You must register if you own, or are responsible for, a poultry premise with 50 or more birds in total. They do not have to be all of the same species.
This applies even if your premises are only stocked for part of the year.
Holdings with less than 50 birds are still encouraged to register so you can get help to manage any potential disease outbreak.
If you are a commercial keeper and have more than 250 birds you are required to keep population / depopulation records.
How do I apply?
You can request a registration form by:
Phone: 03000 200 301
Web: Poultry registration (Gov.uk)
Your completed form should then be either posted or scanned and e-mailed to the address at the bottom of the form.
What if I have problems?
If you have any difficulties completing the form you can contact the Poultry Register Helpline on 03000 200 301.
Back garden poultry
Back garden poultry keeping has become very popular. If you are thinking of keeping back garden poultry you will need to check that your property is free of restrictions that stop you keeping livestock.
Please note: poultry is classed as livestock even if they are pets.
What are the restrictions?
These can include:
- Local by-laws.
- Covenants put in place by housing associations and councils.
- Restrictions written in the deeds of the property itself.
If your property is free of restrictions you should be able to keep chickens without a problem.
Although not a legal requirement it is worth speaking to your neighbours to let them know you are intending to keep chickens. This will address any concerns they may have regarding noise, vermin or odours.
Although chickens are less demanding than some animals, they still need daily care and attention. You will need to consider how their care will fit into your daily life. For example, if you have frequent holidays do you have a trustworthy person to look after your chickens while you are away?
Decide what it is you want from your chickens and choose a suitable breed. Hens will lay eggs without a cockerel. Unless you wish to hatch chicks a cockerel is not necessary. As all cockerels crow, this may cause problems with neighbours.
Good biosecurity can help to minimise the risk of an outbreak of disease and control the spread should infection occur in your flock.
Make sure anyone handling the chickens follows an appropriate personal hygiene routine. Have a plan in place for rodent and pest control.
Like other animals, chickens are prone to certain diseases. Some of these diseases are 'notifiable'. This means that if you suspect your chickens have one of these diseases you must notify APHA immediately on 03000 200 301.This is a legal requirement under the Animal Health Act 1981.
The main notifiable diseases that affect poultry are:
A full list of notifiable diseases is available on the Gov.uk website.
Your chickens will need a diet that is appropriate to their age and species. They should have access to fresh water which should not be allowed to become stagnant.
There are a number of formulated chicken feeds on the market that will ensure your birds get a balanced diet, as chickens require protein to lay eggs and produce feathers it is important that they get sufficient protein in their feed.
Please note: It is illegal to feed household kitchen scraps to your poultry. For further information on what can or cannot be fed to farm animals, please see the guidance page on the Gov.uk website.
If you have 50 or more birds you will need to be registered with the Egg Marketing Institute (EMI). They will give you a producer code and this should be stamped onto the eggs.
Small poultry keepers with less than 50 birds can sell their eggs directly to the consumer, for their own use, from their home, farm gate, door to door or at local public markets.
Although your eggs do not have to be stamped there is information you must supply at the point of sale:
- Your name.
- Your address.
- A best before date (this should be a maximum of 28 days from lay).
- Advice to keep eggs chilled.
This information can be provided on the packaging, on a leaflet or if you are selling at a market, a notice on your stall.
You should also be aware that individual markets may have their own rules regarding the stamping of eggs. You should check with the market that you can sell unstamped eggs there.
You should not:
- Class your eggs by size. You can box them by size if you wish but you cannot mark them as being small, medium or large. These are commercial terms which require eggs to be a particular size and weight.
- Try to sell your eggs as being 'organic' or 'free range'. These are industry standards and there are strict requirements you must comply with in order to use such terms. Something like 'garden fresh' would be fine.
- Wash your eggs. Washing eggs removes the protective film from the shell making it easier for bacteria to enter the egg. Dry-wipe all excess dirt from the egg. Keep any which are particularly dirty for your own use.
- Use commercial egg boxes. If you re use boxes from shops or supermarkets you must remove all references to the original shop, manufacturer or supermarket. Unmarked egg boxes can be bought fairly cheaply on the Internet.
- Forget to rotate your dates. If your hens are producing quite a few eggs you will need to make sure you are selling the oldest first. Writing the date of lay on the storage box will make sure you know which ones are which.
- Sell any cracked or damaged eggs.
If you own a bed and breakfast establishment with no more than 3 rooms, on the same site as your chickens are kept, you are allowed to serve your eggs to your guests. You must inform them that the eggs come from your own chickens and are ungraded.
If you sell or give away your surplus eggs to anyone outside your immediate family, you must register your feed use. This is intended to safeguard both animal and human health. To register please go to our feed hygiene pages.
It is a legal requirement to keep a record of all medicines administered to food producing animals, including those administered by your veterinary surgeon or in-feed. These records can be kept on paper or computer and must be retained for at least 5 years.
A veterinary medicine record book produced by us is available to print below.
Disposal of fallen stock
Birds that die from natural causes, disease or that have been killed on the premise for reasons other than human consumption are classified as fallen stock and need to be disposed of in an appropriate manner.
If one or more of your chickens die you must take it to, or arrange for it to be collected by, an approved knacker, incinerator, veterinary practice or pet crematoria.
Manure, feathers and unused or damaged eggs are classed as animal by-products.
Remember: the burying or burning of carcases or animal by-products is illegal.
A good source of advice for small poultry keepers is The Staffordshire Smallholders Association.
They can give direct advice. They hold practical event days and regular group meetings. You don't have to be a member. Visitors are welcome at all their events.