Welfare of gamebirds reared for sporting purposes: code of practice

The code aims to help those responsible for the birds to be knowledgeable about and competent in gamebird husbandry and management techniques.


This Code of Practice, which relates to Scotland only, refers to all birds bred and reared under controlled conditions for the purpose of release for sport shooting, together with birds retained for breeding purposes. All personnel involved with gamebird management and husbandry are advised to be acquainted with the principles and content of this Code, insofar as they are relevant to their particular tasks and duties.

Regardless of the species being bred or reared, or the methods used, the over-riding principle is that all due consideration should be given to the health and welfare of the birds concerned. Those responsible for the birds should, therefore, be knowledgeable about and competent in gamebird husbandry and management techniques. As part of this, owners and keepers have a duty to ensure a bird's welfare as detailed in the 'five needs' in section 24 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

Therefore birds must:

a have an environment appropriate to their species, age and the purpose for which they are being kept, including adequate heating, lighting, shelter, ventilation and resting areas;

b have ready access to fresh water and an appropriate diet to maintain growth, health and vigour;

c be provided with appropriate space and facilities to ensure the avoidance of stress and to allow the exhibition of normal behaviour patterns;

d be provided with company of their own kind as appropriate for the species concerned;

e be adequately protected from suffering, injury, or disease. Should any of these occur a rapid response is required, including diagnosis, remedial action and, where applicable, the correct use of medication.

The contents of this Code apply to birds up to and including the period when they are confined to the release pens. Once the birds are able to leave and re-enter the pens voluntarily they fall outside the scope of this Code. It is recognised, however, that keepers will retain some responsibility for the welfare of the birds immediately post release and until they have adjusted to a free-living existence. The suitability of the release environment to meet the needs of the birds must be considered.

The breeding and rearing of gamebirds should always be carried out with due consideration for the health and welfare of the birds. In following the recommendations for best practice set out in this Code, those involved in the keeping of gamebirds will be working towards the ultimate aim of producing fit, healthy and properly acclimatised birds for release into the wild.

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