Can I Keep Chickens in My Backyard?
If you have made the decision that you would like to try your hand at keeping backyard chickens, there are a few considerations that you might
want to make first, and although you have probably thought of some of these,
there just might be a few that might come as a surprise.
Legality of Raising Backyard Chickens
Probably the very first question you should ask yourself about raising
chickens is, can I raise chickens in my backyard?’ You know, legally. I
know, I know. If you are slightly stubborn like I tend to be you are probably
saying to yourself, ‘this is my property, so surely I can do whatever I
want on it’! Am I right? If that thought crossed your mind, or anything
at all along those lines, trust me, I know where you’re coming from.
Here’s the deal.
If you live within the boundaries of a city as most (but not all) of us do,
you will want to start out by getting info on whether or not you can even keep
chickens in your backyard while staying within the confines of the law. The
last thing you want to do is to build or buy a chicken coop, purchase a few
starter hens, buy some food, get the entire family excited about the adventure
that lies ahead, only to have a bureaucrat pay you a visit and let you know
(kindly or otherwise), that what you are doing against a city ordinance and
that not only will you have to get rid of your new chicks, you will also have
to pony up for a fine they’ve decided to hand you. What a slap in the
Basic Types of Zoning and Chickens
There are a few different types of zoning that exist, each one having
different laws and regulations on what you will and what you will not be able
to do. If your property happens to be zoned as agricultural, then you probably
won’t have any problem raising backyard chickens or constructing any type of
chicken coop you might want to have. Most people reading this article will not
fit that description however, and will live on property that is probably zoned
as residential. Don’t let that discourage you in regards to
chicken-raising, as many, many residential areas will allow people to raise a
few chickens on their property. The best thing that you can do to make sure is
to contact your city offices and simply ask them if there are any ordinances on
raising chickens in your backyard, and what they are. You will find typically
that there are two different areas of laws that will affect what you are able
to do. First, there are often laws specific to the actual birds. How many birds
you are able to have on your property (it might depend on the size of your
property), what sex they can be (roosters, anyone?), and in some cases,
although not extremely common, you might even have to get written permission
from your neighbors! I know, that last one sounds a bit strange. You
haven’t burned any bridges there, have you? The second set of laws have
to do with the type of housing you use for your chickens. How large can your
chicken coop be? Do you have to get a permit to build or even own a chicken
coop in your backyard? Will this chicken coop need to be inspected?
I hope I haven’t scared you away from the idea of even wanting to start
raising chickens in your backyard, and honestly I believe I have found some of
the more extreme laws that you might want to, as your own city ordinance might
include anything from having nearly no regulations at all, to maybe just one or
two of these issues, which might not seem like much of a problem at all.
Remember, as you are going into this and inquiring about the local laws of your
city just remember that joy of fresh eggs, chickens and the family experience
is all very much worth it in the end!
A Personal Example on Chicken Keeping Laws
It has been a number years now that raising backyard chickens has been
allowed here in my city. In regards to how many chickens can be kept here, a
person can keep up to 12 chickens, depending on the size of your property.
Anywhere from house lots as small as 5,000 square feet keeping just two
chickens, up to larger lots being allowed 12. There was a small public hearing
where people were able to voice their opinions on the matter. For the most part
it was thought that people being able to raise chickens in their backyard was
fine, and that there wasn’t really any detriment at all.
Even public officials mentioned that when it came to complaints about chickens
from neighbors (which were extremely rare as it is), the complaints were never
about noise, and never about a smell (neither of those things seemed to be any
problem at all). The only complaints on file were for the occasional chicken
getting loose, which was always promptly gathered and put back in its place.
I’m sure we can all point to that neighbor of ours that would be the
first to complain about the slightest inconvenience, or really anything at
Whatever the case may be where you live, make sure you have it on good
authority that you are able to keep chickens before going out and finding
chicks and a chicken coop. Don’t take the advice of a friend or a
neighbor or a real estate agent even someone near you that might be raising
chickens. Sometimes when laws are passed that ban certain things, those who
were practicing before the law came into effect are exempt from the new law;
they are grandfathered in.
What if My City Does Not Allow Backyard Chickens?
If you find that your municipality does not allow raising chickens,
don’t panic just yet. All might not be lost. The process of getting a
simple law like this changed is often times much more simple than you might
think. You might be asked to attend a city council meeting to state your case,
and often times that will be enough for the city to take a vote on the issue,
and I think often times you will find that no one wants to be the lone
councilman putting their foot down on people wanting to become more
self-sustaining. Be patient on the matter as this process doesn’t usually
happen overnight. It can takes months for the ball to get rolling, but you can
be a part of making great changes in your area if you stick with it. If you can
find others in your area that back you on this issue and will be willing to
work with you, even better.
Nate Smith has been homesteading and dealing with backyard chickens for a
number of years. He encourages people who are looking to begin raising chickens
to gather information first on the best breeds of chickens, types of chicken coops and requirements that go
into raising backyard chickens.
submit your own Poultry Article
return from Backyard Chickens to My Chicken House Home Page