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Biological safety and use of animals
Laboratory animals



adopted by the Standing Committee on 22 June 1999
(In accordance with Article 9, paragraph 3 of the Convention, this Recommendation
will enter into force on 22 December 1999)

Table of Contents













(1) The Standing Committee of the European Convention on the Protection of Animals kept for Farming Purposes,

(2) Having regard to its responsibility under Article 9 of the Convention for the elaboration and adoption of recommendations to the Parties containing detailed provisions for the implementation of the principles set out in Chapter I of the Convention based on scientific knowledge concerning the various species of animals;

(3) Aware also of the established practice in the implementation of the principles of animal welfare set out in Articles 3 - 7 of the Convention;

(4) Aware that the basic requirements for the health and welfare of livestock consist of good stockmanship, husbandry methods appropriate to the biological needs of the animals and suitable environmental factors, so that the conditions under which ducks are kept fulfil the needs for appropriate nutrition and methods of feeding, freedom of movement, physical comfort; the need to perform natural behaviour in connection with getting up, lying down, resting and sleeping postures, wing-flapping, walking, running, bathing, preening, eating, drinking, defecating, adequate social contact and egg-laying; the need for protection against adverse climatic conditions, injury, fear and distress, infestation and disease or behavioural disorder; as well as other essential needs as may be identified by established practice or scientific knowledge;

(5) Concerned that developments in breeding and biotechnology shall not adversely affect the health and welfare of domestic ducks;

(6) Bearing in mind that it is an obligation of the Committee to reconsider any recommendation when relevant new knowledge is available and therefore wishing to encourage the continuation of research by all Parties with the object of making optimum use of new techniques to ensure that the needs of the ducks are met and hence that their health and welfare are good;

(7) Considering that, in the light of established experience and scientific knowledge about the biological needs of ducks, some methods of husbandry at present in commercial use, often fail to meet all essential needs and hence result in poor welfare;

(8) Bearing in mind that the environment and management have to fulfil the animal's biological needs rather than trying to "adapt" the animals to the environment by procedures such as mutilations;

(9) Considering therefore that strong and continuous efforts have to be made to adapt existing systems and methods and to develop new husbandry systems and methods in line with the Convention so that the needs of the animals can be met;

(10) Considering that further research on the health and welfare of ducks should be encouraged and that the relevant provisions in the Recommendation shall be reviewed in the light of new scientific evidence;

(11) Has adopted the following Recommendation concerning domestic ducks:


Article 1

1. This Recommendation shall apply to domestic ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) kept for the production of meat, for breeding or for any other farming purpose.

2. Special provisions contained in the Appendix to this Recommendation constitute an integral part thereof.

Article 2

No duck taken from the wild shall be kept for farming purposes.


Article 3

When considering husbandry practices the biological characteristics of the domestic duck (Anas platyrhynchos) presented above should be borne in mind.

a. All breeds of domestic duck, the Muscovy being a separate species, are descended from the wild mallard Anas platyrhynchos and have been domesticated for about 2 000 years. Originally domesticated for use as live decoys, they are now kept primarily for meat and egg production but also for ornamental purposes. Intensive selection over the last 100 years has led to differentiation between egg-laying breeds, such as the Khaki Campbell, and meat breeds, such as the Pekin and Rouen, although all breeds retain many biological characteristics of their wild ancestors.

b. Under wild conditions, the mallard is largely aquatic, living socially in large flocks during autumn and winter, but dispersing into pairs during the breeding season. The pairs form during the winter and after the spring migration to the breeding ground, the flock spreads out and the pairs become socially isolated. As spring and summer progress, the males flock together and are joined later by the females, when rearing is completed.

c. Pair formation is reinforced by courtship displays and vocalisations. Copulation is preceded by elaborate social courtship by both the male and female. The male often directs courtship at many females, pursuing and attempting to mate. The nest site is chosen by the female and she lays an average of 8-10 eggs per clutch, which she incubates for 27-28 days. There may be 2 or 3 clutches per year. During incubation of the last clutch, the drake departs to the moulting ground. The female rears the young until they can fly, the ducklings learning from the mother's actions. Also the down feathers of the ducklings are oiled through contact with their mother's oily feathers which helps to protect the ducklings when coming into contact with water. After rearing the young the female duck also moves to the moulting area.

d. Mallards are omnivorous, feeding on seeds, plants, insects and worms. They have webbed feet and feed by foraging on land or by dabbling the beak along water which is then expelled through lamellae on each side of the beak, straining out planktonic organisms. The beak is richly innervated and very well supplied with sense organs. In deeper water, ducks may 'up-end' or even dive. Mallards fly, swim and walk efficiently.

