Austin, TX: Does anyone here TRULY know how many hens you may keep?

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by SanctusPullus, Jul 31, 2011.

  1. SanctusPullus

    SanctusPullus Chirping

    Jun 4, 2011
    Austin, Texas
    My Coop
    Despite my urge to own one of every type of chicken in the world, I think ten is a pretty good number for a backyard in the city. It seems to be the consensus in Austin, TX that ten is the maximum number of chickens that you are allowed to keep according to Code. How this consensus came about is a mystery though because the Code says nothing of the kind. I bought into this consensus for several months until my wife brought it up again to me today. I did a little research looking for news items on backyard chicker-keepers and though almost every video/story/article went on to list the local chickens laws, not a single one of them that I found ever mentioned the maximum amount of chickens allowed by law. I thought that was telling.

    Here is what the Code says and may be where the confusion lies:

    (If you interpret "Fowl" as a "Small Animal"):


    (A) An enclosure used to keep more than two but fewer than 10 small animals must be located at least 20 feet from an adjacent residence or business, excluding the residence or business of the owner or handler of the small animals.

    (B) An enclosure used to keep ten or more small animals must be located at least 50 feet from an adjacent residence or business, excluding the residence or business of the owner or handler of the small animals.

    If this is the reason for the "Ten chickens" consensus, it seems that either everyone is reading only section (A) or that they are assuming that no one has 50' of clearance to their neighbor's house.

    (If you interpret "Fowl" as a "Pigeon or Similar Bird"):


    (A) Except as provided in Section 3-2-63 (Pigeons or Similar Birds), a person shall keep a pigeon or other bird in an enclosure that meets the requirements of Section 3-2-11 (Enclosure Required).

    (B) An enclosure used to keep two or more but fewer than ten pigeons or birds must be located at least 20 feet from an adjacent residence or business, excluding the residence or business of the owner or handler.

    (C) An enclosure used to keep ten or more but fewer than 100 pigeons or birds must be located at least 50 feet from an adjacent residence or business, excluding the residence or business of the owner or handler.

    Same rule. Also:


    (A) A person may not keep more than 100 pigeons or other birds at one location.

    The only section pertaining explicitly to "Fowl" is this:

    § 3-2-16 ENCLOSURE FOR FOWL .

    An enclosure used to keep two or more fowl must be located at least 50 feet from a residence or business, excluding the residence or business of the fowl’s owner or handler.

    I checked through all the different subsections of agricultural, land use, zoning, etc. and found nothing that limits the amount of chickens you may keep in the city of Austin. As far as my little brain will carry me, it's arrived at a spot that tells me you MAY have more than ten chickens provided the coop is 50' from your neighbor and the coop is applicable to the amount of birds. If I'm missing something obvious (and I often do), please point me in the right direction.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2011
  2. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    This is what I found on this forum in the sticky:

    It says:

    Austin TEXAS Chicken Ordinance
    Are Chickens Allowed in Austin Yes
    Max Chickens Allowed 9
    Roosters Allowed No
    Permit Required Unknown
    Coop Restrictions: must be contained in a secure coop
    City/Organization Contact name: 512 -974-2000
    Additional Information: hens may be kept in residential zoned areas 9 feathered fowl,excluding roosters, may be kept as pets or family food production. they must not be allowed to roam free, and must be kept in an appropriate enclosure no closer than 50 feet to a residential structure other than that of the bird's owner.
    Link for more Information:
    Information last updated 2010-03-29 13:14:14

    NOTE: This information was submitted by a member of our chicken forum. Please make sure to double check that this information is accurate before you proceed with raising chickens. You can read more info about checking local laws here..

    The last word, the underlined "here," is a link in the original.​
  3. SanctusPullus

    SanctusPullus Chirping

    Jun 4, 2011
    Austin, Texas
    My Coop
    Quote:The last word, the underlined "here," is a link in the original.

    Thanks! I appreciate you replying! But again, this is the same thing where an individual is simply saying something without issuing any facts to back it up. The link this anonymous provider gives is the exact same source I drew from for the information for my original post and it says nothing about 10 chickens [​IMG]

    Incidentally, for anyone who might be drawing incomplete conclusions from what's being relayed in that sticky, the person that wrote that has changed the words to the City Code and falsely leads one to believe that chickens can not be free range either with the phrase "they must not be allowed to roam free." They can roam free, on your property, behind a fence in the yard, just like any other animal. The correct phrase is "can not run at large" - from the Code again:

    § 3-1-1 DEFINITIONS .

