Statement on Chicken Ordinances

| 2/24/2010 11:13:00 AM

Tags: factory farms, chickens, industrial production, city ordinances, backyard chickens,

We strongly believe that cities should allow residents to keep a few chickens (hens only) within city limits. And we understand that many of our readers are working to change local laws so they can keep chickens legally. We've developed this statement in support of those efforts. Feel free to use it if you're working to get an ordinance passed to allow chickens in your city. And please let us know how your efforts turn out. — Cheryl Long, Editor-in-chief

To Whom It May Concern,

Chickens have been animal companions of humans for thousands of years. When allowed to range in the yard, they are very entertaining and they provide more benefits to us than cats or dogs. They provide outstanding pest control, eating ticks, slugs, mosquitoes and many other insects. And they produce eggs that are much more nutritious than those you can buy at the supermarket.  

Backyard chickens will generally get far more humane care than those raised in filthy, crowded “factory farms.” Industrial production is creating numerous problems, including pollution from manure, antibiotic resistance and higher risk of a more dangerous strain of bird flu. Keeping a few chickens at home is one way we can each do our part to address these problems. Limit their numbers, and require clean, humane care — sure. But there is no legitimate reason for any city to prohibit keeping a few chickens, any more than there is reason to ban the keeping of dogs or cats. Indeed, I believe ordinances prohibiting chickens are probably unconstitutional.

Cheryl Long is the editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, and a leading advocate for more sustainable lifestyles. She leads a team of editors which produces high quality content that has resulted in MOTHER EARTH NEWS being rated as one North America’s favorite magazines. Long lives on an 8-acre homestead near Topeka, Kan., powered in part by solar panels, where she manages a large organic garden and a small flock of heritage chickens. Prior to taking the helm at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, she was an editor at Organic Gardening magazine for 10 years. Connect with her on .

brooke miller
9/7/2012 2:17:34 PM

We have currently lost our battle with borough council members in Lewsiberry, PA. There was an ordinance banning livestock, not poultry. They proposed an amendment to their ordinance to include fowl. We got petitions signed, been covered in the news, and still lost a 4-3 vote to ban fowl and refusal to grandfather my hens. The community is in an uproar but legally I am stalled on what else I can do.(short of pay fines everyday or hire an attorney)............ honestly I cant wait for elections in 3 years!! This is a Borough Council for gods sake........... is there truly not any legal recourseor higher power that regulates the abuse of power?? I live next door to the VP who hates chickens (he doesnt understand how I plan to have eggs without a rooster anyway). I planning on fighting but don't know where else to go?

6/2/2012 1:40:02 PM

Thank you for writing such a great support letter. We recently got hens legalized in Roeland Park, Ks. I really feel if people would just do a little research, they would see that hens are much less of a problem than dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, etc. We researched the Zoonoses issues, the decibel level of hens vs. other city noises, the amount of manure from 6 hens vs. one med. sized dog, and many other issues that were brought forward as concerns by the City Council members. Thankfully, with the facts in hand, our council approved allowing backyard hens in a 5 - 3 vote. Knowing what I now know, I feel safer handling my hens than I do picking up after my dog and cat.

8/2/2010 1:42:51 AM

I live in Calgary, Alberta. Recently the by-law concerning the ability to keep "livestock" was challenged to allow a small number of chickens. It sadly was shot down. However I do not give up because many on the city council are retiring this year as is the mayor so when we have an election this fall we shall have an almost entirely new leadership to once again put forth our request to.

Danielle Ellis
3/3/2010 2:52:19 PM

I recently got the ordinances changed for hens in my city. First I found the section of municipal code dealing with chickens. You can call your local animal control to find this out. Then I talked with animal control, because even they were not sure if a change in code was an animal control issue or a zoning issue. Then I went through several city offices trying to figure out the actual procedure for changing codes. Once I could quote chapter and verse, I went back to animal control with my proposed changes. They were approved, and will be adopted into code. The whole process took a few days, a few emails, and a few phone calls.

Suzanne Cox_2
3/3/2010 2:27:17 PM

Cheryl, I love chickens, and would have my own and agree with you except that, I personally have suffered from Histoplasmosis, an infection from breathing Histoplasmosis spores that grow on certain types of bird and bat droppings. Chickens are a primary source. Here is a link to an article from the Mayo Clinic on the subject: I lost the central vision of one eye because of the infection, and I've been told it's unusual to be affected in only one eye. It caused scars on the retina, which then caused blood vessels to leak. Laser surgery was necessary to stop the leaking and now I have a large retinal scar which covers the area responsible for central vision. If a person who wants to avoid being around concentrations of Histoplasmosis can't count on that being in the city, where can they go? I live in the country, and there were no chickens nearby when I moved here, but a close neighbor got some a few years ago. He has since gotten rid of them, but the histo' spores will remain in the soil for a long time, and any time the soil is disturbed, they become airborne. I have wished I could move to the city for refuge. Having chickens does have a lot of benefits, but along with them comes risk, not only to the chicken owner, but also to others who will be breathing the air near them (usually, without knowing they are at risk).

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