However, the heavier domestic birds, in particular those selected for meat production, may be unable to fly, have difficulty in walking and be subject to leg disorders.

e. Ducks spend considerable time performing complex preening behaviours. After feeding followed by bathing, ducks carry out a variety of shaking movements to remove water. Cleaning movements then remove foreign bodies and an elaborate sequence is carried out to distribute oil on the feathers from the uropygial gland above the tail. This is necessary for waterproofing and heat regulation. Preening is often followed by sleeping for a short period, and the sequence of feeding, bathing, preening and sleeping may be repeated a number of times during the day. Important elements of bathing are the immersion of the head and wings, and shaking water from these over the body.

f. Domestic ducks have retained many anti-predator responses such as freezing, alarm-calling, attempts to take off or run rapidly away from danger, and vigorous struggling if caught. Such behavioural responses may be associated with, or replaced by, emergency physiological responses. Human approach or contact often elicits such responses.


Article 4

1. Any person who owns ducks, or for the time being has ducks under his or her control, and every person engaged in the keeping of ducks shall, according to their responsibilities, ensure that every reasonable step is taken to safeguard the health and welfare of the birds.

2. The ducks shall be cared for by a sufficient number of personnel with adequate knowledge of ducks and of the husbandry system used to be able to:

(a) recognise whether or not the birds are in good health;

(b) understand the significance of behavioural changes;

(c) appreciate the suitability of the total environment for the birds' health and welfare.

The stockman must be aware of the role of animal welfare in the daily work with birds. The issuing of a certificate of competence for the stockman by the competent authorities should be considered.

3. Ducks shall be caught and handled only by competent trained staff, working under the direct supervision of the stockman and in accordance with Article 19.

4. The size or density of the group shall not be too large with respect to the possibility to supervise the group and a large group shall not be set up unless it is reasonably certain that the stockman can safeguard the welfare of the birds.

Article 5

1. In order to develop a positive relationship between man and bird, there shall be frequent, calm and close approach from an early age such that the bird is not unduly frightened.

2. Young ducks should be given appropriate experience of management practices (e.g. particular feeding and watering systems) and environmental conditions (e.g. natural light, sufficient water to fulfil biological requirements, litter) to enable them to adapt to the husbandry systems which they will encounter later in life.

Article 6

Ducks bred for farming purposes shall not be used to achieve any other goal, including public spectacles or demonstrations, if such use is likely to be detrimental to their health and welfare.

Article 7

1. The flock or group shall be thoroughly inspected at least once a day, preferably more frequently, to monitor the physical condition of the animals. In carrying out such inspections, it should be borne in mind that while there should not be unnecessary noise or disturbance, young ducklings in particular respond to being called or hearing human voices. A source of light strong enough for each bird to be seen clearly shall be available for the purpose of this inspection. Such inspections shall be made independently of any automatic surveillance equipment. In addition to the thorough inspection the flock or group should be checked at other times during the day.

2. For thorough overall inspection of the flock or group of birds, special attention shall be paid to bodily condition, movements and other behaviour patterns, respiration, condition of plumage, eyes, skin, beak, legs and feet; attention shall also be paid to the presence of external parasites, to the condition of droppings, to feed and water consumption and to growth. Where appropriate the birds shall be encouraged to walk or bathe. Mortality, culling and, if possible, morbidity levels shall be closely monitored and post-mortem examinations should be carried out regularly. Records shall be kept of the results.

3. Individual examination shall be made of those birds for which the overall inspection indicates this to be necessary.

Article 8

1. At the inspection it must be borne in mind that the healthy bird has sounds and activity appropriate to its age, sex, breed or type, clear bright eyes, good posture, vigorous movements if unduly disturbed, clean healthy skin, good plumage, well-formed shanks and feet, effective walking, bathing and preening, and active feeding and drinking behaviour.

2. If the ducks are apparently not in good health, or if they are showing obvious signs of behavioural aberrations, the stockman shall take steps without delay to establish the cause and shall take appropriate remedial action. If the immediate action taken by the stockman is not effective, a veterinarian must be consulted, and, if necessary, expert advice must be sought on other technical factors involved. If the cause is traced to an environmental factor within the enclosure or accommodation which it is not essential to remedy immediately this shall be corrected when the enclosure or accommodation is emptied and before the next batch of ducks is put in.

