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Registration, identification and movements

Whether you are a farmer, smallholder or just a pet keeper you should be aware that there are certain legal obligations that you need to fulfil.

Diseases

Laws surrounding farmed animals have been created not only to protect their health and welfare but also to prevent and control the spread of animal-borne diseases.

Please note: This guidance is a reference to the most important areas of legislation surrounding keeping livestock.

For full advice please contact us.

Farmed species

Answer:

Buying a horse is a serious long-term commitment, it is both time consuming and financially expensive. If you are thinking of buying your first horse or adding to your existing horses there are a few things you need to consider. 

  • If this is your first horse, do you have the time for such a big commitment? Owning a horse can be very rewarding but you will need to make sure you have the time and energy to care for and exercise your horse every day. 
       
  • If you are adding to existing horses, another one will obviously take more time, can you spare the time to care for an extra horse? 
       
  • Where will your horse be kept? Are you lucky enough to be able to keep your horse at home, if not you will need to consider livery charges, this can be one of the biggest monthly outlays you will need to make. If you are already at a livery yard, does it have the space for your extra horse, don’t just presume as you already have one there that the livery will be able to accommodate it. 
       
  • Can you afford to keep a horse? You may find a horse for sale that is reasonably inexpensive but ongoing costs can be high e.g. insurance, vet bills, shoeing etc. 

 

Consider the type of horse

If you decide to go ahead with the purchase, particularly if this is your first horse, you need to consider what type of horse you are looking for. 

  • Will the horse just be ridden by you or will it also be ridden by members or your family or friends? You will have to take into consideration all potential riders ages and abilities. 
       
  • You should be realistic about your own abilities, what are you capable of handling / riding. A flashy thoroughbred may look appealing but if you only want the occasional fun ride / hack a less temperamental breed may be more suitable for you 
       
  • Do you have the time, patience and skill to bring on an inexperienced horse or do you need one that is a little older and more established? 
       
  • If you are already an experienced rider, do you want to compete? If so do you want to compete right away? Choose your horse accordingly. 
       
  • Make a list of ‘deal breakers’ This could be anything from price or build to age, if there are things you are not willing to budge on write them down and stick to them, also write a list of things you are willing to compromise on and take the lists with you when you go to view a horse. 
       
  • When searching for your horse make sure you read the advert thoroughly, look out for phrases like ‘not a novice ride’ - this horse will obviously not be suitable for an inexperienced rider and you should discount horses that do not fit into your ‘deal breaker’ ideals. Ask around and work out what you should be paying for the kind of horse you require, be wary of anything that looks under-priced. 

 

Ask plenty of questions

Once you have found a horse you are interested in, call the seller and ask plenty of questions, by asking the right questions you may well save yourself a wasted journey viewing a horse that is not suitable for you. A genuine seller will not mind these questions as they will obviously want to find the best home for the horse. 

Things you may want to ask about are: 

  • The horse’s experience and capability
       
  • The horse’s temperament
       
  • How long has it been with the current owners and why is it being sold?
       
  • Do the owners have the full history of the horse?
       
  • Is it good to hack, both alone and in company?
      
  • Is it good in traffic?
       
  • Is it good with the farrier, clippers and if going into livery stables, and is it good with other horses?
       
  • Can you take it out in a horsebox or trailer on your own?
       
  • How often does it need riding, will it start to misbehave if you cannot ride it every day?
       
  • If you wish to compete with the horse, does it have a competition record and if so what has it achieved with the present owners?
       
  • If a relatively young horse, what do they think the horse’s potential is?

 

Viewing the horse

Now you have found a horse you think may be suitable, arrange a viewing and try it out. Try and take someone with you, preferably someone with good equestrian knowledge, this could save you from making an expensive mistake.

If this is not possible take a friend and get them to video you interacting with and riding the horse, showing the video to someone with equestrian knowledge can be as helpful as taking them with you.

Take your list of deal breakers and compromises and stick to it. It can be difficult to be objective when the horse you think you want is in front of you, viewing the video at home can help you to be a little more impartial, but if it doesn’t meet your ideals you may find yourself landed with a horse you cannot ride / handle and you may be giving yourself future problems which, with a little common sense, could have been avoided. A video can also help you to recall each horse if you are looking at more than one.

