Keeping cockerels

Keeping poultry in an urban environment can cause a number of problems:

  • complaints about crowing 
  • complaints about vermin 
  • complaints about odours

If you keep poultry, in particular a cockerel, you have a duty to make sure that it does not cause a nuisance to you neighbours.

Cockerels causing problems with noise or odour can be considered a statutory nuisance.

If we receive a complaint about a cockerel causing a nuisance then our Environmental Health team has a duty to investigate.

Do you need permission to keep poultry?

Many properties have covenants to prevent the keeping of poultry and other livestock. For rented accommodation it is best to speak to the landlord to see if this applies to the property you are living in.

Chicken coops and runs, depending on their size may require planning permission.

Can a cockerel be a nuisance?

The scientific basis for a cockerel crowing is to declare it’s his patch and it is part of the male’s territorial display. All cockerel owners must make sure that the crowing of their bird does not cause a statutory noise nuisance.

It’s good to remember that cockerels aren’t needed for hens to lay eggs.

If our Environmental Health team receive a complaint about noise we have a legal duty to investigate it. This may include:

  • asking the person complaining to keep a noise diary to show us when the cockerel is crowing, at what times of the day and how long it goes on for 
  • Environmental Health Officers may visit to hear the disturbance it is causing 
  • using noise monitoring equipment to gather evidence

In deciding whether the noise from crowing is a statutory nuisance, we will consider some of the following:

  • the nature of the area – cockerels have been a part of the English countryside for generations and to some extent form part of country life. This doesn’t stop them being considered a nuisance but an odd cockerel crowing in an isolate rural location is less likely to be considered a statutory nuisance than cockerels kept in built up residential areas such as towns and villages 
  • the time of day – it’s more likely that the noise will be classed as a nuisance if the cockerel crows at unsocial hours, such as early in the morning or late in the evening 
  • the duration of the crowing – if the cockerel crows for long periods this is likely to be more of a nuisance

If we believe the noise is a statutory nuisance an Abatement Notice will be served on the person responsible for the noise under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The Notice is a legal document and will require the noise to be stopped. If the Notice isn’t complied with the owner or person responsible for the cockerels could face an unlimited fine if convicted in the magistrate’s court. Additionally, the cockerel could be removed from the property.

How to keep crowing to a minimum

There are three ways in which crowing can be kept to a minimum to prevent nuisance from a cockerel:

  • housing – keep cockerels in a coop at night. Keeping birds in a coop can limit the early morning crowing. It is important that coops have blackened windows and that they’re kept as dark as possible for reduce the amount of light and thus crowing from the bird. Cockerels should be kept in the blackened coop until a reasonable hour for example 7.30am during the week and 8.30am on a weekend. Consider putting a shelf in the coop so the cockerel can walk around at normal height but cannot stretch its neck to make the crowing sound 
  • location – it’s important to locate coops and runs as far away from neighbouring residential properties as possible 
  • competition – if you have more than one cockerel or there are other cockerels in the immediate area this is likely to lead to them competing with each other. This can increase the amount of crowing considerably meaning the noise can become a nuisance to neighbours


Vermin such as rats and mice may be attracted to any food or water that is left out for poultry. Additionally, any housing or shelters will provide shelter for vermin. There is a legal requirement for everyone to keep their property free from rats and mice. To prevent vermin, shelters must be cleaned regularly and any uneaten food should be removed at the end of each day.

During warm weather, particularly in the summer months, problems can arise with odour due to shelters not being cleaned on a regular basis. Environmental Health Officers can take action for this type of odour nuisance.


As the owner of poultry it is your responsibility to prevent it from straying beyond the boundary of your property or land. If you have 50 or more birds, you have to register with the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), even if the birds are only there for part of the year. If you have less than 50 birds you can still register voluntarily at the Defra website.

Animal Welfare

The Animal Welfare Act 2006 places a duty on the owners of all animals and birds to ensure their needs are met. These include the following:

  • provide a suitable environment 
  • provide a suitable diet 
  • the animal or bird should be able to exhibit normal behaviour 
  • to be housed with or apart from other animals (if applicable) 
  • to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

It is against the law to be cruel to an animal or bird and if you do not meet its needs you can be served with an Improvement Notice or prosecuted. If you are found guilty you may be banned from owning animals or birds, given an unlimited fine or sent to prison.


Poultry are susceptible to many diseases and need to be checked on a regular basis. Avian Influenza is a highly contagious viral disease, which affects the respiratory, digestive and or nervous system of many species of birds. It is a notifiable disease, which means that the Animal Health regional Office must be told of all suspected cases.

Sale of eggs

If you have poultry and are planning to or already selling surplus eggs you must register as a food business. This includes selling eggs to friends over the garden gate or on a market stall for example.