Rules and Regulations

There are no national rules or regulations in the UK that stop you from keeping small numbers (less than 50) chickens however there are some regulations to check first.


  • DEFRA: You are allowed to keep up to 50 chickens on your land without registering with DEFRA, however after the avian influenza outbreaks, a poultry register was set up in 2005 and you are required to register if you keep more than 50 poultry on the premises – so you need to take into consideration any other poultry you have. There is more information on my page: DEFRA: The Poultry Register
  • By-Laws: There are occasionally by-laws for certain properties that prevent people from keeping livestock. Check with your local council that this doesn’t apply to you.
  • Covenants: There are sometimes covenants put in place by housing authorities and councils to stop tenants from keeping chickens at their property. This seems to be a local decision as there are no national restrictions.
  • House Deeds: Again, the deeds of some properties may state that you are not allowed to keep chickens (again, often stated as keeping livestock). If your property is free of restrictions, you should be able to keep chickens without a problem, however do keep in mind that local residents may complain to the council about noise levels if you keep a cockerel.

There are a number of Laws, regulations and requirements that can affect you (in the UK) and I have created a number of sub pages to cover these briefly:


  1. I work on a rented farm which has a yard & buildings used to help farm the land. The house on the farm is not included (as my boss did not want it) so is rented privately to other people. The people who rent the house have a rather large collection of chickens who roam the WHOLE farm (they seem to have over-flowed out of their garden!) being a working farm we obviously have working dogs.

    Today one of our dogs chased and killed a chicken (which was roaming the farmyard where it wasn’t supposed to be) the owner went mental even after we apologised and has called a big meeting with the estate management, who they rent the house from and we rent the land from. Just wanted to know your thoughts-

    • I believe that if you rent the land and they do not, their chickens shouldn’t be there in the first place. They should fence them in to the property they rent if they are getting out.

      Once a dog has killed, it is very likely to do it again. Telling the dog off afterwards will not help because dogs cannot associate what they have done in the past with your reaction – the ‘looking guilty’ is appeasement behaviour because you’re mad. Interrupting it by shouting etc just before the dog strikes may help but ultimately it’s the chickens that need to be contained safely away from the dog.


      As long as the hens are for the production of food for you and your family EVERYONE has the LEGAL RIGHT to keep hens. The 1951 allotment act overrides any deeds or restrictions on keeping hens on any land wether rented owned or borrowed, even if it states no pets or no livestock. Anyone can keep hens.

      • The Allotment Act is confusing for sure Alec and there have been a number of cases of chicken keepers faced with losing their hens who have quoted this to no avail.

        I believe for this to apply it has to be an allotment in England or Wales that is “mainly used for the production of fruit and vegetables”

        Although the act reads as though it also allows the keeping of chickens (and rabbits) on any land in section 12, it only applies to allotments.

        The Thorpe Report clears this up and is usually quoted in defence, page 22, paragraph 54 saying:

        “Since 1950 the occupier of an allotment garden has been permitted to keep hens or rabbits on his land” .. and then moves on to say that “it shall be lawful for the occupier of any land to keep, otherwise than by way of trade or business, hens or rabbits in any place on the land…” and so on.

        So, for example it doesn’t stand up in court if you’re renting a house that prevents you from keeping hens in the tenancy agreement.

  2. Help. Similar to previous our neighbours have three chickens. We live in a small village. The birds spent hours each day in our front garden. Same with the folks other side of them. The scratch the door begging for food. They’ve dug up and killed loads of flower plants. Our environmental health say that they have a right to roam, so can’t do much. What can we do?

    • I don’t believe chickens have a right to roam – they are classed as livestock and you wouldn’t expect sheep or pigs to come into your front garden.

      I would ask your neighbours to fence their chickens in and if that doesn’t work, try environmental health again. Ask them to explain it further and point you to the legislation that states that. If they can’t show that to you, tell them you are unhappy with their advice and you’d like to escalate / complain about the advice they are providing.

      I would also point out to them that chickens being in your garden is a serious concern to you because of their droppings being left in an area where children play. That may resonate more strongly with them to investigate.

    • People are responsible for the control and containment of their own animals. Be polite and perhaps mention it may be with your neighbours clipping the hens wings to restrict their ability to escape.

  3. Our lovely neighbours have 12 hens fenced in to a corner that they aren’t ever allowed out of, right on our boundary about 6 foot from my bedroom window, so during daylight hours I can’t open window as I can’t stand that horrible sound they make. I am dreading the longer spring and summer days when you need to open a window. The stink is disgusting, eggs and chicken is completely of the menu now and forever. No doubt in my mind these horrible people have done this deliberately in response to my dads fox terriers barking which are nothing to do with me but I’m sandwiched between barking dogs and noisy, smelly assed hens. Just want others to know your not alone having pure scumbags for neighbours.

    • Scumbags? I wouldn’t like you as a neighbour. Only hens as your neighbour? I keep a cockerel as well and a dog. Hens are noise free lawn mowers and garden strimmers….if allowed to free range. They do announce that they have a food source for us to eat and they go around fertilising my garden and are far less smellier than rabbits and humans. We might need neighbours like this one day. I think we’re learning to live more in harmony with war, than we are with nature. We need neighbours to preserve some animal life on this bomb riddled planet. Those who can’t live in harmony with nature should live in a war zone.

