Industry sector:

Poultry farm: Legal matters

The following is an outline of some of the areas which may be relevant to you. The list is by no means exhaustive and highlights only the main areas that may apply to you, not including your licensing and/or registration requirements. If you are not sure of the legislation that applies to you, more information can be obtained from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland or the Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Affairs Department.


  • under the Egg Marking (Stamping) Regulations, all Class A eggs to be sold at retail level must be marked with a code that shows the establishment they came from, the country of origin and the method of production
  • you must observe the rules laid down under the Eggs (Marketing Standards) Regulations. Among other things, these give details on how, and within what time-frame, eggs must be offered for sale to the consumer
  • under the Environmental Protection Act (and subsequent regulations) you have a 'duty of care' to store waste safely and dispose of controlled waste properly by using a registered carrier or an appropriately licensed disposal facility
  • under various feedstuffs legislation you have to register with Trading Standards if you mix your own feed and you have to register with the Veterinary Medicines Directorate if you mix your own feed and include substances such as antibiotics in it
  • there is welfare legislation obliging you to take reasonable steps to ensure your animals' welfare and prevent unnecessary suffering

Egg production

Intensive 'enriched' production

There are regulations that specify:

  • the amount of cage space a bird must have, both width and height
  • how much access to food and water there should be
  • a maximum level of slope to the cage

Free range, semi-intensive, deep litter and perchery production

There are regulations governing such things as stocking densities, access to outside runs and conditions of the interior of the housing units.

You can obtain details of these regulations from the British Egg Information Council website.

Broiler production

Welfare regulations specify a maximum stocking rate of 39kg per square metre for broiler production.

There are also regulations in place that specify that if broilers are produced in a free range unit, they have to be kept for a certain length of time in conditions that cannot be too crowded and that have access to an outdoor run.

Farm assurance scheme

If you choose to join a farm assurance scheme you will have to observe their code of conduct. The most common schemes are the Lion Quality Code of Practice, developed by the British Egg Industry Council, which deals solely with egg production and the RSPCA's Freedom Foods which deals with both egg production and poultry meat production. The majority of broiler producers are members of the Red Tractor poultry farm assurance scheme. There is more information on the BEIC, RSPCA and Red Tractor websites.


You cannot sell any of your produce as 'organic' unless you register with and comply with certain standards. There is detailed information about organic farming on the website.

Transporting animals

The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order covers the conditions for transporting animals. If you transport animals as part of your business you must be authorised as an animal transporter. For long journeys (over eight hours), vehicles must have been inspected and approved. Drivers or attendants responsible for transporting animals more than 65km are required to hold a certificate of competence.

Using labour providers

Agricultural businesses that use the services of gangmasters - basic labour providers - are required by law to use only gangmasters that are licensed by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). More information about gangmaster licensing, including a database of licensed gangmasters, is available on the GLAA website.

Employment matters

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation which you must be aware of include:

  • The Employment Rights Act
  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations
  • The Transfer of Undertaking Regulations (if you take over an existing farm you must observe the existing employees' terms and conditions of employment)

The employing people section of the website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Health and safety

The Health and Safety at Work Act and the numerous regulations made under it cover all aspects of health and safety at all business premises. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees. Those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement.

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations regulate the use, storage and sale of any potentially hazardous substances and place specific duties on employers.

Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website and from your local authority environmental health department.

Equality and discrimination law

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. This applies to every aspect of your business operations, from taking people on to dismissing them. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to your premises and working arrangements so that you don't unfairly discriminate against disabled people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland websites contain further information on your legal duties.