Back Yard Poultry

Biological data

Bantams and Chickens
Life expectancy up to 6 – 7 years
Start laying eggs 6 months
Incubation time for eggs 21 days

Housing and Husbandry

Poultry require a dry secure rodent-free house with access to an outdoor pen for scratching, exploring and walking round during the day. Some breeds will fly out of an open so will need a covered pen. We do not agree with wing clipping at our practice. They should have a straw-bedded box for broody and laying hens and a perch for sleeping on. Houses should be easy to clean and well ventilated but not draughty, commonly raised off the ground. If chickens are free range the house is best shut at night to protect from predators. Pens should have a shaded area away from direct sun. Simple housing can be easily constructed with a few basic tools and wood or there are numerous suppliers of ready built houses tailor made for the required numbers of birds.


Birds can be fed on a variety of foods and grains. It is convenient to have a ready-made chicken feed as the basis of a diet especially if chickens are laying – as they need to fulfil their calcium requirement. You can feed scraps and vegetable waste and chickens enjoy scratching and scavenging in the garden or paddock for food (but will decimate flower beds and vegetable gardens). They must have access to clean fresh water at all times. Chickens need to have grit in their diet which if free range they can pick up, of can be supplied in the form of crushed shell and flint.

Common Problems

  • Viral Diseases especially Marek’s, Newcastle and Gumboro disease – try to buy stock from a reputable breeder preferably vaccinated.
  • Respiratory Disease – variety of causes often not easy to distinguish. Some respond to anitibiotic therapy. Bird flu has been a concern of late.
  • Avian TB
  • Lymphoma
  • Scaly leg – casued by skin mites
  • Red Mite
  • Coccidiosis
  • Lice
  • Enteric worms
  • Feather loss – moulting is natural but can be due to feather plucking and other causes.
  • Vices – cannibalisation/feather plucking
  • Egg yolk peritonitis.

Diagnosis of some diseases can be very difficult in a live chicken and some diseases sadly can only be diagnosed by post-mortem examination and further laboratory tests.

Treatment and Vaccination

Can be by feed/water/injection/spray.

Vaccinations – most vaccinations in poultry are designed to be given to day old chicks and are also available only in large quantities: seek veterinary advice.

Poultry Registration

All people who keep 50 or more poultry of any species are required to register them with DEFRA. Details of this can be found on