When viewing, things you may want to consider are: 

  • Generally first impressions count and you should trust your own judgement, this includes first impressions of the seller as well as the horse.Take a quick look around the horses stable and watch the behaviour when they are tied up, being groomed, rugged and turned out, are there any signs of vices such as a chewed door or a weave grill in place.
       
  • Ask to see the horse trotted and take a good look at its feet to see how it is shod
       
  • Has the horse been worked to calm it down before your arrival, are there sweat marks visible, a lack of water in the horses box should ring alarm bells, sadly it is not uncommon for a seller to subdue a horse with a flighty temperament, dehydration and poor fitness can mask a highly strung horses temperament. If you have any doubts, question the seller, if they cannot offer what seems a reasonable explanation there may be a problem
       
  • Ask the seller to ride the horse before you try, if they seem reluctant to do so it may indicate a problem
       
  • The advert may have said ‘good to load, clip, shoe and in traffic, don’t assume this is true, try loading the horse yourself and test the reaction towards clippers, it is not unreasonable to ask to come back on a day when the horse is being shod to see how it behaves with the farrier
       
  • You may have to go out of your way a little but find a road with traffic to ride the horse on
       
  • The seller should also be asking you lots of questions, a genuine seller will want to make sure that you are a suitable new owner for their horse. Be wary of a disinterested seller

 Do's and Don'ts

Different people will give varied advice when it comes to buying a horse so here is a basic list of Do’s and Don’ts

Things to do

  • Do ask if the horse is on any medication or supplements, if it is find out why and how long the horse has been taking them.
       
  • Do think carefully about buying a horse that has ‘potential’ it may work in your favour but you should be prepared for things not working out the way you had hoped.
       
  • Do try to ride the horse in different environments and, if possible more than once.
       
  • Do ask as many questions as you want, it is a big decision and no question is too small or irrelevant.
       
  • Do contact any previous owners to see if the details the current owner has given match up, any previous owner details should be in the passport.
       
  • Do have a pre purchase vetting, don’t feel pressured to agree to anything if the seller says the horse may be sold during the waiting time.
       
  • Do look out for dealers posing as private sellers, buying from a private seller gives you fewer rights so some unscrupulous dealers may pose as private sellers. Tell tale signs include things like not knowing in depth details about the horse or its background.
       
  • Do trust your instincts, if something doesn’t feel quite right or you don’t trust someone from the start, walk away. 

Things to avoid

  • Don’t waste your time considering inappropriate horses, this also comes back to you being realistic about your abilities, you should have made your checklist, stick to it.
       
  • Don’t buy the first horse you see, you may think its ‘the one’ but there are plenty out there, shop around, this will also give you a feel for the price you should be paying.
       
  • Don’t buy a horse that you cannot sit on or bridle yourself unless you are very experienced.
       
  • Don’t buy a horse that scares you thinking you will get used to it, if you do not feel confident or comfortable getting on it look elsewhere.
       
  • Don’t buy a horse unseen.
       
  • Don’t part with money over the internet.
       
  • Don’t agree to anything you are not comfortable with, this includes feeling rushed into an agreement.
       
  • Don’t buy a horse from a sale or a market unless you are very experienced.
       
  • Don’t shop with your heart, although this can be tricky, using your head may save you from making a very costly mistake. 

 

Last few considerations

You have found a horse that you love and it has passed the vetting, there are a few last considerations you need to remember: 

  • Ask to see the passport again and check the details to make sure it matches the description of the horse in question and there have been no alterations made, you must then transfer the ownership details within 30 days. 
       
  • Remember the passport should be handed over at the time of the sale (or transfer of ownership) it is illegal for a horse to be sold without a passport.
       
  • When agreeing the final contract it may be worth asking for a trial period, this will allow you sometime with the horse to see if you are a good pairing, not all sellers will agree to this but it is worth asking.
       
  • Negotiate on the final price, most sellers will expect this unless they state ‘no offers’ on the advert.
      
  • You could ask for the tack and rugs to be thrown in, again you don’t know if you don’t ask.
     
  • Once you have come to a verbal agreement get it in writing.
       
  • Always ask for a written receipt and ask the seller to write on it what the horse is suitable for e.g. a child’s first pony, a novice ride etc
       
  • Once you have purchased the horse, get it insured immediately for your own peace of mind.  

