It is your responsibility to protect the welfare of any animal in your care at all times. Not only does this include your pets like dogs and cats, but also any other animal under your care like your backyard hens.
You have a legal obligation to ensure all the animals under your care are provided with proper and sufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary treatment when necessary. It is an offence under the law to abandon any animal under your care.
Owning backyard hens
Backyard hens can be cared for and kept healthy while being contained to your property.
Just like adding a companion animal such as a dog or cat to your family, the decision to own backyard hens comes with a lot of responsibility to make sure they are cared for appropriately. When deciding to own backyard hens it is important for you to consider why you want hens and whether or not you are able to provide them the care they require.
To learn more about what you need to consider when keeping and caring for backyard hens, click here.
Information for backyard hen owners self-isolating
While you are self-isolating or socially distancing yourself from others, aim to contain your hens to your property. If your hen house is large enough, you may be able to keep them safe and contained in their house. Remember that while your hens are contained, it is still important that they have adequate outdoor space to express their normal behaviours and have access to fresh air and sunlight.
If your hens usually roam around your property or yard during the day, make sure you can keep them contained to your yard or that you supervise them while they are roaming and do not let them leave your property. Remember to make sure your hens are still kept enclosed in their house like usual during the night to keep them safe.
If you have to self-isolate, there are some things to consider so that your hens are appropriately cared for. These include making sure that:
- you have enough supplies for your hens, such as having enough litter and food for your hens for the period you are self-isolating, or that you organise for someone to drop off supplies when required.
- your hens are up to date with any preventative health care treatment they may require.
- in the event that one of your hens becomes ill or injured, there is someone that you can call to take your hen to a vet for treatment or euthanasia.
To help you prepare for different circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic, so that you and your backyard hens and other pets stay safe, you can find more general information here:
- When you are practising social distancing
- If you are in self-isolation but are not sick or suspected of having COVID-19 infection
- If you or someone in your family is sick with or suspected of having COVID-19
- If you require hospitalisation due to COVID-19
- If you need to leave your home to care for your animals
Emergency plans for your backyard hens
You can find general information to help you care for your backyard hens and other pets in the event you are required to be hospitalised due to COVID-19 here.
Some things to consider if you are required to be away for an extended period of time include the following:
- Make sure you have at least two weeks’ worth of supplies for your hens, including litter, food, preventative health care and any medications they might need.
- Consider making arrangements for someone to stay at your house or have someone come to check on and look after your hens for the period that you are away.
- Make sure your hens will still have daily food and fresh clean water available while you are away.
- If your hens are on any medication or preventative health care, make sure you leave instructions on how and when it should be administered.
- If you hens are laying eggs, organise to have someone come and collect their eggs every one to two days.
- If you may be away for more than one week, make sure the person caring for your hens is able to clean out their house and replace litter and bedding as required.
- If you have a secure yard where your hens roam during the day, make sure there is someone who will secure them in their house every night to keep them safe from predators.
- If your hen house is large enough to keep them contained during the day, then while you are away it may be more appropriate to keep them contained at all times. If you are containing your hens remember, it is still important that they have adequate outdoor space to express their normal behaviours and have access to fresh air and sunlight.
- Make sure you leave your vet’s details and any relevant medical history for your hens in the event one of them becomes ill or is injured, so that the person caring for them can take them to their vet for treatment or to be euthanised if this is necessary.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that hens play a role in the spread of the human novel coronavirus disease COVID-19. It appears that it is very rare for domestic animals to become naturally infected with the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and, crucially, there is no evidence that domestic animals can transmit SARS-CoV-2 to people. You can find more information about whether you can contract COVID-19 from domestic animals here.
If you are facing challenges caring for your animals, please get in touch with your local RSPCA to discuss options; we are here to offer support and help if possible.
Please note that there are many things that are currently unknown about this virus and the risk it poses to animals and from animals to humans. This information has been prepared with the best and most current information available at the time but things are changing rapidly as the situation evolves. Our information is updated as often as possible.