3. Injured, sick or distressed birds shall be treated without delay and if necessary be separated from the rest of the flock in suitable accommodation available for this purpose or killed in accordance with Article 24.


Article 9

1. Professional advice on health and welfare aspects should be sought when a new enclosure or accommodation for ducks is planned or when existing enclosures or accommodation are modified in accordance with the legislation in force.

2. New methods of husbandry and new design of equipment or accommodation for ducks should be comprehensively tested from the point of view of health and welfare and, when tests are undertaken, shall not be put into commercial use unless found to be satisfactory, in accordance with a procedure laid down by the competent authority.

Article 10

When new accommodation for ducks is planned, a suitable site shall be selected taking into consideration the risks from outside environmental factors such as noise, light, vibration, atmospheric pollution and dangers from predators. Where appropriate, advantage shall be taken of natural features to provide shelter from predators and from adverse weather conditions.

Article 11

1. The design, construction and maintenance of enclosures, buildings and equipment for ducks shall be such that they:

- allow the fulfilment of essential biological requirements of ducks, in particular in respect of water, and the maintenance of good health;
- avoid barren environments;
- do not cause traumatic injuries to the birds;
- limit the risk of disease, disorders manifested by behavioural changes, injuries caused by birds to each other and, as far as possible, contamination of the birds by bad water quality;
- avoid sharp corners, projections and materials which may be harmful to the birds;
- provide protection from predators and adverse weather conditions, and, as far as possible, from rodents and wild birds;
- allow for easy maintenance of good conditions of hygiene, air and water quality;
- allow, without difficulty, a thorough inspection of all birds;
- facilitate management of the birds.

2. Access to an outside run and water for bathing are necessary for ducks, as water birds, to fulfil their biological requirements. Where such access is not possible, the ducks must be provided with water facilities sufficient in number and so designed to allow water to cover the head and be taken up by the beak so that the duck can shake water over the body without difficulty. The ducks should be allowed to dip their heads under water.

3. Water facilities should be constructed over a well drained area and shall always be kept clean.

4. Feeding and watering equipment shall be designed, constructed, placed, operated and maintained in such a way that:

- it minimizes contamination of food and water ;
- all birds have sufficient access to it to avoid undue competition between individuals ;
- it does not cause or result in injury to birds ;
- it operates in all weather conditions ;
- the provision of water and the overall consumption of feed can be controlled.

5. Young ducks must have free access to shelter at all times and all ducks shall have access to shelter against adverse weather conditions. Buildings in which birds are confined shall be constructed and maintained in such a way as to minimize any risk of fire. Materials should be fire resistant or treated with flame retardants; all appropriate measures shall be taken to allow for immediate action in order to protect birds, e.g. installing an alarm system and elaborating an evacuation plan for the birds. Electrical equipment and wiring shall be well maintained.

6. Where ducks are housed, floors shall be of a suitable design and material and not cause discomfort, distress or injury to the birds. The floor shall include an area of a sufficient size to enable all birds to rest simultaneously and covered with an appropriate bedding material.

7. Ducks shall not be kept in individual cages.

Exceptionally, breeding birds may be kept in cages as part of special testing programmes, provided that the cage allow for the needs of the animal to be met. Where current cages do not allow for the needs of the birds to be fulfilled, they can only be permitted until they are worn out, or become otherwise useless.

8. In the case of ducks kept for breeding, an adequate number of nesting facilities of a suitable design and size shall be available.

Nest boxes and resting areas shall not be so high above floor level that birds have difficulty or risk injury in using them.


Article 12

1. When considering the establishment or replacement of a flock, the choice of the strain of bird should be made with the aim of reducing health and welfare problems.

2. Measures shall be taken to minimize aggression and stress, especially when new groups are formed but also to ensure that stability of the group is maintained.

3. The space allowance for birds shall be such that their demands on the whole environment, their age, sex, live weight, health and their need to move around freely and to perform normal behaviour including social behaviour of the species be satisfied. The size of the group shall be such that it does not lead to behavioural or other disorders or injuries.

4. Adequate litter shall be provided and maintained, as far as possible, in a dry, friable state in order to help the birds to keep themselves clean and to enrich the environment.