 

Further information

Once you have your new horse home you will need to let them settle in, moving is a big change and one they will need time to get used to.

Don’t expect too much too soon, set yourself and your horse small goals to start with giving the necessary praise when they are achieved. Small steps will help ensure you and your horse have a good future together.

Don’t try anything new with them yet, the seller should have explained to you what the horse is used to and what they have achieved so far, it is best to stick to the familiar for the first few months. Spend time getting to know them, your horse needs to trust you just as muchas you need to trust them. 

Should you decide that keeping a horse is too expensive for you there is always the option of sharing, some horse owners may find themselves with less time or money than previously and would welcome someone to share the workload and the bills. 

Most equestrian magazines and websites will have a horse for loan / share section. Word of mouth can be a good way to find a sharer or an advert in a local tack shop. Talking to a potential sharer may feel like an interview but the owner will obviously want to know their horse is in good hands on the days that you have it. Because sharing usually involves the horse remaining at its current yard it can be less problematic than a full loan. A shared horse remains in the ownership of the current owner who will decide the days and times the horse will be available for riding. Obviously there has to be a degree of flexibility and the schedule should be reasonable. The owner will retain the right to sell the horse but any sharing / loan agreement with the owner should be terminated first. 

If you decide this is a better route for you make sure you have the sharing terms and conditions in writing. There is a sharing contract available on the British Horse Society website which can be downloaded free, the agreement can be adapted to suit your needs and will ensure each person knows the scope of their responsibilities. 

Answer:

Electronic identification (EID) replaced double tagging for sheep on 31 December 2009.

Information and guidance regarding electronic tagging of sheep is available on the Gov.UK website.

Goats

Goats do not have to be electronically identified. This is because our goat population is below the EU threshold. The double tagging rules continue to apply for goats.

Answer:

How do I register?

If you intend to keep cattle, even as pets, you need to register the premise/land where you will keep the animals.

You must register this with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA):

Phone: 03000 200 301

County Parish Holding Number

Once you have registered with RPA, a County Parish Holding Number (CPH) will be asigned to you.

This is a unique nine digit number essential for tracing animal movements and identification.

Herdmark

As soon as you bring the animals onto your premise you need to register them with the Animal Health and Plant Agency (APHA):

Phone: 03000 200 301

They will ask you for your CPH. Once you complete the registration process, you will be given a herdmark.

This is a unique number used for identifying bovines from your herd.

Cattle Tracing System

You will also need to inform the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) of your intention to keep cattle.

They will register your details on the Cattle Tracing System (CTS).

Identification

Once you have your herdmark this will allow you to buy tags. All cattle born after 1 January 1998 must have a Defra approved eartag in each ear (double tagging), each showing the same unique number.

Deadlines

Tags must be fitted within certain deadlines:

  • Beef cattle must have both tags applied within 20 days of birth.
     
  • Dairy cattle must have at least one of the tags fitted within 36 hours of birth, with the second applied within 20 days of birth.
     
  • Bison should be tagged within 9 months of birth or before weaning, whichever is soonest.  

All cattle must be tagged before they leave the holding of birth.

Tag format

Since 1 January 2000, ear tags must have a specific numeric format.

They contain the:

  • Crown logo
  • Country code
  • Herdmark
  • Individual animal number
  • Check digit

Lost or illegible tags

Remember to replace lost or illegible tags as soon as possible, but no later than 28 days after you notice the loss or illegibility.

You can only buy official ear tags from suppliers registered with BCMS, a list of approved suppliers is below:

Passports

Cattle born in or imported into Great Britain since 1 July 1996 must have a cattle passport.

This forms the basis of all identification and movement records, and must remain with them throughout their lives.

The British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) issue Passports.

You should submit applications for cattle and buffalo to BCMS within 27 days of birth, or within 7 days from birth for bison.

Movements

You should report every movement of cattle on or off your premise. These  should be reported to BCMS within 3 days of the movement taking place. You can do this online, by post, or over the phone.

Please note: 3 days is the deadline for BCMS receiving the information, not for sending it.

Each movement of cattle onto the premise triggers a movement standstill. This which means that you cannot move any livestock off the premises for 6 clear days.

