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Keeping Hens at Home: How Not to Fall Foul of the Law
Increasing numbers of people are choosing to keep chickens in the UK with an estimated half a million of us now doing so, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association.
When considering keeping chickens in a garden, particularly one which is in close proximity to neighbours, it is important that residents check the following regulations first:
Homeowners can keep up to 50 chickens without registering with DEFRA.
Prospective hen keepers should check with their local council to find out whether there by-laws that prevent the keeping of livestock at a particular premises. At the same time, residents should check their property deeds to make sure they do not forbid the keeping of livestock.
If a property is owned by a housing association or local council check that there isn’t a covenant in place to stop tenants from keeping chickens at their property.
If the property is free from these regulations, residents should to be able to keep chickens; although be prepared that some neighbours may complain to the council if they are noisy or smelly.
Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Laying Hens
This code says hens should have five freedoms:
Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment, including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention and rapid diagnosis and treatment.
Freedom to express natural behaviour by providing space, sufficient facilities and the company of the animals own kind.
Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.
Residents should make sure that they have the necessary space, the time and inclination to look after these animals over the long term and that they are registered with a vet.
The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act
If leaving animal food out in the open, it could attract other animals, including vermin. It’s important for residents’ health and safety that the animals and their outdoor space are kept clean: and if there are pests, they should be dealt with swiftly. The Prevention of Damage by Pests Act requires that chicken keepers inform their local council of any infestation of pests and controls pests on their property at all times. If residents fail to do this, the local authority can start enforcement action, or even do it on the resident’s behalf and then bill them for the cost.
Please note: This article is intended as guidance only and does not constitute advice, financial or otherwise. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks. In addition, no responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by the firm.
Martin Williamson is Head of Residential Property at Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington.
Latimer Hinks Solicitors