Saturday, January 4, 2014

Can I have backyard chickens where I live?

Q. How do I know if I'm allowed to keep chickens--and how many I can keep?

A. Almost every municipality is different. It actually varies so much there's no way to predict what it's like where you live.

For example, in our neighboring county in Wisconsin, you have to have an acre per horse or head of cattle. In our county, there are no space limits for livestock.

In our county, you can have chickens, but you have to keep them within 100 feet of the lot line with agricultural zoning.

In some larger cities you can have roosters and you're allowed to butcher the birds. In most places, you are only allowed to have hens or pullets. Some municipalities require an annual permit to keep backyard chickens. 

Here's how to find out:
Call the clerk of your local municipality: in the US your choices are city, village, town or county. Give the clerk your address, and ask if you're allowed to have chickens. 

Gather your chicken supporters.
If you can't have chickens and want to keep them, contact your local representative. Better yet, you could gather a group of people. One person might not be as persuasive as twenty people. If you're not sure who represents your district, your municipal clerk will be able to tell you.

If you can get a backyard chicken ordinance on the agenda for your local municipality, it could be as fast as a month before it's approved. But, if you have representatives with questions or concerns, the process could take more than a year. Backyard chickens are becoming more and more popular and so it's easier to find examples of what similar municipalities allow when approaching your elected officials.

As always, post further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman