Chicken Keeping in the City.

Chicken Regs: UPDATED: 5/3.

This morning, I attended a workshop at Real Food Farm called “Who Wants to Be an Urban Farmer?” Even for a novice gardener like myself, it was an interesting morning.

The first session I attended was Small Scale Livestock Farming, led by Homer Walden of Sunnyside Farm. He showed us a portable chicken coop that he designed to be large enough to hold 50 hens, yet easy to move by one person.

Many cities forbid backyard chicken raising in their zoning ordinances. However, there is a growing interest in urban small-scale chicken-keeping in the US (as “an emblem of extreme foodie street cred”?), so some cities have updated their zoning ordinances to allow them. In other cities, citizens have clamored to enforce the zoning bans on their chicken-raising neighbors.

Baltimore City passed a chicken ordinance in 2007, which allows chickens, within a few parameters.

  • Chicken owners must (1) obtain a permit from the Bureau of Animal Control and (2) register with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Domestic Poultry and Exotic Bird Registration Division.
  • No more than 4 chickens (over the age of 1 month).
  • Pens must provide more than 2 square feet per hen, be more than 25 feet from any residence, and be kept clean and moved frequently. Hens must be confined to the pen at all times.
  • The hens must have shade in hot weather, shelter in “inclement weather,” and access to water, food, and veterinary care.
  • No roosters, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, emus, rheas, or ostriches.

I would assume that having the chickens live in your house or apartment with you as pets is against the Baltimore zoning law. Probably because it violates the 25-foot rule.

A few other US city chicken ordinances:

  • Some Chicagoans tried to ban urban chickens in 2007 and failed. You can raise chickens and roosters in Chicago, and you don’t have to register them. There are chicken consultants, if you need chicken raising support.
  • In New York City, chickens count as pets. Unlimited hens allowed; no roosters.
  • In Los Angeles, you can keep unlimited chickens, as long as they’re 20 feet from the owner’s house and 35 feet from any other dwelling.
  • In Boston, chickenkeeping is generally outlawed; however, residents may apply for a permit to raise chickens, but it’s a bit of a long and complicated process.

In contrast to Baltimore City, Baltimore County prohibits the housing of any fowl (or small or large livestock) in a residential area unless the homeowner owns at least one full acre of land (Code § 13-7-311).

Posted on by Kristine Dunkerton

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