Can I Have Chickens In My Town? The Ultimate Guide
The short answer: It depends on your area’s local ordinances. You’ll either be allowed chickens, be allowed chickens with restrictions (e.g. only allowed 4 birds), or be totally banned from owning chickens.
But there is still hope. Let’s find out if you can raise backyard chickens in your area.
A. Research Chicken Laws Online
If you’re lucky, a quick search online will tell you whether you can or can’t have backyard poultry in your area.
The whole idea is that you are not looking for approval, you are looking for denial: something that states that specifically BANS backyard chickens in your town.
If you can’t find anything, there is a good chance that you are allowed!
1. Find your local municipal code online
Open up google or any search engine, and type in ‘your city’ + ‘municipal code’ into the search area. The first results are usually the ones you’re looking for.
If you’re having trouble finding it, you can always call and ask them for the website directly. Once you have found it, open it up and get ready to search through it.
2. Open The ‘Animals’ Or ‘Zoning’ Section Of The Code
Once you’re inside press ‘control + f’ (or ‘command + f’ on a mac) to bring up the search bar – then type in either ‘animals’ or ‘zoning’ – these are the sections you want to check.
If you’re having trouble locating the search bar, make sure to check both the top and bottom corners for it to appear – it will show in different spots depending on the type of internet browser you are on.
3. Search Within The ‘Animals’ Or ‘Zoning’ Sections For Any Restrictions Related To Chickens
Once you’re with the ‘animals’ or ‘zoning’ sections, perform the search command again (pressing ‘control + f’ or ‘command + f’ but this time type in ‘poultry’, ‘chicken’ or ‘livestock‘ into the search bar to see if anything appears on the page.
You are looking for anything that says that you CAN NOT raise chickens in your zoning area or municipal.
If you CAN NOT find anything like this, you are good to go, however, it’s always a good idea to call the municipal office or the county clerk to double-check the zoning laws and policy.
Most of the time you will not be able to find anything in your town’s code, which means you are good to go!
Here is an example of a town (La Mesa, CA) that does not allow backyard chickens:
B. Visiting Your Local City Hall Or Zoning Office
Sometimes it’s hard to find the zoning regulations or zoning laws online, and your next best option is to visit your local city office.
We recommend visiting as you can get a current and up-to-date copy of the “ordinances” which will come in handy in the future if any disputes arise with neighbors.
Ask someone at the office the following questions:
- Am I allowed to own backyard chickens at my property?
- Do I need a permit to keep chickens? if so, how do I apply and what is the waiting period?
- Are there any restrictions on the number of chicken I am allowed to keep?
- What, if any, restrictions are there on chicken breeds?
- What, if any, restrictions are there on building a chicken coop on my property?
C. Asking Your Landlord If You Can Raise Backyard Chickens
If you live in a rental property, you have to go through the lease restrictions. If you don’t have a contract, check the homeowners association rules or you can go directly to your landlord and ask permission. It doesn’t hurt to let the immediate community members that you’re planning to have backyard poultry.
This is especially important if you live in an apartment because hens can make noise (1).
Laying hens — at their loudest — have about the same decibel level as human conversation (60 to 70 decibels).
Plus, there is a slight smell so keeping them a secret is usually a very tough endeavor.
For peace of mind and to be 100% sure that everyone is happy, go ahead and ask your landlord permission, even if the rental agreement states that pets are allowed.
Make sure you’re prepared to sell it to them however, just in case they don’t like the idea initially. Here’s your persuasion ammo:
Make sure that you point out the following:
- The coop will not change the landscape in any way
- The chickens will never be allowed inside the house
- Have a copy of the local ordinances
- Highlight the benefits that chickens will bring to the property
- As a last resort, you could offer them some free, organic free-range eggs?
What You Can Do When You’re Not Allowed Chickens…
It can be heartbreaking to find out that you’re not allowed to have backyard chickens in your town but this doesn’t mean you should give up.
