDMA on 012 529 8298.

Senzeni Zokwana, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.


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