This article is dedicated to my dad’s friend Sam who was unfortunately the inspiration for it. I hope that you will take the time to read the entire article and make a copy of the questions to keep notes on to help you avoid the issues he had that lead to us gaining 5 new chickens in our flock. Thank you Sam!
1: Am I allowed to have chickens where I live?
This is a question that my seem a little silly to some people who live in more rural areas, but for those who live in town or the suburbs, this can be a real issue.
Why is this so important?
This is the very first question you should ask yourself when looking at getting any type of livestock, but we are going to focus on chickens because they are the most popular small farm animal in America. If you have a small flock, under 15, you can keep them on less than 1/4 acre and be just fine; however, there are some areas in towns and suburbs that don’t allow “small farm animals”. You always want to check with your town or borough council about what the regulations are in your area. Make sure to ask specifically about “small farm animals” and if they categorize chickens as such.
Even if you do check with the council first, you can still be unintentionally mislead by their answer to weather or not you are allowed to keep chickens. This is what happened to poor Sam and his family. They were told yes to this question and then retroactively told the answers to the 4 other questions after they had already purchased the chickens.
2. How many Hens and Roosters am I allowed to have?
Many municipalities will allow you to have chickens, but don’t allow you to keep “breading stock”. This simply means that someone on the council at some point got woken up by a rooster and didn’t want them around…or they just really don’t understand the biology of a chicken or any livestock you are keeping for egg collection.
Wait…don’t you need a rooster to have eggs?
It is a common misconception among laypeople that you must have a rooster to get eggs. This is simply not true. Chickens lay eggs weather there is a rooster or not. All the rooster determines is whether or not a baby chick will result from that egg. The eggs come with or without them.
So then why do you need a rooster?
If you are allowed by your municipality to keep a rooster, I always suggest keeping one. They do so much for the flock of hens and deter some predictors just by their presence. We have always used roosters strictly for protection for the flock, since we don’t hatch out own chicks. If you do end up keeping a rooster, you will need to gather the eggs every morning and put them directly into refrigeration to prevent any fertilized eggs from growing into something you don’t want to find (a baby chick when all you want is your breakfast). Trust me on this one…you don’t wanna see and feel that one.
3. Are there any acreage requirements for chickens specifically?
I know this one seems a little long, but it is very important, especially for people who live in town. This is what happened to Sam:
He asked if he was allowed to have chickens when he was paying a bill at the borough building and they said yes, so he went out and got 5 chicks and 2 ducklings. While he was keeping them in the house for their first couple of cold weeks, we called the borough again to ask about regulations and restrictions on building size for the coop. It was only then that he was told that there was an INSANE requirement for 10 acres PER chicken to keep them in his city (large town really). WHAT!?! This means that for the 5 chicks he had purchased he would need to own 50 acres :0 Are you kidding me!?!
He called my dad because he knows my dad keeps chickens and asked him what to do. My dad suggested that he get in touch with me and Josh since we recently lost a good bit of our flock to a raccoon and I ended up with 5 new chicks and our neighbor got 2 new ducklings. They are adorable. Check them out!
4. Are there any noise regulations or requirements regarding livestock?
A lot of times if the place you live really doesn’t want you to have livestock and haven’t imposed an acreage limitation, they can impose noise regulations. Say you have your chickens in your suburban backyard and they begin to cluck and do what chickens do around dawn and the neighbors complain about it, then you can get fined for them disrupting the peace of the neighborhood. These laws are mostly applied places that also have barking restrictions on dogs and other such laws.
So you may be allowed to own chickens and roosters and not have an acreage restriction, but you can get fined in certain areas for the noise associated with keeping animals. This is a tricky, underhanded one that you really need to ask about specifically before you get the chickens.
5. Who do you contact if you have any questions or issues?
Ask this directly when you ask the previous questions. This will be either a specific person or a committee that is responsible for this type of regulation, depending on where you live. Make sure to get a full name, phone number, e-mail and physical address for the office and/or person that will be your contact, this way you have multiple ways of contacting them if there are any issues with your animals and/or neighbors.
Also, I highly recommend getting this all in writing to avoid any issues. For example, Sam asked in person and didn’t think that he would need to have any sort of written backup to what he was told. The information he was given was directly misleading and there was no way to prove that was what he was told if he wanted to fight the ruling that he couldn’t keep the peeps. Always best to get anything that has to do with local laws and/or regulations in writing from a legal standpoint.
Now that you know what questions to ask it’s time to get a hold of your local governing body, town or city council, and find out what the requirements are in your area. I made up this awesome printout for you to use so you don’t forget anything while you’re communicating with them. If you call, make sure to right down all the answers. Put the name of the person you spoke with and the date at the top of the paper for your records.
What happens if you don’t like the answers?
Well, if you don’t like the answers to these questions, i.e. you live in a more rural town but they still don’t allow chickens and you would like to keep them, you can contact the person given for question number 5 and try to convince them that you should be allowed to keep chickens; or you can physically go to the council meetings and speak during the open questions section of the meeting.
If that doesn’t work, you can get together with your neighbors to create a movement and petition the council once you have gained the support of your fellow citizens. Either way works well, but you will have to put the work in to make your dreams happen, just like in anything else in life.
I hope you found this article to be a helpful resource on your journey to become self-sufficient, or just a chicken owner…whatever works for you, haha.
Please make sure to print this reference questionnaire and fill it out for your records. It really will help in your decision making process.
Thanks for visiting the TreadlingHome-stead!