Please note: the day of purchase does not count as a clear day. 

Further information can be found on Gov.uk's Guidance on keeping cattle, bison and buffalo page.

Please note: your cattle may need to undergo a pre-movement tuberculosis (TB) test before moving off the premise. Contact APHA for more information on 03000 200 301.

Records

As a cattle keeper, you must keep a holding register. You can keep your records on paper, a computer or a combination of both. If you keep your records on computer they must be available for inspection on request.

You must keep cattle registers for 10 years from the date of the last entry. A cattle holding register produced by us is available to print below:

Veterinary Medicines

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. You may keep these records on paper or computer and you must keep them for at least 5 years.

You can view The Code of Practice on Gov.uk's  Responsible Use of Animal Medicines on the Farm page.

A veterinary medicine record book produced by us is also available to print below:

Answer:

Registration, passports and identification

All horse owners need to obtain a passport for each horse they own.

This includes:

  • horses
  • ponies
  • donkeys
  • other equidae

The passport is a small booklet that uniquely identifies your animal.

Please note: veterinary or breed certificates are not passports.

It lasts for the lifetime of the horse. It also states whether your animal can be used for food at the end of its life. You can declare that your animal is not intended for the food chain by filling in the appropriate section of the passport. This cannot be changed later.

When do I need to get a passport?

The owner of a horse must obtain a passport for it on or before 31 December of the year of its birth or by six months after its birth.

Foals must have a microchip and passport before sale regardless of age.

Your horse must be microchipped before you apply for the passport because all horse passports issued since July 2009 must contain a microchip number.

How do I apply?

You can get an application form for a horse passport from an authorised ‘Passport Issuing Organisation’ (PIO).

See the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website for a list of approved PIOs and their contact details.

A passport will not be valid if issued by an unauthorised organisation.

Where to keep a passport

The passport should remain with the animal at all times e.g. if you keep your horse in a livery stable the passport must be kept at the stable.

There are times when you will need to show the passport, such as, whenever a vet examines or treats your animal or on demand from a Local Authority Inspector.

If you sell or transfer ownership of your horse the passport must be supplied at the time of the sale or transfer. The new owner will need to contact the issuing organisation to amend the details. This must be done within 30 days of the change of ownership.

Remember: it is illegal for a horse to be sold without a passport.

Horse passport regulations

A comprehensive guide to the horse passport regulations can be found on the Gov.uk website. 

For more information on horses and other equines please visit The National Equine Welfare Council website where you can find latest edition of the equine industry welfare guidelines compendium.

Purchasing a horse

Buying a horse is a serious long term commitment. It is both time consuming and expensive.

A guide is available on the below dropdown, containing some points to consider before you purchase.

If you think you may have been mis-sold a horse please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service helpline on 03454 04 05 06.

Pet horse burials

We are aware that this can be an emotional and distressing time for owners of pet horses.

To prevent spread of animal-borne pathogens or disease there are strict rules on the burial of pet horses.

Please note: commercial burial of horses is not permitted.

The only information we need is a note from your vet which specifies that the horse has not died from a disease which is communicable to humans or other species.

Fly grazing and abandoned horses

In the present economic climate many horses are being abandoned or 'fly grazed' on someone else's land.

The Control of Horses Act (2015) gives landowners a wider range of options to deal with the problem.

The following guidance outlines the steps that may be taken should you find fly grazed or abandoned horses on your land:

Ragwort

Common ragwort is a specified weed under the Weeds Act (1959).

It contains toxins which can have debilitating or fatal consequences if eaten by horses and other grazing animals.

When handling common ragwort, either live or dead, you should wear gloves and a facemask to prevent inhalation of ragwort pollen.

The Gov.uk website has an webpage further explaining how to prevent harmful weeds and invasive non-native plants spreading.

Answer:

How do I register?

Whether you keep one pet pig or a commercial herd you must register with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA):

Phone: 03000 200 301

This should be done before you start to keep pigs on the land.

County Parish Holding numbers

You will then be allocated with a County Parish Holding number (CPH) for your premises or the land on which the pigs are to be kept.

This number will be required when reporting any movements. If you do this before the pigs are moved to your holding it will make it easier for the dispatching keeper to report the move.