    (13) RUNNING AT LARGE means an animal not:

    (a) under the direct physical control of its owner or handler; or

    (b) physically restrained within the premises of its owner or handler.

    and, there is discussion about specifically banning roosters in city limits but roosters are NOT named as prohibited animals anywhere in the Code; common sense in most situations will tell you they usually fall under this section but there are undoubtedly more than a few possibilites to provide exception:

    § 3-2-2 NOISY ANIMALS .

    An owner or handler may not keep an animal that makes frequent or long, continued noise that is disturbing to a person of normal sensibilities.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2011
  4. Austin Peeps

    Austin Peeps In the Brooder

    Sep 6, 2010
    Austin, TX

    You are not crazy. The reason you cannot find in the code that the cap is 10 chickens in Austin is b/c it isn't.

    I have worked directly with the City of Austin Planning Commission. As of today, there is no upper limit to the number of chickens you raise in Austin, provided you can keep them in compliance of the rules you note (50 ft away from neighboring residence, noisy animal considerations) and PROVIDED you can keep them in a clean environment. So, from a practical standpoint, if you can only spare a 4 ft. x 5 ft., for instance, for coop space, yes, *you* are limited on what you specifically can raise, but the City of Austin Ordinances you listed do not put any cap on the numbers.

    I wrote twice last year requesting corrections for the ordinance database following different (and contradictory) directives on how to get a listing in the database changed. I listed the ordinances you did, plus I gave phone numbers (offline) to Planning Commission staff to confirm this fact. I never got a response and did not see the listing get changed in the BYC database. I know the BYC ordinance database was a huge undertaking and I appreciate people putting it together. It would, however, be nice to have information updated when it has been shown with actual facts - or if there are questions for those updating/maintaining the database, please contact me offline. It may be that Austin is the anomaly, but since I was not able to get, with backed up facts, the info for Austin changed, it makes me wonder on the accuracy of the other information for other cities listed.

    As with any city, a person should always check for any additional restrictions specific to their piece of property, but in Austin, Texas, there is no limit to the maximum number of chickens (both hens and roosters) you can raise. You should use, of course, common sense for your situation.

    Hope that helps.
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
    ChickenMamaSarah likes this.
  5. SanctusPullus

    SanctusPullus Chirping

    Jun 4, 2011
    Austin, Texas
    My Coop
    Thanks Peeps :) Never though I'd ever hear from anyone! Since you're here, have you ever known anyone who has kept roosters (or A rooster) in town (west of I-35) or if it's ever been challenged under the "noisy animal" rule? The thought came up that we might want to keep one for at least a few weeks sometime in the future, after okaying it with the immediate neighbors, just to have a batch of fertile eggs to incubate or sell.
  6. Aschenfire

    Aschenfire Songster

    Feb 8, 2012
    I have 14 chickens outside right now, including four Silkies and ten mixed standard breeds. I also have 8 MGB and four Polish babies inside brooding, and I live in Austin. I *think* my blue Silkie is a cockerel and I am planning to keep one MGB boy (I think it looks like I have three out of 8 babies)...Hopefully the birds will not be any noisier than the **** dogs that bark when one walks down the street or in my neighbors back yards. I think a roo would be ok, as long as he is not a constant crower (and I think you can keep the early early morning crowing to a minimum if you keep the chickens inside a coop till a *decent* hour of the day LOL!

    My birds are amazingly quiet (so far) and I only hear them when it is time to go out into the back yard in the morning...and they cannot be heard outside my own yard.

