The Legal Realities of Backyard Chickens

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    If you read the news you will see that backyard chicken laws are being changed and adopted all over the country. As people fight to start keeping chickens or even to keep the ones they already have, the law has been the focus of many chicken owners. While from the outside looking in, it may seem black and white, the fact of the matter is that there is more to many laws than meets the eye. The law is never as simple as yes, you can or no, you cannot have chickens. There is much more to it than that, making following the letter of the law very complicated in some cases.

    Before acquiring chickens, be sure to find out whether or not they are allowed in your area. It may be possible that a friend in a neighboring town has chickens and while that might cause you to think you, too, can have chickens, remember there is nothing to guarantee town regulations will be the same from one place to the next. Laws from state to state will vary, as will those from county to county and town to town. Even housing areas such as subdivisions may have their own covenants by which you must abide. Knowing the laws that apply to your town or city, even if you may not like or agree with them, is essential in determining whether or not you can proceed with chicken ownership.
    Once you have determined whether or not chickens are legal, you need to delve into the details of the law. Regulations regarding chickens may include the minimum amount of property required to keep chickens, or how many chickens can be kept based on property size. Roosters also may not be allowed due to noise ordinances. Another potential regulation is the type of housing you can provide. While ramshackle coops have plenty of functionality and can get the job done just fine, it is possible that the neighbors will not find them aesthetically pleasing and thus your coop, too, will have to meet certain guidelines.

    Also on the list of rules are things such as distance of a coop from a dwelling (be it yours or your neighbor's) and whether or not slaughtering of chickens is allowed. If slaughtering is acceptable, the location in which it can be done may be regulated, such as out of sight of neighbors. Included in regulations as well might be nuisance clauses, which address issues such as health concerns, noise, smell, cleanliness, and manure disposal. You may also be faced with regulations regarding feed storage.


    If you feel that you're up for creating a chicken environment within the letter of the law but need more information on applicable laws, a good place to start is with your local government. Give them a call or visit in person and stop at the information desk, asking to be directed to the proper department. Contacting your local animal control agency may be of assistance as well. In your quest to gather information, do not be surprised if you come across a requirement to get permits and pay fees. While nothing good in life comes easy, in the case of backyard chickens, it also does not come free.

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