Written and unwritten laws
Keeping chickens and introducing them into your garden or back yard might not be on a par with releasing wild boar to the New Forest, but it does require an assessment of your immediate environment.
The first consideration is the law. Are you legally allowed to keep chickens (often simply referred to as livestock) on your land? Do your land deeds accommodate this use and does the local legislation enable it, or are there rules that prohibit it? It’s always better to check directly rather than assume you have the right to do so.
In most cases there will be nothing to stop you from legally keeping chickens on your property. But how about the ‘unwritten law’? This is the one that is frequently forgotten —the law of common courtesy, decency, and respect, in which you consider your neighbours. You might be lucky and have no near neighbours to worry about, but for a large majority of people neighbours are a fact of life, so don’t expect them necessarily to ignore your new feathered friends.
One way to mitigate the risk of offending your neighbours is to visit a friend who already has chickens in their garden and perform the ‘eyes, ears, and nose test’. Most people, when faced with the prospect of a neighbour getting a flock of chickens, will mainly be concerned with the impact on them, and are likely to ask three questions: ‘Will they be an eyesore?’; ‘Will they be noisy during the day and in the early hours?’ and ‘Will there be a smell?’ When you visit your friend’s flock, ask these questions, see what the responses are, and test them with your eyes, ears, and nose. That way, you should be able to give a confident and educated response should you get similar questions from your neighbours.