5. Frequent checks shall be made to ensure that the environment is not infested by parasites or other harmful organisms.

6. Routine or systematic use of drugs to compensate for poor hygienic conditions or management practices shall not be allowed.

Article 13

1. When ducks are kept indoors without free access to an outer enclosure, the accommodation shall be kept so that the ambient temperature, the air velocity, the relative humidity, the dust level and other atmospheric conditions do not adversely affect the health or welfare of the birds. The stocking density of groups shall, when they are set up, take account of ventilation capacities of the buildings in order to maintain adequate temperatures to prevent heat stress, in particular during hot weather. Moreover, appropriate measures such as cooling of buildings, shall be taken when the weather is exceptionally hot.

2. The ventilation system, and facilities for storing and handling litter and manure shall be designed, maintained and managed to prevent the exposure of birds to gases such as ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide in concentrations which cause discomfort to the birds or which are detrimental to their health.

3. Where the health and welfare of ducks depend on automatic or other mechanical systems of ventilation, an effective alarm system shall be installed and arrangements shall be made to ensure continued adequate ventilation in the event of power or equipment failure.

4. Where buildings need to be locked, arrangements shall be made to allow rapid entry in case of emergency.

Article 14

1. Young ducklings should not be subjected to conditions which cause either panting due to overheating or prolonged huddling and feather-ruffling due to underheating.

2. During long periods of sub-zero temperatures under free range conditions a freely accessible shelter must be provided for ducks. The shelter shall be large enough to contain all birds at the same time, be maintained at moderate temperatures and contain suitable bedding.

3. In free range systems, enclosed range areas should be used in rotation, and flocks moved before the land becomes contaminated with organisms that can cause or carry disease to an extent which could seriously prejudice the health of the birds. Portable houses and drinking facilities shall be moved when necessary to avoid continuously muddy conditions.

4. If ducks are to be driven from one place to another this should be done quietly and slowly.

Article 15

The sound level shall, as far as practicable, be minimized and constant or sudden noise shall be avoided. Ventilation fans, feeding machinery or other equipment shall be constructed, placed, operated and maintained in such a way that it causes the least possible noise, both directly inside the accommodation and indirectly through the structure of the accommodation itself.

Article 16

1. All buildings shall have light levels sufficient to allow all ducks to see one another and to be seen clearly, to investigate their surroundings visually and to show normal levels of activity. As far as practicable, natural light shall be provided. In this case, light apertures should be arranged in such a way that light is distributed evenly within the accommodation.

2. After the first days of conditioning, the lighting regime shall be such as to prevent health and behavioural problems. Therefore, it shall follow a 24 hour rhythm and include a sufficient uninterrupted dark period, as a guideline approximately a third of the day.

3. A twilight period should be given in the dimming of lights in order to avoid disturbance or injury.

Article 17

1. All ducks shall have appropriate access to adequate, nutritious, balanced and hygienic feed each day and to adequate supplies of water of suitable quality at all times. In the case of birds which have difficulty in feeding or drinking, appropriate measures shall be taken in accordance with Article 8 paragraph 3.

2. Methods of feeding and feed additives which cause injury or distress to the ducks or may result in development of physical conditions detrimental to health and welfare shall not be permitted.

3. Sudden changes in the type or quantity of feed and feeding procedures shall be avoided except in case of emergency.

This shall not apply in the case of therapeutic or prophylactic treatment administered on the instructions of a veterinarian.

Article 18

All automatic or other mechanical equipment upon which birds depend for their health and welfare must be thoroughly checked at least once daily. Where defects are discovered these must be rectified immediately, or, if this is impracticable, other appropriate steps must be taken to safeguard the health and welfare of the ducks until the defect can be rectified.

Article 19

1. Collection times shall be co-ordinated with production requirements at the slaughterhouse in order to limit the time birds are held in transport containers/crates.

2. Ducks shall not be entirely deprived of food or water before transport, except in the case of transport to a slaughterhouse which is close to the point of production.

3. Before de-populating enclosures or houses, any hindrance from fixtures and fittings, especially sharp edges or protrusions, must be removed. Particular care shall be taken when moving birds within or from an enclosure or house to ensure that no bird is injured by the equipment or the handling process.
Where possible, birds shall be encouraged to walk and handling reduced to a minimum.

4. Care must be taken in catching birds in order to avoid panic and subsequent injury to and smothering of the birds, for example by reducing the intensity of the light or using a blue light.

