The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has today (Friday) announced the setting up of a poultry register to boost government and industry's ability to tackle an outbreak of avian influenza.

Poultry keepers who own flocks of 50 or more birds should register their birds as soon as possible, the department said. Poultry owners have until 28 February 2006 to register.

"We do not want to create more government red tape," said minister Ben Bradshaw. "This should be seen as an essential disease prevention measure. The information on this register will help us improve our contingency planning to help manage any potential disease outbreak."

At present, premises with fewer than 50 birds don't need to register. They can voluntarily register their birds after 28 February.