Keeping chickens in a garden

If you are thinking of keeping some chickens in your garden there are a few legal implications which you should bear in mind. This article looks at the main ones.

Are there any restrictions on you keeping chickens in your garden?

Some times title deeds and tenancy agreements contain restrictive covenants prohibiting the keeping of livestock, including chickens. You should, therefore, check whether your deeds or tenancy agreement contains any such restrictions. You should also check with your local authority that there are no other restrictions on you keeping chickens.

You should also be aware that the keeping of chickens, will in some circumstances amount to a nuisance, for example, if they are kept in close proximity to another dwelling house.

Do you have sufficient time to dedicate to looking after chickens?

Looking after chickens requires a certain amount of time and effort. You should also consider what would happen if you were to fall ill or go on holiday as it is not always as easy to find someone who is willing to look after chickens as it is for cats and dogs, for example.

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 sets out the minimum standards under which farm animals (including chickens kept for domestic purposes) must be kept. For chickens kept in Wales the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Wales) Regulations 2007 will apply. The regulations contain requirements relating to stockmanship, health, feeding, breeding, accommodation and management and require that anyone looking after animals to which the regulations relate be familiar with and have access to appropriate welfare codes. Welfare codes relating to laying chickens and chickens kept for meat can be found on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) website.

If you are planning to keep laying hens then additional rules will apply relating to accommodation, food and drink, health and hygiene. These additional rules are contained in the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2002 and the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2002.

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 will also apply to the keeping of hens. Under this Act it is a criminal offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal. The Act also imposes a duty on anyone responsible for an animal to ensure that the animal’s welfare needs are met.

Restrictions on feeding chickens

The Animal By-products Regulations (EC) No. 1774/2002 prohibits “catering waste” from being fed to farmed animals, which includes hens kept for domestic purposes.

The term “catering waste” is very wide and includes all waste food originating from domestic household kitchens as well as from commercial catering facilities and restaurants. It is, therefore, illegal under these regulations for you to feed your chickens with vegetable scraps.

Selling your eggs

If you keep fewer than 50 birds you are allowed to sell your eggs at your gate or locally door to door or direct to your consumers at a local public market and you are not required to mark or grade your eggs. You will, however, have to provide details of your name and address to anyone who you sell your eggs to together. You will also be required to provide your consumers with consumer advice advising them to keep the eggs chilled after purchase along as well as a best before date. The best before date should be no more than 28 days from the date on which the egg was laid.

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For more information on:

  • Registering your flock
  • Diseases
  • Disposing of dead chickens