I recently received a letter from the city of Hayward noting that our chickens are in violation of a city ordinance which requires a permit to have "livestock". After some research, I decided to respond with a letter. I'd like to get some feedback from BYCers on their take on my letter.
May 20th, 2012
Hayward Animal Services Bureau
16 Barnes Ct.
Hayward, CA 94544
Dear Animal Services Bureau:
In a letter we received dated15-May-2012, we have been made aware that having our 3 chickens (all hens) are in violation of Hayward Zoning Ordinance section 10-1-220. We would like to formally request consideration for the continuance of keeping our chickens. They are part of our self-sustaining garden and attempt to improve our healthy eating as a response to my wife's recent bout with cancer in 2004. Besides, they are a wonderful teaching tool to our children regarding healthy eating, taking care of the earth and patience.
The chickens (all hens) are housed safely and contained in our property. Additionally, contrary to the letter we received, we do not have any roosters on our property. There have been, however, roosters sighted recently in the fire access road behind our property. We do not know who they belong to. I assure you that they are not ours.
Finally, the ordinance states that "livestock" is not allowed in the RS district which we are in. According to the legally and generally acceptable definition of the word "livestock" as animals raised for revenue and/or profitable gain, we assert that our chickens would not qualify as livestock. Neither our chickens nor the eggs they have produced have ever been sold for any revenue nor have they been bartered for any goods or services.
According to our legal counsel, there are two cases in the state of California dealing with the issue of chickens as livestock. The cases of Butler v. City of Palos Verdes Estates, 135 Cal. App. 4th 174 (Ct. App. 2005) and In Re: Barker, 151 Cal. App. 4th 346 (Ct. App. 2007) define chickens as livestock. However, in both cases, the chickens were raised on the property explicitly for the purpose of commercial revenue.
My wife and I - and our two children - are law-abiding citizens who love our city of Hayward, serve in the community (we are members of our local school site councils) and have contributed to the business revenue of the city. As such, we have every intent to ensure that our activities are within the bounds of the laws. If the city has clearly documented chickens as livestock in our city ordinances or has had a court assert that they are livestock even if they are not raised for revenue, then we will absolutely comply with the requirement to obtain a permit. We have no desire to do anything other than abide by our laws.
Please advise as to the appropriate next step so that we may comply immediately.