      • Love your comment. I have moved to a property in August this yr, in the same village I have lived for almost 50 yrs, and know most of the people here, and have had no bother until late this morning when someone I don’t know has complained about my cockerel, a wee bantam fellow, waking him up. He is now threatening to record “Farm yard noises” and play them outside my house very loudly until late each night. I say bring it on. They say that I don’t need one for eggs, true, but I wonder where he thinks chickens come from? The chucks, 5 banty hens, plus his lordship, don’t wander about, having a large coup/fenced off area. Some people just don’t know what village life, the pleasure received, and keeping something that can provide a healthy meal for next to nothing is all about.

        • We have a neighbour who has a cockerel as far as i know though if in a council house you cant have one and cant breed

    • It depends on how and where you keep them. If they are kept in a separate area of the garden, there shouldn’t be any problems but if you have a youngster crawling on the same area as the chickens, it won’t be too long before she puts her hands into something yucky!

  4. People keeping chickens must be so stupid when you can purchase eggs (free range) for as little as £2.00 a dozen. I think they keep thier livestock just to annoy thier neighbours, especially if a cockerel is also with the hens. Should be totally banned unless the’re 150 yards away from their neighbours.

    • What a stupid thing to say I have pet chickens and sell my eggs for £1.20 for six and the same person has two dozen every week saying they are the best he has ever had, farm chickens are kept in disgusting conditions look them up, I have not eaten shop eggs or chickens for fours years because of this

      • I absolutely agree! Im about to move to Winchester and I cannot wait to keep chickens at the end of my garden. There is nothing better than fresh (know exactly where they have come from) eggs!
        My neighbours will definitely not have to buy their eggs, hopefully they love fresh produce just like me! ; )

    • I think every animal should have the right to a life and be free from discrimination-including the people who keep them.

    • Do you have pets, a dog or cat, maybe a rat or a parrot? All of these are pets. I have chickens, they are my pets, their eggs are a bonus & I give more away than I eat. They are allowed to wander freely in the garden and are encouraged to pop into the house for a treat or two, they get no worse or better treatment than my pet dog. As for annoying my neighbours, in the seven years I have kept chickens I have not encountered any complaints from my neighbours, they are less noisy than some other pets, only smelly if not cleaned to a good standard and in a built up area in a town it is not advised to keep cockerels. I’ve only ever known humans to get an ASBO, I’ve never heard of a chicken getting one, I’m sure a lot of people would prefer a few chickens as neighbours than some noisy, smelly humans.

  5. I can’t find any rules for or against keeping roosters. Are they simply referred to as chickens in general.
    I will have 2 roosters with 5 hens (unfortunately I will have to give away the remaining 2 roos).
    I intend to keep one roo for breeding purposes and a second for future chickens. None of the birds are related and I intend to keep it that way.
    My problem is I have a couple of neighbours that might not like the noise although I only have Pekins which are very small and much less noisy than regular chickens.
    BTW I live in Manchester, UK.

    • You are correct Kymm, the rules only cover ‘chickens’ and cocks or roosters are classified as chickens.
      The only issue I see would be noise and there have certainly been people losing their roosters as a result of complaints.

      If you are considerate with the time you let them out and can keep them far enough away from your neighbours bedrooms, you shouldn’t have too many problems.

  6. My neighbour has chickens/hens and they seem to wake up 5:30am clucking away loudly with themselves off and on till past 10:00am when the seem to quieten down…. keeping my partner and I awake. Occasionally they have a rooster, which is even worse for the sound. It’s getting very antisocial as we live in an avenue in a very urban and concrete town. As much as we love animals this is driving us mad as it’s every day, seven days a week. I work 50plus hours a week and our sleep patterns are completely trashed… Please can you give me some advice.

    • I think you’d need to go and have a chat with your neighbour to see whether there is something that could be done. I’m no expert but if they are creating excessive noise and you have approached your neighbour and not been able to resolve it, then I guess the local Council would be able to assist.

  7. I’m thinking about chickens – do you have any advice on best location? Do they need a bot of sun or should they be sheltered? We have a huge garden so spoilt for locations to put them, but I want to make sure they are in the best position for their health (and happiness).

    • Choose a sunny location – they need sunshine to thrive, but ensure they can also get access to shade during the warmer summer months. They should have protection from the wind and some shelter from the rain. This can be as simple as them being able to go under their house or having access to a small covered run.

      • Excellent advice, lack of sun can cause vitamin D deficiencies reducing the quality of the eggs. If your breeding from the hens the vitamin deficiency can cause splayed leg in the chicks.

  8. A friend of mine has chickens on a farm, it has been there for 200 to 300 years behind a pub. They have knocked the pub down and built houses on the land. Somebody has complained about the noise the council have told him to get rid of has cockerels because of the crowing or he will get a £5,000 fine. Have they got the right to do that? Farm land is farm land, it is registered as a pig farm.

    • Hi Paul,

      I’m sorry I don’t know if the rules would be any different for a farm. I guess it’s a disturbance whether the noise comes from a farm / business or residential dwelling.

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