In fact, more and more cities around the country are slowly coming around to the fact that allowing residents to raise chickens results in far more positive rather than negative effects for society as a whole!
“Avoid Going Rogue!”
If you’ve discovered that you are banned from owning chickens in your city the thought of going rogue (i.e. doing it anyway and trying to fly under the radar) may cross your mind. We don’t recommend doing this for a few reasons.
Raising chickens (legally) is an awesome experience, and doing it under the radar will take the fun out of it and make it lonely.
This could ruin the experience for you and you’ll likely be turned off in the future when local rules are changed for the better (which they will be eventually).
You could also end up with a hefty fine and have your birds confiscated (without compensation) on top of this any current chicken legalization campaigns in your town may be affected, meaning you potentially just ‘ruined it for everyone.’
How To Get Local Laws Changed
Many people have been successful in reverse chicken restriction laws in cities around America, which means there is a good chance you can too! Here are some tips you can follow:
1. Take Advantage Of Vague Local Ordinances
Research and find out if local laws are specific or not, and if they are not, there is a good chance you’ll be able to take advantage of them. For example, an ordinance that restricts ‘Livestock’ but doesn’t specifically prohibit ‘poultry’ is effectively a loophole to exploit!
2. Create Chicken Advocate Groups
Create pro-chicken groups and rally support to build the local voice and influence of the group. The more people you can get together the better, as local ordinances often change with community backing.
Start a Facebook group and open a thread in your local ordinances section around the issue of allowing chickens and ask others if they have attempted, or are in the process of attempting to change the local laws.
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel
Search and find any nearby towns that allow chickens and get in contact with a member of their planning board. Ask them about their policies and regulations about allowing backyard flocks, coop building, and other zoning ordinances and find out how it came to fruition.
Get a copy of the correspondence and use it to draft a similar ordinance that is appropriate to your town.
4. Prepare A ‘Pro-Chicken’ Info Pack And Get On The Agenda
Put together an information handout based on the information you have collected above. Make sure to list facts, references and include maps, photographs, and any letters of support and community groups that have formed.
Contact your city council and request for the issue to be placed on the agenda for the next meeting.
5. Rally Community Support And Attend The Meeting
It’s a great idea at this point to find out exactly how the meetings work (how they are structured) as there will be a time where public comments are allowed. At these times you may submit items for discussion, and raise strong points for your cause.
Here’s what to expect during the meeting:
7. Be patient & persistent
Don’t expect it to happen overnight – it will likely take months – however with consistency, community support, and a strong pro-chicken argument, the council will see that its people are serious about allowing chickens and you will eventually succeed.
Don’t risk having the loss of having your chickens and coop confiscated, and pay a huge fine. Hopefully, you did not have to go as far as fighting to change local ordinances, however, if you did: good luck!
If you know anyone who is planning to have backyard chickens in an urban neighborhood, make sure to share this article.
You can legally have four chickens, but it depends on which state and city you’re in. For instance, if you reside in New York City, there’s no limit yet you will need to secure a permit. If you’re in the Albany area, keeping chickens (no matter how many) are prohibited.
Yes, neighbors can complain about chickens. They will call or write a formal complaint to an animal control representative. To mitigate the issue, go to your local municipal office and get a copy of their policies and thoroughly check if you’re violating any of the laws. If you are compliant, you can talk with your neighbor and provide the documents to them.
If you get caught illegally raising backyard chickens, you could face fines and possible criminal charges. Your chicks and chickens will be confiscated (which will suck) and you’ll likely have to rip down your coop
- The 7 False Myths About Urban Chickens. Retrieved From: https://www.rupehort.com/_ccLib/attachments/pages/Urban+Chicken+Info_7+False+Myths+About+Urban+Chickens_110214.pdf
Alex lives in the sustainability capital of Australia (Byron Bay) where the local community thrives and strongly supports self-sufficient living and green tech entrepreneurship. He began Eco Peanut in 2014 with the mission to spread bite sized sustainability advice to the masses.