Mother Earth News Blogs > Ask Our Experts

Ask Our Experts

Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.

How to Change Chicken Ordinances

Backyard Chickens

Does your city have a ban on keeping backyard chickens? We asked our Facebook community for tips on how to approach a city council to revise chicken ordinances. Here’s how some of them took their towns to task.

We changed the chicken ordinance in my city by starting a petition and getting thousands of signatures, and then presenting the petition along with our request to our city council at a regular meeting. We then met with each council member individually and worked with the city to develop the ordinances for keeping hens and bees. — Jennifer Alley Gron

Does your municipality have an Environmental Advisory Council (EAC)? If not, consider starting one, have it propose an update to your ordinances to allow chickens, and then present your proposal to the city council. I’m on my city’s EAC, and we recently completed that process. Our council voted on our proposal and it passed unanimously, so we’re now able to keep backyard chickens. — Jim Keller

Our county seat just went through this. Several interested families put together a petition and took it to events — such as the county fair and poultry shows — to begin drumming up support. The group then approached one of the city council members — one who they thought would be helpful in the matter — and got guidance. Eventually, the topic was included on the agenda for a city council meeting, and the group presented the petition and other information on the benefits of keeping backyard chickens. Unfortunately, the city council voted against the revision, but the amount of support the petition received shows that at least some community members are interested in change. Do any other communities in your area allow chickens? See whether you can glean any information from them. Good luck! — Ann Marie Fantz

The best thing to do when working with any city board on any subject is to come forward with as much information as possible. The less work they have to do to follow up when writing the revised ordinance, the more likely they will be to move forward with it. — Shana Donner

It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission. As long as your neighbors don’t complain, live your life! — Redbeard Welder

We strongly believe that cities should permit residents to keep a few hens within city limits, and we understand that many of you are working to change local laws so you can keep chickens legally. We’ve developed a statement in support of changing chicken ordinances. Feel free to use or adapt this statement if you’re working to get an ordinance passed to allow chickens in your city. Please keep us posted on how your efforts turn out. You can find our contact information in the box above. May the flock be with you! — MOTHER

Photo by Williams-Sonoma: Forbidden flocks? If local laws deny your right to keep backyard chickens, work to change them!