Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

Of Lairs And Laws

Considering raising chickens? Here are some tips for negotiating the poultry laws in your area.

Hen with chicks in a parking lot

Photo: key lime pie yumyum (flickr)

Chickens aren't just for country folk.

City Birds

Many city dwellers find keeping a few hens in their backyard to be one of the most rewarding things they have ever done. The animals are no noisier or messier than a dog or cat; you get fresh eggs; and, best of all, chickens provide countless hours of entertainment!

I love watching the chickens pecking around the backyard so intently — veritable feather bouquets moving around the plants. What’s more, taking care of chickens is really not very difficult. I find it very relaxing to go out and feed and water the birds after work as a way of winding down from a stress-filled day at the office.

Unfortunately, however, the legal status of raising chickens within city limits can be a little tricky. Here are some thoughts about negotiating the legal framework where you live.

Are Chickens Legal In My City?

Laws regarding keeping poultry vary considerably. While some cities let you have one rooster, many don’t let you have any roosters at all. Some have specific regulations about the chicken coop and its placement; others are more vague in describing the spaces birds live.

If you don’t know the rules in your area, a Google search for “municipal codes poultry (name of city)” is a good place to start. Of course, contacting City Hall to double-check before buying birds is also highly recommended.

Should you happen live in a city where chickens aren’t legal, there are many ahead of you who have successfully led the charge to get city laws changed. One excellent resource for activists is Urban Chickens, a site that is chock-full of useful information for the very new and wanna-be poultry keepers.

Three sunlit eggs against a white background.

Photo: bgottsab (flickr)

There's nothing like free eggs to win over the hearts of skeptical neighbors.

Birds Of A Feather

Since the issue of whether to allow chickens inside city limits is being debated in many places around the U.S., chances are someone in your city has had the same idea. Try searching for a Facebook group.

You can also call your local county extension agent and ask if there are any organized poultry groups in the area. If not, try asking for the names of a few people who keep chickens. You’ll find the chicken people tend to know each other, so your network can grow very quickly.

Many people with children have even joined a local 4-H poultry club and found city, suburban and country folk alike who love birds. A 4-H club is also a great way to get your children involved in chicken keeping and to get help if you have chicken questions.

Obey The Law Or Change The Law

Whether you agree with the laws in your area or not, my recommendation is to follow the current laws and work to change what you don’t like via legal avenues.

Going rogue, however, is pretty stressful if you are worried that someone might turn you in at any time if your beautiful little coop is discovered sitting illegally in the city limits.

Even if it is legal to have chickens in your city, it never hurts to take a dozen eggs to your neighbors from time to time to make them glad you’ve taken on chickens.

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Jana Wilson

Jana Wilson lives on 20 acres just outside of Bloomington, IN and writes her blog, The Armchair Homesteader. In addition to the chickens, she has ducks and a border collie named Winnie who helps her with her various efforts at becoming more self-sufficient.

View all posts by this author »

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