Keeping Poultry in the Back Yard


Keeping a few chickens in a back garden is becoming more popular.  There are no laws preventing you keeping 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.

Cleanliness and Pest Control

Food and water left out for poultry may attract vermin such as rats and mice.  Chicken 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 an Environmental Health Officer if a complaint is received.  Check regularly for signs of pests and take action to control infestations.  If a pest problem arises, Environmental Health may become involved and has legal powers to require the land owner to eradicate any infestation.

Noise Issues

Poultry like to communicate with each other and, whilst hens are fairly quiet, cockrels crowing can become a nuisance to neighbours.  If this occurs, Environmental Health may become involved and has legal powers to require you to take steps to avoid causing nuisance.  The following advice may assist in controlling cockrel crowing if it causes a problem.  Cockrels tend to crow from first light, and early morning sleep disturbance is often what causes local residents to complain.  If the cockrel ie kept in a darkened han 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.  if there is more than one cockrel, crowing can become more regular, giving little let up in the noise for neighbours.

Remember - a cockrel is not required for your hens to lay eggs!

Egg Sales

If you decide to sell your eggs then you should register as a food business with Environmental Health.

Poultry Housing

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.

The Welfare of your Poultry

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 2 or 3 hens to provide a year round supply of 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 voluntary.

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 Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).