The law and chicken keeping

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Many laws exist to regulate chicken-keeping, and it is sensible to be aware of which might affect you, before embarking on the purchase of equipment and birds. This list might look daunting, but don’t be put off, just ensure that you know which laws may affect you, and that you raise poultry within these guidelines.

Covenants within your house deeds
About 100 years ago many people kept backyard chickens, sometimes leading to bad smells and attracting vermin. To combat these problems, clauses preventing householders from keeping birds were sometimes written into house deeds. These restrictions are often outdated and rules may be relaxed in your area or people may be unaware they exist. However, if your chicken-keeping creates any problems for other people, these rules can be used against you.
Council By-Laws
Check with your local council offices to find out whether any by-laws restrict chicken-keeping in your area.
Tenancy Agreements
If you rent, your landlord may have written a ‘no pets’ clause into your tenancy terms. Even if pets are permitted, you should still check with your landlord, in case the house deeds prevent chicken-keeping.
Planning Law
If you are building a permanent chicken coop, or laying down a concrete base or foundations, you may require planning permission – check with your local council.
Animal Welfare Laws
Legislation is in place to obligate you to treat your animals well.
Pollution
Many rules and much legislation is in place concerning pollution of ground water from poor storage of manure. Rules also exist concerning noise levels. The Environmental Health Department of your local council has a duty to investigate any noise pollution complaints. Remember, cockerels can be very loud, and your neighbours may not appreciate an early alarm call! Food safety, pest and vermin control, together with noise pollution all come under the auspices of the Environmental Health Officers, who can be contacted via your local county council, and who are usually happy to offer advice and guidance. Rules regarding ground water, rivers and streams can be checked with the Environmental Agency.
Flock Registration
If your flock consists of 50 or more chickens, you are obliged to register with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and to bring to its attention any unusual deaths or diseases in wild birds nearby.
Selling Eggs
If you want to sell eggs, you need to observe the law. You’re allowed to sell uninspected eggs from your home or where the eggs are produced – at the farm gate, for example. You may also sell eggs to friends and work colleagues, but you’re not allowed to sell uninspected eggs to shops, cafes or B&Bs, or anywhere where your eggs will be sold on to a third party (either cooked or uncooked). You’re not even allowed to give such eggs away as raffle prizes.
Feeding kitchen scraps to chickens – don’t !
Following the outbreak of Foot and Mouth in 2001, the government introduced a ban on the feeding of catering waste to animals, including chickens. This ban was subsequently superseded by the EU Animal By-Products Regulations. Under these laws, household kitchens are included, and as such, no scraps nor food that have been in your kitchen can legally be fed to your chickens. This piece of legislation is something which many experienced chicken-keepers remain unaware of! If you are convicted of feeding kitchen scraps to chickens, you can be fined or sentenced to a maximum of 2 years in prison.
Medicine Record Book

As chickens are regarded as food producing animals, regardless of whether you intend to consume their eggs or meat, poultry keepers are legally required to keep a medicine book. This document should be completed whenever any medicine is administered to your birds, and should included details of:- bird identification, breed, species, age, drug, dose, batch number of the drug, rout of administration, date, and the meat and egg withdrawal periods.

You can buy commercial medicine record books, make your own, or download our free practice version by clicking here.