Domestic Fowls (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB0076)

3. Preface

This preface is not part of the Code, but is intended to explain its purpose and to indicate the broad considerations upon which it is based.

The basic requirements for the welfare of livestock are a husbandry system appropriate to the health and, so far as practicable, the behavioural needs of the animals and a high standard of stockmanship.

Stockmanship is a key factor because, no matter how otherwise acceptable a system may be in principle, without competent, diligent stockmanship the welfare of the birds cannot be adequately catered for. The recommendations which follow are designed to help stockmen, particularly those who are young or inexperienced, to attain the required standards. The part that training has to play in the development of the stockmans awareness of welfare requirements cannot be overstressed (see note 1). Detailed advice on the application of the Code in individual circumstances is readily available through the official advisory services and in advisory publications of which a selection is listed at the end of the Code.

Nearly all livestock husbandry systems impose restrictions on the stock and some of these can cause an unacceptable degree of discomfort or distress by preventing the birds from fulfilling their basic needs. Provisions meeting these needs, and others which must be considered include:

  • Comfort and shelter;
  • Readily accessible fresh water and a diet to maintain the birds in full health and vigour;
  • Freedom of movement;
  • The company of other birds, particularly of like kind;
  • The opportunity to exercise most normal patterns of behaviour;
  • Light during the hours of daylight, and lighting readily available to enable the birds to be inspected at any time;
  • Floors/perches which neither harms the birds, nor causes undue strain;
  • The prevention, or rapid diagnosis and treatment, of vice, injury, parasitic infection and disease;
  • The avoidance of unnecessary mutilation and
  • Emergency arrangements to cover outbreaks of fire, the breakdown of essential mechanical services and the disruption of supplies.

Not all husbandry systems in use for domestic fowls equally meet the physiological and behavioural needs of the birds. An attempt has been made, on the basis of the latest scientific knowledge and the soundest current practices, to identify those features of husbandry systems which place the welfare of birds at risk unless precautions are taken. The Code sets out what these precautions should be, bearing in mind the importance to the birds of their total environment and the fact there is often more than one way in which their welfare can be safeguarded.

Certain aspects of livestock husbandry can present hazards to the health and safety of the stockman. Advice on these matters is available from the local Agricultural Safety Inspector of the Health and Safety Executive.

The practice of rearing quail and other game birds for the table is on the increase. Much of the advice in the Code can be applied to the rearing of such birds and rearers should at all times bear in mind the needs of the birds which generally may be met by following the spirit of the Code.

Detailed information on the design and construction of poultry buildings can be found in British Standard 5502 Part 43 1990.


  1. Training courses which follow the Code recommendations are arranged for stockmen by the Agricultural Training Board and local education authorities. Proficiency testing in relevant subjects is carried out in England and Wales by the National Proficiency Tests Council, and in Scotland by the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs.
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