Feeding Chickens Scraps – a look behind the law

EU legislation states it is illegal to feed your chickens ‘kitchen scraps’

Whilst I can fully understand the reasons behind this legislation at a commercial level, consider this; current legislation requires a flock of over 50 poultry to be registered on the DEFRA Poultry Register, it also requires a flock of over 50 laying birds to be registered with the Egg Marketing Inspectorate if eggs are sold at a local market or beyond. In both instances this is in order to quickly manage potential health risks that large flocks could cause or become involved with, however in both instances flocks of under 50 poultry are not required to be registered and perhaps therefore are not be considered a significant risk or exposure to the human health issues.

Why is it then there is a blanket ban on feeding any kitchen scraps (unless the kitchen is vegan) to any poultry no matter what the flock size? The main thrust of the legislation hinges on the scraps coming into contact with unacceptable forms/levels of animal proteins within that kitchen environment. Looking carefully at the legislation though it is acceptable to take a lorry load of crisps and incorporate them into the diet of a flock of 1000’s of chickens because the source of the crisps (which incidentally could contain low levels of animal protein but not enough to be considered a risk) is regulated unlike my kitchen. However, if I were to take a crisp from a packet in my kitchen and feed it to one of my chickens then that would be in breach of the legislation; my kitchen is not regulated and so the crisp could come into contact with said animal proteins. This example throws up two key points; the first being the quantifiable risk and the second is, I wouldn’t feed my chickens crisps.

Risk is a calculation of ‘probability’ and ‘impact’. If we take the probability of the crisps containing unacceptable levels of animal proteins as being the same in both scenarios, then the impact is massively different. In one instance 1000’s of poultry, and potentially an entire supply chain are exposed, in the other it would be only a small flock and no supply chain; a flock, incidentally that may not be registered anywhere.

The second point the scenarios illustrate may not have devastating consequences but is equally as important. I wouldn’t feed my chickens crisps, in fact its rather alarming to find out just what is deemed as acceptable food stuff simply because the source is considered ‘controlled’ or ‘regulated’. Feeding the wrong stuff to animals in the commercial supply chain contributed significantly to the occurrence of the legislation in the first place and that wasn’t due to backyard keepers but commercial outfits.

Granted there are certain things from the household kitchen that should not be fed to chickens but my argument is that rather than apply a blanket ban that could never be policed at a small flock level and fails to have a scalable impact in its application, why not instead draw that line at the 50 bird mark again but ensure that correct education is given to reduce the probability of the risk occurring. In fact take it one step further and show people how to economically and healthy feed their birds the correct ‘waste’ from their households as a contribution towards improved sustainability.

One size doesn’t fit all and one policy that implies protection of our food chain but yet exposes it to activity at a commercial level that would not be condoned by many a consumer leaves me questioning precisely who came up with it and exactly what it was trying to achieve.

A closer look a the legislation exposes some alarming truths
A closer look at the legislation exposes some alarming truths


17 Replies to “Feeding Chickens Scraps – a look behind the law”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Absolutely spot on. The tenor of the argument could equally be applied to so many crack pot centralised regulatory control measures imposed on our society currently. … but hey! I feel safer with all the speed cameras, CTV, water in airports, government watchdogs, war on terror, austerity, housing benefit cuts, reduced immigration … and if course the fact that my hens haven’t eaten the stalk from my broccoli and cauliflower which I cut off in the kitchen as opposed to the garden on my way back from the shops!

    1. Very well said. Of course now we might have to break another law and carry a sharp knife in our cars so we can cut up our veg on the pavement or garden path before it enters our kitchens. We need to make a stand! Would I cut up veg before I take it to my kitchen? Absolutely not! My broccoli stalk goes straight from my kitchen to my chickens probably just like yours 🙂

  2. It is a ridiculous ruling and as such, should be ignored. Take a stand! If we complacently obey rules, which are not fit for purpose, we will be lumped with more ridiculous legislation.

      1. you might not believe this but I WAS cautioned by the police in Stuttgart, Germany for feeding bread to the ducks with my toddler!!! Legislation gone mad.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Andy – A fab post!
    Whilst not on the syllabus, we end up spending quite a bit of time talking about this on our chicken keeping courses.
    I actually did try to follow this up with DEFRA, who said that even fruit & veg bought from the supermarket couldn’t guarantee to be meat free (tell that to the vegetarians & vegans!)…
    I asked if it was OK for me to feed kitchen scrap to my hens if the eggs were only eaten by my family and not entering into a bigger food chain, they asked me to take the question to the FSA, who haven’t managed to reply yet in the last 18months…

    Along with many others, I wouldn’t want to feed my girls the mountains of food waste available from the back of MacDonalds each hour, but I also wouldn’t feed that to my children…

    Hopefully I won’t get jailed!

  4. Of course the entire scenario is odd when you consider that I had an ex batt who was a very skilled and keen mouse hunter and consumer.I have also seen a nregistered free range flock scrapping over a frog…….

  5. Yeah it makes little sense to me too. Does this mean that if I were to grow a lettuce in my garden I could feed it directly to my birds but if I took it into the house, washed it, chopped it and took some leaves for myself I couldn’t then give the scraps to the birds? What about when my household veg scraps end up on the compost heap and then eventually on the raised beds my birds forage in?

    1. It’s so bad that if you picked an apple off your tree and walked through the kitchen with the apple in your pocket, it would be illegal to feed it to your chicken. Perfectly preposterous.

  6. I have only just become aware of this law, so I’m afraid I have been unwittingly breaking the law for the whole of the 7 years that I have been keeping chickens. Nearly all of them have been ex-bats, who have a particular liking for cake, bread & other cooked food, & turn their beaks up at veg (cooked or raw) except tomatoes, and fruit. Their basic diet is pellets + a handful of corn in the afternoon (I have now discovered that corn may be illegal too), but they make it very clear that they like treats more. My mother’s neighbour, who has about 15 bantams, goes even further than me & says that hers adore fish scraps. I don’t go quite this far, but chickens are omnivores & I have often seen them bickering over a nice juicy snail, so don’t see the problem about animal proteins. I have no intention of abiding by this law as my hens are demonstrably so much happier with their free-range lifestyle and varied diet, but I don’t like being criminalised for giving previously mis-treated creatures a better life. I just hope no RSPCA/Defra inspectors ever happen to pass by my back garden!

  7. BSE and CJD (mad cow disease) can be contracted by ingestion of mutated proteins called Prions in infected animal proteins. It is thought that by farmers consistently feeding their animals meal containing animal protein this caused the mutations and therefore the BSE issue in the UK

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