Laying Hens (England): Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock (PB7274)

Catching and transport

The Welfare of Animals (Transport) Order 1997 (S.I. 1997 No. 1480) covers the transport of animals, including birds. Among other requirements:

Article 4 states that: no person shall transport any animal in a way which causes or is likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering to that animal.

Article 6 states that no person shall transport any animal unless: -

(a) it is fit for its intended journey, and

(b) suitable provision has been made for its care during the journey and on arrival at the place of destination.

For these purposes an animal shall not be considered fit for its intended journey if it is ill, injured, infirm or fatigued, unless it is only slightly injured, ill, infirm or fatigued and the intended journey is not likely to cause it unnecessary suffering.

Article 10(1) requires that any person transporting animals shall ensure that the animals are transported without delay to their place of destination.

Article 10(2) requires that in the case of animals transported in a receptacle, any person in charge of the animals shall ensure that they are not caused injury or unnecessary suffering while they are in the receptacle either waiting to be loaded on to the means of transport or after they have been unloaded.

Schedule 3 (Part I) requires that means of transport and receptacles shall be constructed, maintained, operated and positioned to provide adequate ventilation and air space. Receptacles in which animals are carried shall be constructed and maintained so that they allow for appropriate inspection and care of the animals. Receptacles in which animals are carried shall be of such a size as to protect the animals from injury and unnecessary suffering during transport. Receptacles in which birds are transported shall be constructed and maintained so that they prevent any protrusion of the heads, legs or wings from them.



Birds should not be deprived of feed or water before transport; however, feed, but not water, may be withheld for up to 12 hours prior to slaughter. This period of 12 hours must be an inclusive period to include the catching, loading, transport, lairaging and unloading time prior to slaughter


Every effort should be made to co-ordinate collection times with production requirements at the slaughterhouse, in order to limit the time birds are held in containers before and after transport.


Before de-populating houses, any hindrance from fixtures and fittings, especially sharp edges and protrusions, must be removed. Care must be taken in catching birds in order to avoid panic and subsequent injury to and smothering of the birds, for example by reducing the intensity of the light or using a blue light.


Particular care should be taken when moving birds within a house to ensure that no bird is injured by the equipment or handling process. The proper handling of birds requires skill, and it should be undertaken only by competent persons who have been appropriately trained. It should be carried out quietly and confidently, exercising care to avoid unnecessary struggling which could bruise or otherwise injure the birds. For catching birds in cages, they must be removed from the cage singly and to avoid injury or suffering and must be held by BOTH legs. The breast should be supported during removal from the cage. Loose-housed birds must be caught and held by BOTH legs to avoid injury or suffering.


In all systems, birds should only be carried by both legs and care taken to avoid hitting solid objects particularly if wings are flapping. They should not be carried by their wings, heads or necks. The number of birds carried will depend upon the size of the bird and the ability of the carrier but a maximum of 3 per hand must not be exceeded. Distances birds are carried should be minimised, for example by bringing transport containers as close as possible to the birds.


Transport containers with large openings should be used to avoid damage to the birds; the design, size and state of repair of any container used to carry birds should allow them to be put in, conveyed and taken out without injury.


During the time birds are held in the containers they should be protected from bad weather and excessively hot or cold conditions. They should not be allowed to become stressed (as indicated by prolonged panting) by being left in containers exposed to strong direct sunlight. Adequate ventilation for the birds is essential at all times.


Care should also be taken when crates are loaded on to vehicles, and in their transportation and unloading, to avoid physically shocking the birds.


Birds that cannot be transported because they are unfit to travel due to being ill, injured, infirm or fatigued should be  given prompt veterinary treatment or humanely despatched on farm without delay.

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