The Protection of Animals Act and Chickens

This covers laws that cover cruelty to animals. Rules and regulations for animal welfare are enforced by Trading Standards in the U.K. Whilst many of these you would assume would never apply to you, there are in fact a few things to keep in mind as the interpretation of the law can vary.

It is an offence to be cruel to any captive or domestic animal by anything that you do or have omitted to do.  

The first part of this is of course pretty straightforward but it’s the second part where it’s easy to fall foul if you pardon the pun. A code of recommendations were produced as a guide line in response to this and apply equally to commercial flocks of 100’000 hens or your back yard hens.

Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Laying Hens

This code says hens should have Five Freedoms:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.
  4. Freedom to express natural behaviour by providing space, sufficient facilities and the company of the animals own kind.
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

If you think about these, it would be very easy for a number of areas to be breached. If your bird becomes ill and you haven’t sought expert or veterinary advice, you could be seen to be in breach of the 3rd freedom or if the diet you were giving your birds wasn’t balanced (boiled pasta, potatoes or too much mixed corn for example) and wasn’t maintaining full health and vigor, you could be breaching the 1st.

And what if your chicken run had turned to mud after a wet winter, it could also be argued under the 2nd freedom that your hens weren’t free of discomfort if they were standing around in mud all day…

Common sense tells me this wouldn’t get you into trouble but be careful because I have heard of visits from Trading Standards visiting owners for very trivial things (such as too much mud in a chicken run) after having received complaints from neighbours or other concerned members of the public.

If you choose to keep chickens at home though, I would assume, like me, you would want them to have the right conditions to live in and you would always be the right side of the Code of Recommendations!


  1. Is the containment part enforceable anyhow? My neighbours chickens keep coming to my garden which is really annoying, a simple chicken net on their side would do the trick, but the neighbours are unbothered.

  2. Can anyone tell me if its illegal to keep chickens in a small garden terrace house in borough of Barking and Dagenham. Tonight I think they may of killed a chicken there was a big commotion for a few minutes and then silence. They have had a cockerel and a hen that I know of as the cockerel has been crowing about 3 times daily. The hen is laying as you hear her in the afternoon. I actually like the noise of the cockerel. It reminds me of living in country when young. The noise tonight has really bothered me I don’t want to hear the birds being slaughtered and stressed out. I really don’t feel this is fair in urban area.

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