Farmers in the Midlands fear they may be forced to move their flocks of free range chickens indoors after the Government acknowledged there was an increased risk of bird flu coming to Britain.
Those rearing chickens outdoors are concerned that any move to bring their birds indoors for long periods of time could affect their free range status.
The Government said there were no immediate plans to move flocks indoors or launch a preventative vaccination programme of birds despite the confirmation a duck found dead in France was infected with the lethal H5N1 strain of the virus.
Richard Kempsey, who keeps 22,000 free range birds at his farm near Wolverhampton, said he believed a decision on disease controls would be made by the Cabinet.
He said: "I do have concerns but also hope that the preparations within the industry over the last two years will help.
"There is an awful lot of work being done and everyone is more prepared than they were for the foot-and-mouth outbreak and that this time we stand a better chance of handling it.
"I think it will end up being a Cabinet office decision. I believe they are going to make us lock up the chickens.
"We can act and we have been ready to act within 24 hours to get them locked up - the preparation is being done."
Mr Kempsey said chickens kept indoors for long periods of time could lose their free range status.
"If they are taken inside they can keep their free range status for 12 weeks - that is the breathing space we have got. Whether that is enough is a moot point.
"It is more the exit route after 12 weeks that is what we are fearful of. There has to be some action after that 12-week stage. We hope consumers will stay with the free range industry and we come out OK at the other end of it."
Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said poultry would only be brought indoors if the H5N1 strain of bird flu reached the UK.
He said: "Our contingency plan, which we have had in place for several years, is that we would only order the housing of birds if there was an outbreak in this country.
"We are certainly thinking about it, and poultry keepers are ready to do it within 24 hours if we give the order."
Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said it was "common sense" that as the flu spread geographically closer, "the level of concern increases".
He added: "It is still not inevitable that bird flu will come to the UK, but clearly the risk must be higher today than it was."
NFU president Tim Bennett said he was confident poultry farmers were ready to move birds indoors if and when it became necessary. He said: "We see it (bird flu) as a higher risk than it would have been two weeks ago because of the wild birds in France, but the fact that we are testing birds means we will spot it very quickly.
"We feel fairly confident about coping if it comes here," he added.
EU agriculture Ministers are debating growing demands for an immediate programme of "preventive vaccination" against bird flu.
The controversial proposal, which risks costing farmers their export markets, is already on the agenda at a separate meeting today of national bird flu experts from the 25 EU member states.
The move was requested by France last week - before the country became the seventh in the EU to be affected by the current spread of the bird flu virus - and is backed by the Netherlands.
The British Government is reviewing the idea and said it had no "philosophical objection" to vaccinating poultry and other captive birds, such as birds in zoos.
Experts believe that an unusually cold winter in continental Europe may have contributed to the spread of bird flu, forcing wild birds infected with H5N1 westwards towards Britain to find food.
Globally, avian flu has killed 91 people since 2003 - in all cases the victims contracted it from close contact with poultry.