Are there any restrictions on keeping a few chickens in the garden?

Keeping a few chickens in your back garden is becoming more popular. While there are no laws preventing you from keeping them, it is advisable to check your property deeds or consult your landlord to make sure there are no covenants preventing the keeping of 'livestock'. Similarly it is unlikely that you will require planning permission if you are only keeping a few chickens in a small garden shed sized coop.

Where you may encounter problems is if your neighbours start to be bothered by matters relating to noise from your birds or odour and vermin issues stemming from the way you keep your brood.

General advice for controlling problems

The first thing you should consider is the location of your coop. Placing it right up against neighbouring properties may be inviting trouble if you are unable to sufficiently control noise, odour, flies and vermin. Secondly, you should consider the general welfare, house keeping and hygiene arrangements. Chickens need fresh food and water everyday and cleaning out on a frequent basis, at least every few days, depending upon how many chickens you keep and how dirty the enclosure becomes. Generally a well-planned cleaning and feeding regime thoroughly implemented will help to minimise most problems, but make sure whoever looks after your brood when you go away knows what to do to maintain high standards.

Noise

Generally, hens do not cause too many problems although some breeds are noisier than others and hens can be very noisy when they lay so you may wish to consider the closeness of your coop to neighbouring properties and gardens.

Odour and flies

The chicken coop can be a smelly place, particularly during the summer months. you should ensure that you clean the coop out on a regular basis and cleanse the area with a suitable disinfectant if necessary. It may be a good idea to use a plastic membrane underneath the coop to make it easier to do so, but be careful because sometimes mice will burrow under this and use it for shelter.

Waste

Do not allow excess food and bedding waste to accumulate on your property, it will start to smell, provide somewhere for flies to breed and mice to shelter and may attract rats looking for food. Make sure it is regularly gathered up, bagged and disposed of appropriately.

Food

Scattering the food across the ground often leads to some being missed by your birds and left for rats and mice. You get more control by using proper feeders that do not fall over or allow spillage and keep out the rain giving your birds' good access to dry pellets or grain. Try and monitor the amount of food you put out so that no excess is left for vermin. At night remove the feeders or empty them and collect up any spillage and also dispose of any domestic kitchen scraps you may have put out for them. Store your feed and bedding in secure vermin proof containers and clear up spillages.

Rats and mice

Once vermin realise there is an accessible food supply they will return over and over leaving their faeces and urine to contaminate your hens' feed and water. You will also be exposing yourself, your family and your neighbours to the diseases that rats and mice carry in their faeces and urine. You need to ensure you do as much as possible to keep the area in and around the coop as clean as possible.

If you keep 50 or more birds, you must register your flock with the GB Poultry Register. You can do this by calling 0800 634 1112 or online on the DEFRA poultry register.

Contact details

Environmental Protection Team
Email this service
01327 322323

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