    There is no law against keeping roosters in Austin, so you should be ok. I know personally I'd rather hear a rooster crow than someones dog barking constantly in their yard.
  7. SanctusPullus

    SanctusPullus Chirping

    Jun 4, 2011
    Austin, Texas
    My Coop
    Me too, I love the sound personally but I know that's a unique perspective. What part of Austin do you live in? I'm near the DPS so it's not a "tranquil" area but the sound of roosters would definitely be noticed.
  8. Austin Peeps

    Austin Peeps In the Brooder

    Sep 6, 2010
    Austin, TX
    I am not online as much as I'd like. I saw the thread actually by a link from an external article and wanted to answer your question. Sorry for the delay :)

    I have known people who own roosters west of I-35 for different reasons. Sometimes it's b/c they got the "surprise rooster" on the "sexed" pullets (it happens). They weren't planning on a rooster, but once they got one, they kept it. I've also known people on bigger lots who have a rooster. Generally, I haven't known of a household on a standard neighborhood size lot (yes, that varies) having more than one rooster.

    I'd say to use common sense, as you would with any pet. If the rooster doesn't have an off button and would be "disturbing to a person of normal sensibilities", it might be time to try a new strategy. If it is a once in a long time crow, just like a dog barking as a mailman or UPS guy passes, no big thing. If it's a non-stop "listen to me!" type of crow, you know...

    Some things to consider is that chickens appear to have the ability to perceive light at a higher sensitivity than the human eye. In other words, they perceive first light earlier than the human eye. As such, you may consider putting your flock in a darkened, noise attenuating roosting box overnight. A lot of people's coops already have an enclosed area for night roosting - and of course in Texas, make sure it is well ventilated, even if light is mostly blocked. This may deaden noise coming into the rooster's ears, as well as going out. I knew a guy who was near campus but just east of I-35 who would bring his rooster in at night into his garage in some sort of coop he had in there and that kept him from crowing over night regularly. In the day, apparently that rooster was calmer/not so noisy.

    I have a bit of land but ended up with a surprise rooster and kept it and loved having the roo. Ironically, he wasn't very noisy and could have been on a smaller lot. Then, later, his son was the opposite - obnoxious and noisy, but b/c we have some land, it wasn't a noise disturbance to neighbors (at night he was in an enclosed, ventilated light blocking roosting area). The rooster genreally does a good job of protecting his flock and of course can be part of a backyard breeding program, which can be esp. helpful for endangered breeds.

    As to has the noisy animal law been brought up, yes, I know cases where it has. I think if you have a good balance, it's worth trying. You can always work on a new solution if you find your roo likes the sound of his own voice a little too much. They won't haul off your rooster right away if you get a single complaint, but you want to see if it's a reasonable concern and if you can resolve the issue.

    I'm not sure where it is posted on BYC, but there will be "Chicken Stock" on 5/19 in San Marcos. I'll be there if you and your wife happen to get to stop by and would like to chat more.

    Hope this helps and have fun whatever you decide!

    ChickenMamaSarah likes this.
  9. Coop Deville

    Coop Deville Songster

    Mar 19, 2012
    "Keep Austin Weird" ; no chicken limit
    "Keep San Antonio Lame" ; 3 chicken max, no roosters
  10. egghead@1265

    [email protected] Chirping

    Oct 24, 2011
    A site I found of how many chickens can be kept in certain cities across the United States is(though not sure if it has been updated most recently)

    The following are listed on it and more, but some quite interesting! [​IMG](I really find some of this humorous, so posted nearly all of this sites findings!)[​IMG]

    Austin, TX. Up to 10 chickens per household allowed, but keep in an enclosure that’s 50 ft. away from neighbors.

    New York City. You can keep as many chickens as you like. You have to have a permit for your chickens.
    Oswego, NY. Can only have chickens that were “grandfathered.” Not sure what this means…

    Casper, WY. Chickens are sometimes allowed. For example, if your children are taking part in a 4-H project.
    Chicago, IL. Can keep as many chickens as you like but only as pets, not for slaughter.
    Clive, IA. No more than 12 chickens on lots less than 1.5 acres.​
    Los Angeles, CA. You can keep as many as you like but 20 feet away of owner’s residence.

    Minneapolis, MN. Unlimited. Applicant needs consent from 80 percent of neighbors within 100 feet of real estate.
    Mobile, AL. You can keep as may hens as you like here but no breeding allowed so definitely no to roosters!

    Syracuse, NY. Chickens are sometimes allowed here. It depends on your zoning. But definitely no roosters!
    Topeka, KS. Unlimited chickens allowed. Your chickens must be 50 feet from any neighbors house.

    Many other sites are available for finding limits, along with codes if they exist!


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