Am I allowed to keep poultry?
There are no laws preventing you keeping a few hens, providing they are looked after properly and their welfare is taken seriously. However, it is advisable to check your property deeds or consult your landlord to make sure there are no covenants preventing the keeping of ’livestock’. The Council is not normally involved with enforcement of property covenants.
Poultry like to communicate with each other and, whilst hens are fairly quiet, cockerel crowing can be a nuisance to neighbours. If this is occurs, Environmental Health may become involved and has legal powers to require you to take steps to avoid causing nuisance.
Remember - a cockerel is not required for your hens to lay eggs. Please think very carefully before keeping a cockerel, particularly if there are other households close by. If there is more than one cockerel, crowing can become more regular and more likely to cause a problem.
The following advice may assist in controlling cockerel crowing, if it causes a problem: Cockerels tend to crow from first light, and early morning sleep disturbance is often what causes local residents to complain. If the cockerel is kept in a darkened hen house and let out later in the morning this can delay early morning crowing. Additionally, a height restriction in the hen house may prevent it stretching its neck to crow.
Cleanliness and pest control
Food and water left out for poultry may attract vermin such as rats and mice. Hen houses may also provide shelter for rats and mice.
To prevent this happening, make it a part of your regular routine to clean the shelters and remove uneaten food. In the summer, poorly kept poultry may result in unpleasant odours which can attract flies. These can become a nuisance to you and your neighbours which could result in a visit from a council Environmental Health Officer if a complaint is received. Check regularly for signs of pests and take action to control infestations. If pest problems arise, Environmental Health may become involved and has legal powers to require the landowner to eradicate rats or mice.
If you decide to sell your eggs then you should register as a food business with Environmental Health.
Chicken coops and runs, depending on size, may require planning permission. Also, if you are intending to keep poultry as a business you may wish to check if planning permission is required. Additionally, the location of the runs and coops should be as far as possible from neighbouring properties, to avoid nuisance.
Welfare of your birds
Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is against the law to be cruel to an animal and you must ensure that the welfare needs of your animals are met.
These include the need:
- for a suitable environment (place to live)
- for a suitable diet
- to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
- to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease.
By law, the minimum age any person can buy an animal is 16.
Registration of ’flocks’
If you are considering keeping two or three hens to provide fresh eggs, then there are no requirements to register with anyone.
However, by law you must register with DEFRA if you own, or are responsible for, poultry premises with 50 or more birds. This requirement also applies even if the premises are only stocked with 50 or more birds for part of the year.
At present, premises with fewer than 50 birds are not required to register, but DEFRA encourage keepers to do so voluntarily.
Poultry are susceptible to many diseases and need regular checks. One such disease is Avian influenza which is a highly contagious viral disease affecting the respiratory, digestive and/or nervous system of many species of birds. It is a notifiable disease and suspect cases must be notified to the local State Veterinary Service Divisional Veterinary Manager.