It is legal in most countries and states to bury chickens and pets in your garden or backyard provided you are not a commercial producer and you follow the guidelines for safe burial.
In both the US the UK, you are legally able to bury your pet chicken in the grounds of the home where they lived without the need for permission or consent.
Rules for burying a chicken in your garden:
- The land where the burial takes place must be owned and not rented. This is only for burial and not for the scattering of ashes.
- Chickens must not be buried near a water source or water course like a stream, reservoir, dam, pond or river. The word "near" often means different things so when I asked for clarification I was told any burial had to be at least 50 metres from the highest water mark.
- Chickens cannot be buried at home if they are considered to be hazardous to human health. If they have been treated with controlled drugs prior to their death or are infected with a notifiable disease.
How do you dispose of dead chickens?
It is normal for chickens can be buried or cremated after they die but there are other option available. For backyard chickens keepers this means either using a local vet or burying your dead chickens in your garden or backyard.
You can make use of the service some veterinarians offer to have the ashes returned to you a few days after the the chickens has died or you can organise the cremation yourself and then either keep or scatter the ashes.
Methods of disposal of dead chickens:
- Burying - A hole is dug and the carcass is buried at or below a minimum depth.
- Landfill - Bodies are bagged and sent to landfill.
- Composting - This is a commercial method and many rules have to be followed.
- Incineration - Very few countries allow the disposal of chickens on open fire, they will need to be cremated.
There are services which dispose of dead animals securely and if you are a commercial producer you will have to make use of these and keep the relevant paperwork.
Below: When you use a vet, you get a little ceramic pot back with a bag of ashes inside. Here is one of mine.
Here in the UK, you are considered to be a commercial producer if you have more than 50 hens and I have noticed similar limits in most other countries but you should check you local authority.
Is it legal to bury chickens in your backyard?
As long as you follow the rules and bury a pet chicken in the correct manner you will be fine. Here in the UK you can be fined £5000 ($7000) and get three months custodial sentence for breaking the law on proper disposal of fallen animals.
You may need to notify the local authority of the burial location.
How long can you keep a chickens before you have to bury it?
No one really feel like doing much after you have lost a pet chicken but you have to have made arrangements within 24 hours.
How deep must a chicken be buried?
A chickens must be buried between 3 feet (90cm) and 5 feet (150cm) deep measured to the top of the chicken. This means there must be at least 3 foot of earth above your pet chicken so the hole would need to be a little deeper to make sure you get the minimum.
Different states and countries call for different depth for a burial depending on local conditions and water tables. You will need to bury deeper in very sandy soils.
Will a buried chicken smell?
As long as you bury your dead chicken deep enough it won't smell as it decomposes.
Should you bury a chicken in a plastic bag?
You should not use a plastic bag of any kind when burying a chicken in your backyard. Plastic does not decompose easily and will remain for many years if not decades in your soil.
The only time you should seal a dead chicken into a plastic bag is if you have been told to by a vet or government department if bird flu or other notifiable illness is suspected in your flock.
This article part 4 of a four part series: