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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

City Commission Meeting on Keeping Live Fowl

I attended Lawrence, Kan., city commission meeting on Dec. 2, 2008, to hear the discussion of keeping live fowl in the city. Prior to public comments, Assistant City Manager Cynthia M. Boecker summarized current laws and how other cities in Kansas handle the issue.

Pekin Duck

I was glad to hear the discussion firsthand. Earlier reports gave the impression that the Humane Society was against the idea because of potential health hazards to humans.

Midge Grinstead, executive director of the Lawrence Humane Society, clarified that the Humane Society "has no opinion about keeping fowl" in city limits and is neither for nor against it. But she raised some questions for the commission to consider:

  • How many fowl will be allowed?
  • How large must the property be?
  • What kind of fowl will be allowed? (Peacocks, guineas and roosters are all very loud.)
  • Will there be regulations for coops, cleanliness and parasite control?
  • Will fines be imposed if fowl leave their owner's property?
  • If a dog or cat kills fowl, will the dog or cat be considered "dangerous"?
  • Will there be a regulation against butchering fowl for meat?

Those are valid questions, and clarification would certainly prevent misunderstandings in the future.

Several private citizens spoke — all of them in favor of keeping chickens.

One person spoke about the freedom to produce his own food saying, "I want to use my land to build a henhouse, not a whorehouse." Another man, who already keeps a few hens, said that he was in favor of some clarifying regulations.

A WorldWatch Institute article and information from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production were referenced by someone who pointed out that industrial poultry is more likely to develop avian influenza than are backyard flocks.

A representative of the Coalition of Lawrence Urban Chicken Keepers (CLUCK) said she saw no issues with developing regulations to avoid problems, and that CLUCK would be happy to work out the details of regulations with the commission. A local veterinarian (who stated she didn't realize the issue was on the agenda and hadn't planned to speak) said that she regularly sees chickens and ducks in her practice and that owners are "a pretty responsible group." She also pointed out that chickens are "green" animals, in that they're very useful in gardens.

Finally, a woman spoke about an experiment implemented by a friend, her and their 3-year-olds. The goal was to see how much of their own food they could raise (including eggs from chickens) and to educate the children about where their food comes from. She said it would "be a shame if [keeping chickens] were forbidden."

As the commissioners discussed the issue, no one seemed to be opposed to allowing live fowl in the city. Mayor Dever said he would like to ban roosters, and that the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have concerns with pathogens.

The final decision was that city staff would develop regulations to be voted on at a future meeting. If you're fighting to make keeping chickens legal in your community, it may be a long process, but stick with it! Many other cities have laws allowing chickens.

If you're thinking of keeping a few hens for eggs, How to Raise Chickens in Your Back Yard is a good place to start.

3/25/2014 8:56:40 AM

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dhijana scott-harmony
12/12/2008 6:46:54 PM

We've been urban chicken keepers for over four years here in the heart of urban megalopolis of Charlotte NC.Our city/county ordinance is pretty clearly defined and available for research on-line. We can have up to 20 chickens per acre properly housed and that housing must be approved by Animal Control and an annual permit fee must be paid of $35. Neighbors on both sides of your property must sign off on the chickens and the setback should be 25 feet from either neighbor's property (although exceptions are made if the neighbor is OK with this). Obviously, noise of roosters and odors are not permitted. We have a half acre lot and our 10 chickens have provided us with the most fertile growing conditions in our huge vegetable garden and our many raised bed boxes as well as the butterfly and hummingbird gardens as well as plenty of delicious and wholesome eggs for us and our friends. We are permitted to slaughter the girls who are retired from laying if we do so discretely so that no one has to see the killing act.

12/11/2008 6:47:55 PM

About a year ago the city of Missoula MT, passed an ordinance that allows home owners to have up to 6 hens as long as the coup is 20ft from the nearest neighbors house and feed is kept in a predator safe container. Quite a few houses have taken advantage of this new law.

12/11/2008 4:27:23 AM

I live in Barre MA a small country town with lots of farms. I'm not allowed o keep chickens at all ( not in the right zone ) but the people two houses away that 2 houses away all of 100 ft can if that isn't crazy I don't know what is . I have over 20 raised beds and give produce to all my neighbours. I have asked their permission to keep chickens and they all said yes . pitiful that I can't keep them ? huh.

12/10/2008 8:25:37 PM

Fortunately, the tiny suburb I live in follows the county's regulations for keeping chickens, and I have three (hens, no roosters permitted). It would seem very unfair to be able to keep chickens in a good-sized city but not its outlying areas. The comment from the man who wants to build a henhouse not a whorehouse on his property made me laugh. In Portland OR, it would be easier to to build the latter.

paul gardener
12/10/2008 5:05:18 PM

ML, We were able to get this passed the city council in about Sept. I think. I blog daily at and I have more specifics there if you want to check it out (there's a search tool at the top left). I'd love to help you with any information that I can, You can contact me through the blog. What we ended up doing was to make a change to the Title Ten Land use ordinance to allow keeping of "Domestic egg laying fowl". Really that means only chickens or ducks adn no roosters. The ordinance also dealt with keeping rabbits. Let me know how I can help. Good luck! P~

12/10/2008 9:59:29 AM

P- I live in Layton, UT and would like to see them allow chickens. When did it pass in Syracuse? I'd like to reference the info as I go forward to present it to Layton city council.

beth anne
12/6/2008 11:45:19 AM

Thank you Troy for this very good summary of our meeting, plus all the available links. We'll continue working for our "girls"!

paul gardener
12/5/2008 2:20:48 AM

Troy, I just finished going through this whole process with our city council here in Syracuse UT. It took, all together, almost a year, but now the birds I keep on my 1/4 acre suburban lot are legal and we get regular eggs from them. It is indeed a long process, but worth it in the long run. Good work being engaged! P~ (I write the "Growing possibilities" blog on