chickens on a farm

Claim Scots could face jail time for having unregistered chickens is Half True

A Scottish policy around keeping chickens has been drawn into the international debate around personal freedom and government overreach. 

An AI-generated image of a man surrounded by chickens being arrested by body armour-clad police was widely-shared by a number of popular accounts on X. The image’s text claimed that owning a chicken without properly registering it would lead to a £5,000 fine or even jail time. 

AI image of man being arrested for chicken ownership

“6 months in jail or £5,000 fine if you do not register that you keep even 1 chicken in Scotland starts on September 1st 2024 it is for your own good!!!”

Viral image

Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it Half True.


The image began sharing widely online in April this year, after it was reported in the media that Scotland had implemented a registration for chickens, amid outbreaks of avian flu, known as bird flu. 

Reports also made their way around the world, including American Military News.

It went viral on social media this week after it was shared by prominent X accounts including Wall Street Silver, a user with more than a million followers, who has made posts associated with conspiracy theories around the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Covid-19 vaccine. The account also posts about US and global economic issues. 

The post was shared by numerous accounts claiming it was an example of government “tyranny” and linking it to the Great Reset conspiracy and the WEF

The post was shared by numerous accounts claiming it was an example of government “tyranny” and linking it to the Great Reset conspiracy and the WEF

The Great Reset is a WEF initiative that seeks to encourage governments across the world to use market capitalism to promote fairer societies and sustainability. It has been criticised for allegedly putting corporations at the forefront of global governance. 

Numerous connected conspiracies have been linked to the Great Reset, and becoming influential in some anti-government, right-wing and libertarian circles online. 

One widely-promoted conspiracy claim is that the WEF is attempting to control food supply as a way to influence populations around the world. 

Many of those who shared the AI image online relating to chickens made similar claims linking it to WEF and alleged attempts to control food supply. 

It is accurate to say that all chickens in Scotland will be required to be disclosed to a new Scottish Kept Bird Register. Previously, flocks of more than 50 birds had to be registered. 

The new rules include birds held in residential areas and bigger commercial flocks, including chickens, birds of prey and pigeons. Most caged pet birds kept inside the house, such as parrots, canaries or budgies are not required to register.

The register opens on 1 September 2024 in Scotland. The same rules are in place in Northern Ireland and will also apply in England and Wales, where there will be a deadline of October 1.

The Scottish and UK Governments said in a consultation that this was being implemented as a protection against outbreaks of bird flu across the UK, as well as to align with European Union trade regulations. The majority of respondents to the consultation did not support the move to register every bird kept outdoors. 

The Scottish Government confirmed to Ferret Fact Service that offences would be made under section 73 of the Animal Health Act 1981. These carry a maximum sentence of six months in prison and fines of £5,000. 

However, according to the Scottish Government, it is extremely unlikely that someone who fails to register one chicken will receive a £5,000 fine or a jail sentence.

Enforcement is primarily going to be done through verbal or written warnings, with prosecution considered a last resort. 

Ferret Fact Service verdict: Half True

It is true that Scotland will require anyone who keeps chicken outdoors to register it with a database. The Scottish Government has stated that this is aimed at reducing outbreaks of bird flu. While maximum punishments for not complying include jail or £5,000 under existing legislation, it appears unlikely that they will be used in every case. 

This claim is half true.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.

All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here.

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Cover image thanks to iStock/FACTORY16

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