Just chicken-feed

It has recently come to my attention that, in the UK, it is illegal to feed kitchen scraps to chickens. According to the latest edition of The Organic Way*:

the law against feeding kitchen scraps to poultry of any sort has been in position since the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001. It was produced by the then Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs**, to reduce the risk of spreading disease. The same rules apply even if the household is vegetarian

Chickens acting within the law by eating worms and insects - no (illegal) kitchen scraps in sight!

Chickens acting within the law by eating worms and insects – no (illegal) kitchen scraps in sight!

So, now you know – if you live in the UK and you give your vegetable peelings or toast crumbs to your hens, you are breaking the law. If, however, you make a piece of toast specially for your hens, I guess you are behaving legally. It’s a fine line… if I take leaves off my brassicas in the garden and feed them directly to my hens then it’s ok; but if I’m preparing dinner and discard a few leaves of kale I picked 20 minutes ago because they are a bit tatty then give these to the hens, I’m a criminal.

I have visions of the ‘hen police’ coming round to check that any kitchen scraps go to the worms or the compost bin or the dogs and are not surreptitiously diverted to the chickens.

It appears that the law, in fact, is the UK’s interpretation of the EU animal by-product legislation. Interestingly, other European countries have interpreted this law differently, so in Belgium there is a project that actually promotes keeping hens in order to reduce waste. Sigh.

Ah well, it looks like I’ve found another outlet for my civil disobedience!


* The membership magazine of Garden Organic

** Always known, in our house, as the Department for the Eradication of Farming and Rural Affairs

Leave a comment


  1. Wow, that’s a bit extreme isn’t it? That means there are outlaw chickens in every garden!

    Now to avoid the attention of the authorities you’ll have to sneak up to the chook run wearing a large overcoat with specially designed pockets, shake the out scraps surreptitiously then wander back to the house in a nonchalant fashion. 😀


  2. This made me smile this am. Some laws are so silly, what is worse is someone thought it was valuable enough to get made into a law and convinced others so.


  3. Linda Winn

     /  March 8, 2013

    I do think it is worth remembering that, although the way in which the UK has interpreted this law at a domestic level is worth questioning, there is an increasing base of evidence to show it is good practice for it to be applied to animals reared on a commercial scale. There is sound science to show that the practice of giving animals, particularly pigs, food that has gone through kitchens where food is prepared for human consumption increases the incidence of inter-species transfer and the likelihood of yet more ‘superbugs’. One more reason for ending industrial/commercial scale rearing of animals, but that’s another post perhaps?


    • Quite right, Linda… just a shame that the domestic situation was not considered during the drafting of the legislation. As for industrial animal-rearing… I’m certainly voting with my purse!


  4. Well, I’ll have to make sure the neighbours aren’t watching when when I give the chucks their leftover rice. Or what if the chickens grass me up? You can’t be too carefull!


  5. What a truly ridiculous law. With all the war and hunger and violence that goes on, feeding scraps to your chickens isn’t allowed..? I have to say if I had my own hens I would politely ignore this legislation completely.



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