If you’re looking at just keeping a few hens in the back garden then legally you do not need a licence or to register them.
You may, however, find you are not allowed to keep poultry in the deeds of the property. This is rare and tends to be written in the deeds of properties on upmarket estates.
Obligation Not to Cause NuisanceYou also have an obligation not to cause a nuisance. This most often applies to noise. A cockerel crowing to greet the dawn is usual in the countryside but not acceptable on a suburban housing estate. Don’t forget, you don’t need a cockerel to get eggs.
The other nuisances you can cause by keeping poultry are smell, flies and rats. These are all signs of poor management. Coops should be cleaned regularly and the resulting manure removed and disposed of or processed properly.
Bags of poultry manure would be a welcome gift to many gardeners or allotment holders. Better still, use as an activator in your compost heap and your hens improve the garden.
Rats are attracted by food being around. Put feeding vessels away at night somewhere rat-proof and store your poultry feed in rat-proof bins etc. If you leave feed around, you will get rats and these are a nuisance and health risk to you and your neighbours.
50 Birds or More?
By law you must register if you own or are responsible for a poultry premises with 50 or more birds. This requirement also applies even if the premises is only stocked with 50 or more birds for part of the year. At present, premises with fewer than 50 birds are not required to register with DEFRA, but keepers are encouraged to do so voluntarily.
This does not necessarily mean 50 of one species (although this may be the case) but 50 overall, for example if you have 30 chickens, 15 geese, 4 ducks and 1 rhea you need to register. There’s more information on the DEFRA web site.
Chicken Questions & Answers
- About Perches or Roosting Bars for Chickens
- Can chickens see colour & can chickens see in the dark?
- Do I need a licence or to register if I keep poultry?
- Hens Egg Eating – My hens are eating their eggs!
- How many eggs will I get from a hen?
- How Much Space do Hens Need
- Keeping Chickens in the Garden
- Keeping Your Chickens Happy & Contented
- My hens have stopped laying eggs, why?
- The Ins and Outs Of Nest Boxes
- Why Keep Chickens? Pros & Cons of Chicken Keeping