Originally Posted by sararoni
I found this thread while looking for Boston chicken enthusiasts.
We are thinking to move to Boston from Chicago within a year.
I am trying to find out which towns near Boston I can keep chickens legally. Currently we have 17 hens and 2 roosters but I am willing to downgrade or give up the roosters if I have to.
I heard that Somerville is ok. Does anybody have more information on other towns?
Thanks a lot in advance ☺
Hey there, sararoni, and welcome (almost) to Boston! I believe you sent me an email a few weeks ago? Sorry we weren't able to connect by phone, but I'll reply to your email again and maybe we can catch each other this time. :)
In general, the closer you are to Boston (i.e. the more dense the town) the more constrictive the laws will be. You're right that many prohibit roosters, and most cap the total number of adult hens around 6 birds (a few allow more, and one or two cap it at less). Otherwise the zoning tends to focus on qualities of their housing, including distance from property lines or dwellings (can be a dealbreaker in some towns, like where the setback from a neighbor's house is 50-100'), size/space per bird, rodent-proofing measures, and use of appropriate materials.
Overall, my experience is that cities are primarily concerned with 1) avoiding having to deal with complaints (noise, smell, rodents/predators), and 2) humane care and housing of the animals. So if you keep them responsibly and with the blessings of your neighbors, you could keep them in almost any town. The risk, though, is that if someone does complain the city won't have your back, and you may be forced to either give them up or move. I'm assuming that's not a risk you'd like to take since you're already planning to move cross-country with them!
For some of the towns *immediately* surrounding Boston, here's some general info about whether it's allowed, and bird numbers:
Boston proper (includes Roxbury, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, anywhere downtown-ish, Roslindale, Allston/Brighton, Charlestown, etc) - not currently legal except for a few commercial areas (there is a citywide zoning ordinance called Article 89 that allows chickens, but the neighborhood zoning codes are still in the process of being updated to allow the citywide code to apply in each. For anyone living in Boston who would like to help with this process, please get in touch with me - we'd love your help!)
Somerville - legal for up to 6 hens (see the ABCs of Urban Ag for details and the permithttp://www.somervillema.gov/urbanag form)
Cambridge - not legal (yet)
Arlington - legal for up to 6 hens (they have one of the most extensive, and expensive, permitting processes I've seen - check it out here)
Watertown - technically legal for up to 10 hens (and rooster(s) by special permit though I seriously doubt those permits are awarded in any but the most rural parts of the town), according to their Keeping of Animals Regulations, but they're one of the ones with a 50' setback requirement
Brookline - legal, as of a year ago they were one of the towns with a 100' setback requirement but I'm not finding that info just now
Newton - allowed, with a permit (not sure about the current limitations on number or placement of the coop, etc)
Hopefully that gets you started, and I'll reply to your email again right now too. :)