5. Unfit birds, even if they have reached slaughter weight, must not be sent for slaughter. Any bird which is unable to stand on both legs shall not be transported but must be humanely killed on the farm in accordance with the provisions of Article 24.

6. Birds shall not be carried hanging head downwards or by the legs alone. Their weight shall be supported by a hand placed under their body and an arm around the body to keep the wings in the closed position. Heavy birds shall be carried individually and put into containers/crates one by one. Transport crates with large openings shall be used.

7. The distance birds are carried shall be minimised, for example by bringing transport containers/crates as close to the birds as possible.

8. The containers shall not be overstocked and must be well ventilated. During the time the birds are held in the containers, they shall be protected from bad weather and excessively hot or cold conditions.

9. Every effort shall be made to encourage the development of improved systems for handling large numbers of birds.

Article 20

1. Those parts of the accommodation with which the ducks come into contact shall be thoroughly cleaned, and, where appropriate, disinfected every time the accommodation has been emptied and before new birds are brought in. Accommodations, enclosures and all equipment, including facilities for providing water, shall be kept satisfactorily clean as long as birds are present.

2. Any dead bird must be removed from enclosures and shelters promptly and hygienically in accordance with existing legislation.

Article 21

When there is a risk of attack by predators, measures shall be taken to minimize the risk in accordance with domestic law and other legal instruments for the protection of animals or for the conservation of threatened species.


Article 22

1. Breeding or breeding programmes which cause or are likely to cause suffering or harm to any of the birds involved shall not be practised. In particular, birds whose genotype has been modified for production purposes shall not be kept under commercial farm conditions unless it has been demonstrated by scientific studies of animal welfare that the birds can be kept under such conditions without detriment to their health or welfare.

2. In breeding programmes, particular attention shall be paid to criteria conducive to the improvement of birds' health and welfare, as well as to production criteria. Therefore, the conservation or development of breeds or strains of birds which would limit or reduce animal welfare problems shall be encouraged.

Article 23

1. For the purpose of this Recommendation, "mutilation" means a procedure carried out for other than therapeutic or diagnostic purposes in single birds and resulting in damage to or the loss of a sensitive part of the body or the alteration of bone structure, or causing a significant amount of pain or distress.

2. The mutilation of ducks shall be prohibited, with the exception of tagging for identification purposes which must be done in such a way as to avoid unnecessary distress. Methods causing less distress than tagging shall be promoted.

3. Feathers, including down, shall not be plucked from live birds.


Article 24

1. If ducks are ill or injured to such an extent that treatment is no longer feasible and transport would cause additional suffering, they must be killed on the spot. This must be done without causing undue pain, agitation or other forms of distress and without delay by a person properly trained and experienced in the techniques of killing except in emergency when such a person is not immediately available.

2. The methods used shall either:

a. cause immediate loss of consciousness and death, or

b. rapidly render the bird insensible to pain and distress, until death supervenes, or

c. cause the death of a bird which is anaesthetized or effectively stunned.

Drowning and suffocation shall not be permitted. As ducks are not as susceptible to carbon dioxide as certain other birds, the use of carbon dioxide shall be avoided.

Methods which may be used for killing unwanted ducklings and embryos in hatcheries are set out in the Appendix.

3. The person responsible for the killing shall ensure that for each duck the requirements of paragraph 2 are fulfilled and that the animal is dead.


Article 25

This Recommendation shall be reviewed within 5 years of coming into force, and, if appropriate, amended in particular according to any new scientific knowledge, in particular in respect to the provision of water and to stocking densities, which becomes available.


1. Ducklings which are not intended for rearing shall be killed as soon as possible.

2. Ducklings should be killed by using a mechanically operated apparatus approved for this purpose in accordance with national legislation, designed and operated in such a way as to ensure that all ducklings are killed immediately even if they are handled in large numbers.

3. Only gases or gas mixtures which do not induce respiratory distress to the birds during induction may be used. The procedures shall be in accordance with Article 24 and approved under the legislation in force in each country.

Measures shall be taken to ensure rapid death and to avoid suffocation under other ducks by putting birds in a single layer and monitoring gas concentrations.

4. To kill any living embryo instantaneously, all hatchery waste shall be treated without delay using the mechanical apparatus mentioned above or any living embryo must be killed without delay in accordance with Article 24.