FEARS of a bird flu outbreak near Chard ended belatedly on Friday when tests on a dozen chickens were returned negative.

Blood, faeces and saliva samples taken from the animals at Stony Knaps, Winsham, on May 30, showed neither bird flu nor Newcastle Disease, a highly contagious poultry killer.

The samples were taken after a sick chicken with a swollen head - a symptom of bird flu - had to be put down at Stony Knaps a day earlier.

As reported in the News, the birds' owner, Melanie Johnson, faced an agonising wait for the test results while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs dealt with a confirmed outbreak of bird flu in Conwy, North Wales.

This week, Mrs Johnson's mother, Kay Miller, said DEFRA had sent her daughter a letter confirming the all clear.

Restrictions on the movement of people and poultry have been lifted and none of her brood of 200 chickens will have to be destroyed.

Mrs Miller said: "Mel is very relieved. She has gone away for a couple of days to relax."

The tests did not reveal what had affected the chickens but Mrs Miller said she thought it could have been a strong cold.

She added: "I think we had to wait too long for the results.

"I had to disinfect my shoes when I came and left which was a pain and people around here who keep chickens were bound to be worried.

"I want people to know that it's all clear and they can buy eggs here again."