Animal Health and Plant Agency registration

Once you have a CPH number, you need to register for keeping pigs by contacting the Animal Health and Plant Agency (AHPA):

Phone: 03000 200 301

You must do this no later than 30 days from receiving your first pigs, or beforehand.

Herd marks

You will be allocated a Herd Mark. This mark is unique to your pigs and is used for identification.

Herd marks for pigs are 1 or 2 letters followed by 4 digits e.g. A1234 or AB1234.

Movements

Pig movements usually take place under the conditions of a general licence. They should be recorded and reported by the keeper.

Please note: you can only move pigs to a CPH registered holding.

How do I report pig movements?

You have two options to report all planned movements of your pigs:

Please note: the paper based reporting system is no longer available. All pig movements are reported electronically.

When should I report movements?

If you choose to report the movements by phone you will need to do this early enough to receive your haulier summary. This must accompany the pigs during transport.

Movement standstills

Each movement of pigs onto the premise triggers a movement standstill. This means that no livestock kept at that premise can be moved for the minimum period of:

  • 20 clear days for pigs on and pigs off
     
  • 6 clear days for pigs on and any other species off

Please note: the day of purchase does not count as a clear day.

Any other species moving onto the holding will impose a 6 day standstill on the pigs on that holding.

Exemptions

The exemptions to this are:

  • Movements direct to slaughter.
    or
  • Movements to a designated Red Slaughter Market.

These movements can still be made if your premise is under a movement standstill.

Identification

Pigs over 12 months of age

These should be identified with your Defra herdmark by means of one of the following:

  • Double Slapmark (applied to both of the pigs front shoulders using permanent ink)
     
  • Tattoo (applied on one of the pigs ears)
     
  • Eartag (single)

Pigs under12 months of age

These can be moved on a temporary mark e.g. a paint mark, only if they are being moved between farms.

If they are being moved to slaughter or market you should follow the identification rules above.

Lost or illegible eartags

Any lost or illegible eartags need to be replaced as soon as possible but no later than 28 days after you notice the loss or illegibility.

Any replacement should be recorded.

Records

All pig keepers in the UK are required to keep the following records:

  • All on and off movements (these may now be kept electronically on the eAML2 system).
     
  • On farm deaths.
     
  • Tag replacements.
     
  • Veterinary medicines and treatments, both purchased and administered.
     
  • Fallen stock receipts.

All movement records needs to be kept for 3 years after the last entry in the book if you stop keeping pigs.

Please note: you don't have to keep a holding register if you have an eAML2 account as these details are all recorded on the system.

This will suffice for any Local Authority Inspector though you will need to make paper copies of records available if requested.

A pig holding register produced by us is available to print below:

For further information on keeping pigs, please view the leaflet below:

Micro and pet pigs

When purchasing a pig for keeping as a hobby or pet, particularly when purchasing a piglet, a little research will assure you that you are purchasing a breed that is suitable for your environment.

Micro-pigs are not a recognised breed, but have been developed through selective breeding to create a pig that is smaller than those produced for commercial pig breeding.

Please note: this selective breeding, as with other specialised domestic pets, can lead to animals which have genetic weaknesses or susceptibilities.

A number of owners have been caught out when their micro-pig has grown into a full size pig. These can weigh around 150 to 200kg.

As some owners have not had the facilities to care for a pig of this size, they have had to make some difficult decisions.

For further information on keeping pigs as pets please view the leaflet below:

Feed

Your pigs should be fed a wholesome diet in sufficient quantity to maintain good health.

Please note: It is illegal to feed your pigs with waste food or scraps from your kitchen. For further information on what can or cannot be fed to farm animals, please see the guidance page on the Gov.uk website.

Veterinary Medicines

It is a legal requirement to keep a record of all medicines administered to food producing animals, even if your pig is a pet.

This includes all medicines administered by your veterinary surgeon or in-feed.

These records can be kept on paper or computer. They must be retained for at least 5 years.

Please see the code of practice on Gov.uk's Responsible use of animal medicines on the farm page.

A veterinary medicine record book produced by us is available to print below:

Answer:

Registration

If you intend to keep sheep or goats, even as pets, you must register with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to get a County Parish Holding (CPH) number for your premises or the land on which the animals are kept.

