Welfare of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens: guidance

Detailed information about the needs of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens and how to meet these needs in accordance with good practice.

Section 2: Additional recommendations for free range systems

All meat chickens – including breeding birds and those at hatcheries

Paragraph 17 of schedule 1 of the Welfare of Farmed Animals (Scotland) Regulations 2010 states that:

17. Animals not kept in buildings must, where necessary and possible, be given protection from adverse weather conditions, predators and risks to their health and, at all times, have access to a well-drained lying area.

113. Land on which free range birds are kept for prolonged periods may become “fowl sick”, i.e. contaminated with organisms which cause or carry disease to an extent which could seriously prejudice the health of the birds on the land.  Birds should be routinely monitored to check for signs indicative of a build-up of pathogens on the land and appropriate action taken on detection. 

114. The time taken for land to become fowl sick depends on the type of land and stocking density.  Appropriate measures should be taken to prevent fowl sickness.  A new ranging area can be provided by moving the housing (in the case of portable units) or by rotating the ranging area outside fixed buildings. 

115. Sufficient housing should be available to the birds at all times.  It may be necessary to exclude birds from the range, for example in bad weather or in the event of a compulsory housing order (Avian Influenza Protection Zone) being issued during a notifiable disease outbreak, if there is a danger that their welfare will be compromised.  This should be considered when considering the number of birds placed.

116. Birds should be encouraged to use the outdoor area.  Provision of adequate, suitable and properly managed vegetation, overhead cover forming corridors leading out from the house and distributed around the range and a supply of fresh water away from the house, will help induce the birds to range.  Popholes should be designed and opened so as to encourage their use.  Feed should not be routinely provided outdoors but, where this is unavoidable, measures should be taken to avoid attracting wild birds, rodents and other animals into the flock.  If ponds are located on or near to the range area, they should be fenced off and / or netted to discourage wild birds, in particular water fowl, from landing.

117. Factors such as soil type, drainage, size of colony and frequency of flock rotation are very important in deciding the number of birds that a particular area can carry.  Heavy, poorly drained soil can support fewer birds than land which is light and well drained.


Email: Kirsten.Foubister@gov.scot

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