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Animal health and welfare

The advice sheets below have the latest information on animal health and welfare. If you need more advice call 01753 475111 (Regulatory Services option).

Poultry at markets: handling and transport


In the guide

What the law says about the welfare, handling and transportation of poultry, particularly at markets

This guidance is for England

Poultry are required to be handled and transported in a certain way. This includes safely carrying poultry, supporting them with both hands and ensuring that there is adequate space and ventilation.

When transporting poultry, only use vehicles that are fit for the purpose. Transport of poultry on journeys over 65 km and under eight hours requires the transporter to be authorised (different rules apply for animals being transported for longer than eight hours). Drivers or attendants responsible for the transport of farmed poultry over 65 km must hold a valid certificate of competence. Journeys over 50 km require an animal transport certificate to be completed for each journey and kept for six months.

Handling and welfare

Three simple rules for better poultry handling:

1. Use both hands:

Handling poultry 1

2. Enclose the wings and support all the bird's weight in your hands:

Handling poultry 2

3. Ask for help with box lids and cage doors:

Handling poultry 3

This is the correct way to handle poultry at a market. Further advice is available from the animal health inspector, if one is on duty at the market.

Poultry handlers must not:

  • lift, carry or drag poultry by the head, neck, wing or tail
  • tie or bind poultry by the neck, leg or wing
  • use only one hand when catching, lifting and carrying poultry. You should always use both hands to support the bird
  • carry poultry in a sack or bag. You must use only rigid containers with enough space and ventilation
  • carry poultry head downwards
  • transport poultry in containers with other types of livestock
  • expose unfit poultry for sale
  • cause suffering to poultry at any time

When transporting poultry always remember that:

  • poultry and other animals quickly overheat during warm weather in vehicles. Do not leave them in your vehicles as they could die. Failure to comply with this specific advice could result in prosecution for causing unnecessary suffering
  • the means of transport should be designed, constructed, maintained and operated to avoid injury and suffering and ensure the safety of the animals
  • rigid containers must be of a sufficient size, strength and design to prevent poultry from injury and unnecessary suffering while inside
  • containers should always be carried upright and you should make sure that heads, legs and wings are unable to protrude
  • receptacles must be labelled to indicate they contain live birds and marked with a sign indicating the receptacles' upright position
  • you must not overcrowd the container and should avoid jolting or shaking it. Containers should be secured so as to prevent displacement
  • you must ensure there is always an adequate supply of fresh air into the container

Some general information on catching, handling and transport can be found in Defra's document Code of Practice for the Welfare of Meat Chickens and Meat Breeding Chickens.

Commercial journeys

Anyone transporting poultry in connection with an economic activity must:

  • on journeys over 65 km that take less than eight hours:
    • have a short journey transporter authorisation (type 1) issued by Defra
    • complete an animal transport certificate (ATC)
    • be in possession of a certificate of competence (for drivers or attendants)
  • on journeys over 65 km that take more than eight hours (defined as a long journey):
    • have a long journey transporter authorisation (type 2) issued by Defra
    • have a valid vehicle / container approval certificate
    • be in possession of a certificate of competence (for drivers or attendants)
    • complete an ATC (unless a journey log is needed instead)
    • ensure that contingency plans are in place in the event of an emergency

Note: a journey starts from a place where animals are first loaded and have been accommodated for at least 48 hours.

Additional information can be found in the Defra document Welfare of Animals During Transport: Advice for Transporters of Poultry.

For further details of the legal requirements relating to the transportation of animals please contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) on 03000 200301 or email


Failure to comply with trading standards law can lead to enforcement action and to sanctions, which may include a fine and/or imprisonment. For more information please see 'Trading standards: powers, enforcement and penalties'.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: October 2020


In this update

No major changes

Please note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab.

Related pages