This must be done within one month of obtaining your animals.

This number will be needed when reporting any movement of sheep or goats to or from your premise.

The RPA can be contacted on 03000 200 301. Select the option 'register' or 'amend customer details'.

Once you have a CPH number, you will need to register for keeping sheep or goats by contacting the Animal Health and Plant Agency (APHA) on 03000 200 301. Select the option 'registration'.

You will be given a Flock Mark. This is an identification number which is a unique identifier for your animals.

Movements

All movements of sheep and goats usually take place under the conditions of a general licence and should be recorded and reported by the keeper.

When moving sheep or goats to another premise, land parcel, market or abattoir, you need to report this move to the Animal Reporting and Movement Service (ARAMS).

Electronic reporting

This can be done electronically via the ARAMS website.

If reporting electronically, the movement must also be confirmed by the receiving keeper within 3 days of the movement.

Paper licences

You may continue using a paper licence which is now an ARAMS1 and replaces the old AML1 form.

This form records the details of:

  • animals (number of animals & identification)
  • date and time of the movement
  • departure and destination of the movement
  • transportation

The form consists of 4 coloured carbonated copy sheets.

White

This needs to be returned, within 3 days of the movement, by the receiving keeper to:

Animal Reporting and Movement Service
Church House
Franklin Court
Priory Business Park
Cardington
Bedfordshire
MK44 3JZ

Pink

To be retained by the premise of destination.

Blue

Retained by the haulier.

Yellow

Retained by the departure premise.

Supplies of ARAMS 1 forms can be obtained from livestock markets. You can also download the form from the ARAMS website.

The haulier or transporter is legally required to carry a copy of the movement during transport. This can be a copy of the movement printed from the ARAMS website or an electronic copy available to view on a laptop, tablet, PDA or other mobile device.

Movement standstill

Each movement of sheep or goats onto the premise triggers a movement standstill. This means that no livestock kept at that premise can be moved for the minimum period of 6 clear days.

Please note: the day of purchase does not count as a clear day. 

The exemptions to this rule are:

  • Movements direct to slaughter.
     
  • Movements to a designated Red Slaughter market.

These movements can still be made if your premise is under the 6 day standstill.

Identification

All sheep and goats born after 31 December 2009 must be tagged within:

  • 9 months of birth if not housed overnight.
     
  • 6 months if kept housed overnight.
     
  • Before they leave their holding of birth.

Whichever is sooner.

In an emergency you may take an unidentified animal off your holding to visit a vet, but you must:

  • Identify the animal as soon as it is back on your holding
     
  • Record the move to the vet in your flock register

Sheep

If the animal is for:

Breeding (kept past 12 months of age)

You need two identifiers, both with the same number, one of which must be an electronic identifier (EID). This is called ‘full EID’.

Slaughter (before 12 months of age)

You need a single EID identifier. Single tags for slaughter lambs came in on 1 January 2015. 

Goats

Breeding (kept past 12 months of age)

You need two identifiers, both with the same number.

Slaughter (before 12 months of age)

You need a single identifier

Please note: Electronic identification (EID) is optional for goats.

Lost or missing tags

If your sheep or goat loses an identifier you need to replace it within 28 days after the tag was removed or discovered to be missing, or before you move the animal off your holding (whichever is earlier)

Any tag replacements should be cross-referenced in your holding register.

Please see the list of approved tag suppliers.

Records

All sheep and goat keepers in the UK are required to keep the following records:

  • All on and off movements.
  • On farm deaths.
  • Tag replacements.
  • Veterinary medicines and treatments, purchased and administered.
  • Fallen stock collection receipts.
  • An ARAMS1 copy of each movement if reporting on paper.

All records may be kept either in a paper or electronic format. It is important that all information is recorded as required by the official guidelines.

You can get a sheep and goat holding register from the Gov.uk website.

Veterinary Medicines

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.

You can view the code of practice on the responsible use of animal medicines on farms can be viewed on central government website.

A veterinary medicine record book produced by us is available to print. See below:

Further information

You can find more detailed information on Keeping sheep and goats on the gov.uk website.

Answer:

Registration  

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.

Other considerations

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.

Biosecurity

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.

Feed

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.

Eggs

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.

Veterinary Medicines

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.

Further information

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.

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