Poultry welfare off the farm

How to manage the health and welfare of poultry during transport, at market and during slaughter.

Good practice and duty of care to poultry

All animals, including farmed poultry, must be looked after in ways that meet their welfare needs - ensuring they do not experience any unnecessary suffering.

Maintaining high standards for the health and welfare of your poultry is essential for efficiency and ensuring consumer confidence in your produce.

Poultry includes:

  • chickens (including bantams)
  • turkeys
  • ducks
  • geese
  • partridges
  • quail
  • pheasants
  • pigeons - reared for meat
  • guinea fowl
  • ostriches, emus and rheas

The five freedoms of animal welfare

Animal welfare legislation and the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) state that you have a duty of care to ensure your animals have freedom:

  • from hunger and thirst - animals must have access to fresh water and a diet which will maintain health and vigour
  • from discomfort - an appropriate environment should be provided, including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  • from pain, injury or disease - you must ensure the prevention of illness, or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  • to express normal behaviour - you should provide sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
  • from fear and distress - you must provide conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering

You can read about the five freedoms of animal welfare on the FAWC website.

According to the Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 - made under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 - the standard of protection extends across all locations.

The government consults with FAWC to produce specific guidance for the care of animals:

  • during transport
  • at market
  • at slaughter

For information on the welfare of poultry in the farm environment, see the guide on poultry welfare on the farm.

Poultry welfare during transportation

When moving animals, you must transport them in a way that will not cause them injury or unnecessary suffering.

For information on the welfare of poultry being moved see the guide on poultry welfare during transportation.

Poultry welfare at slaughter

For information on the welfare of poultry at the time of slaughter see the guidance on poultry welfare at the time of killing.

Further information on poultry welfare off the farm

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

One of the major roles of Defra is to help the farming industry operate as efficiently as possible.They also oversee a number of agencies that work with arable farmers, imports and exports of crops and implement pest and disease control. You can call the Defra Helpline on 08459 33 55 77.

Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)

The APHA is an executive agency of Defra and is responsible for ensuring the welfare of farmed animals in Great Britain. The agency is also responsible for managing outbreaks of notifiable animal diseases and helping to ensure suitable standards of egg and dairy production are met. You can call the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301.

You should contact APHA if you have any suspicions of disease in your farm animals.

Rural Payments Agency (RPA)

The Rural Payments Agency is responsible for licences and schemes for growers as well as for running the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). For more information about SPS and how it can help your farming business, you can call the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301 .

Environment Agency

The Environment Agency is a public body responsible for helping to protect and improve the environment in England and Wales.

It also regulates intensive poultry farms. If your farm exceeds certain capacity thresholds, you will need an environmental permit to operate. Find out about environmental regulations and licences for poultry farmers on the Environment Agency website.

British Poultry Council (BPC)

As the only trade association for producers of poultry meat and products, the British Poultry Council is the key link between member companies, government and stakeholders. Read about the role of the BPC on the BPC website.

Assured Chicken Production scheme

The Assured Chicken Production (ACP) scheme is an industry-wide initiative that addresses all the important issues concerning the production of chicken. It is an independently assessed assurance scheme designed to deliver confidence to the consumer. Its standards include best practices in food safety, bird health, welfare and traceability. Read about the ACP scheme on the ACP website.

National Farmers Union

The National Farmers Union (NFU) represents the farmers and growers of England and Wales. It aims to promote successful and socially responsible agriculture and horticulture, while ensuring the long-term viability of rural communities. You can read about the work of the NFU on their website.

You are likely to come into contact with local authorities over a number of farming, land use, food standards and environmental regulations. Your local authority may also be able to provide further information or resources.

Further information

Environment Agency Helpline

03708 506 506

Cross Compliance Helpline

0845 345 1302

NFSCo Helpline

0345 054 8888

Defra Helpline

08459 33 55 77

Register your poultry flock on the GB Poultry Register

Download Defra’s welfare advice for transporters of poultry from the Agricultural Document Library website (PDF, 173K)

Detailed guidance, forms and further advice on animal welfare on the Defra website

Animal welfare transportation documentation, guidance and forms on the Defra website

UK Animal Transporter Authorisation for Type 1 authorisations on the Defra website

UK Animal Transporter Authorisation for Type 2 authorisations on the Defra website

Download an ATC application form from the Defra website (PDF, 15K)

Environmental regulations and licences for poultry farmers on the Environment Agency website

Environmental advice on the Natural England website

Poultry health and welfare guidance on the Poultry Site website

BPC information on the BPC website

ACP scheme information

Published 26 August 2012
Last updated 21 March 2019 + show all updates
  1. Update to regulations

  2. Fixing references to specialist guides

  3. First published.