Backyard Chickens

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 mightwant 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 raisingchickens is, can I raise chickens in my backyard?’ You know, legally. Iknow, I know. If you are slightly stubborn like I tend to be you are probablysaying to yourself, ‘this is my property, so surely I can do whatever Iwant on it’! Am I right? If that thought crossed your mind, or anythingat 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 keepchickens in your backyard while staying within the confines of the law. Thelast thing you want to do is to build or buy a chicken coop, purchase a fewstarter hens, buy some food, get the entire family excited about the adventurethat 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 andthat not only will you have to get rid of your new chicks, you will also haveto pony up for a fine they’ve decided to hand you. What a slap in theface!

Basic Types of Zoning and Chickens

There are a few different types of zoning that exist, each one havingdifferent laws and regulations on what you will and what you will not be ableto do. If your property happens to be zoned as agricultural, then you probablywon’t have any problem raising backyard chickens or constructing any type ofchicken coop you might want to have. Most people reading this article will notfit that description however, and will live on property that is probably zonedas residential. Don’t let that discourage you in regards tochicken-raising, as many, many residential areas will allow people to raise afew chickens on their property. The best thing that you can do to make sure isto contact your city offices and simply ask them if there are any ordinances onraising chickens in your backyard, and what they are. You will find typicallythat there are two different areas of laws that will affect what you are ableto do. First, there are often laws specific to the actual birds. How many birdsyou are able to have on your property (it might depend on the size of yourproperty), what sex they can be (roosters, anyone?), and in some cases,although not extremely common, you might even have to get written permissionfrom your neighbors! I know, that last one sounds a bit strange. Youhaven’t burned any bridges there, have you? The second set of laws haveto do with the type of housing you use for your chickens. How large can yourchicken coop be? Do you have to get a permit to build or even own a chickencoop 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 startraising chickens in your backyard, and honestly I believe I have found some ofthe more extreme laws that you might want to, as your own city ordinance mightinclude anything from having nearly no regulations at all, to maybe just one ortwo 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 yourcity just remember that joy of fresh eggs, chickens and the family experienceis 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 beenallowed here in my city. In regards to how many chickens can be kept here, aperson 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 twochickens, up to larger lots being allowed 12. There was a small public hearingwhere people were able to voice their opinions on the matter. For the most partit was thought that people being able to raise chickens in their backyard wasfine, and that there wasn’t really any detriment at all.

Even public officials mentioned that when it came to complaints about chickensfrom neighbors (which were extremely rare as it is), the complaints were neverabout noise, and never about a smell (neither of those things seemed to be anyproblem at all). The only complaints on file were for the occasional chickengetting 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 thefirst to complain about the slightest inconvenience, or really anything atall.

Whatever the case may be where you live, make sure you have it on goodauthority that you are able to keep chickens before going out and findingchicks and a chicken coop. Don’t take the advice of a friend or aneighbor or a real estate agent even someone near you that might be raisingchickens. Sometimes when laws are passed that ban certain things, those whowere 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 asimple law like this changed is often times much more simple than you mightthink. 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 lonecouncilman putting their foot down on people wanting to become moreself-sustaining. Be patient on the matter as this process doesn’t usuallyhappen overnight. It can takes months for the ball to get rolling, but you canbe a part of making great changes in your area if you stick with it. If you canfind others in your area that back you on this issue and will be willing towork with you, even better.


Nate Smith has been homesteading and dealing with backyard chickens for anumber of years. He encourages people who are looking to begin raising chickensto gather information first on the best breeds of chickens, types of chicken coops and requirements that gointo raising backyard chickens.

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