Denver: Help join effort to change laws allowing chickens

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by Urbansustainability, Feb 22, 2009.

  1. Urbansustainability

    Urbansustainability Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 15, 2009
    Denver, CO
    I had read here and elsewhere that one could own chickens in Denver for a $50 fee. I decided to research this and found out that this is only a small part of the story. In fact, the procedure for getting legal permission to own a chicken in Denver is so cumbersome, time consuming and expensive that few people would subject themselves to it. Indeed, according to an official at Animal Control I spoke to they have only had a "handful" of applicants.

    The procedure goes like this. First, an application is submitted to Animal Control which includes information such as the location where the chickens will be kept, the size of their pen, where their waste material will be disposed. The applicant must even state which vaccinations the chickens have had, whether spayed or neutered and the name of the chicken's veterinarian. (Are there any chicken vets in Denver? Would anyone actually take a sick chicken to a veterinarian hospital or do vets do housecalls for sick chickens?) This application costs $50.

    Animal control then does an inspection of the site, but it is unclear what standards must exist for a permit to be issued. I imagine that a Denver animal control officer who deals with dogs and cats has little or no experience in assessing chicken coops.

    If approved, the applicant must then go to Zoning. Zoning will require the applicant to contact the neighborhood organization and the councilmember, and also to post two notices at two different times in front of the property giving anyone the opportunity to object. If no objections, after 30 days a one-year permit can be granted for a $100 fee.

    Both permits must be renewed annually for total fees of $70.

    I believe this law was enacted some years ago when Denver wanted to escape its agriculture surroundings and become an urban area. Probably there was a desire to outlaw chickens, etc. but someone decided rather than to outlaw them it was better to make the application procedure so complicated and expensive that most people wouldn't bother. Then, it was never revisited.

    However, I think the time is ripe for these rules to be changed. Just last year the Denver City Council voted to amend the zoning rules to allow backyard beekeeping. And what with the new awareness of sustainability perhaps the chickens' time in the sun has arrived.

    My wife and I are committed urban farmers and we live and work in the City. Anyone wishing to join us in an effort to change these laws is welcome to contact me. Please use the email forwarding function on this website or, contact me at my business,

  2. COcountrygirl

    COcountrygirl New Egg

    Feb 16, 2009
    Can you tell me where you got all that information? I would certainly appreciate it! I have been researching this for weeks and have been able to gain very little information. I started with the state laws and worked my way down to the city laws and zoning. It is absolutely ridiculous that it is this complicated!

    The $50 permit is the only one posted on the Animal Control site; the $100 permit and the $70 renewal are new to me. I could find no mention of this issue at all on the zoning site.

  3. Urbansustainability

    Urbansustainability Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 15, 2009
    Denver, CO
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2009
  4. libbyheino

    libbyheino New Egg

    Feb 23, 2009
    Can I also get the details you have written up? I am trying to write a paper on owning chickens in Denver county.
  5. Wifezilla

    Wifezilla Positively Ducky

    Oct 2, 2008
    You might want to check out the law for the city of Colorado Springs as an example for a very reasonable law...
    Up to 10 chickens (depending on available space) no roos, etc...
  6. Urbansustainability

    Urbansustainability Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 15, 2009
    Denver, CO
    Wifezilla, thanks I will check out Colorado Springs' law.

    Libby and Countrygirl (and anyone else), here is a summary of my findings. If you would like to call Zoning to verify independently, please do so. I sometimes get different answers when I ask questions of Zoning staff. And if this happens to you, please post your conflicting information here so we can sort it out. And Libby, I would appreciate if if you would reciprocate after you prepare your paper and either post it here or email me a copy.

    And to anyone reading this please contact me directly by email if you want to help change this law. I am a retired lawyer and have been involved with various campaigns of sorts so I have some experience with organizing. You can use the email or PM function here to contact me or go through my business I mentioned in my first post above I expect this will not happen overnight and will take a year or two. But it has to be a grassroots effort.


    The permit process for keeping livestock in Denver

    The process for legally owning chickens and other livestock in the City of Denver involves getting permits from Animal Care and Control and from Zoning. Each department levies application fees, annual fees and Animal Control will perform an annual inspection. The application must be renewed annually from both departments, which gives them the authority to deny a renewal.

    The place to get started is at Animal Care and Control. On their portion of the City website they list the requirements:
    the information that must be supplied to Animal Control is the name and contact information of the veterinarian. I imagine that an applicant would have a difficult time finding a Denver vet who would agree to treat a sick chicken. But if the information is not provided, it seems that the application could be denied. (It also seems incongruent for the City of Denver to require a citizen to prove he has a vet lined up before getting a chicken but not before getting an Irish wolfhound.) This information can be mailed, but delivering it in person may speed up the process. Later, if and when Zoning approves the application, the applicant must go to Animal Control to pay the fee and pick up the livestock permit.

    Animal Control charges a $50 for the permit, and $50 annually. The applicant must prove that the chicken coop “will be maintained in a sanitary condition, free from insects and rodents, offensive odors, excessive noise, or any other conditions which constitute a public nuisance.” Otherwise, there are no construction standards for the coop, making it unknown whether or not the applicant’s idea of an appropriate chicken coop will match that of a Denver animal control officer who deals with dogs and cats and likely has no experience or training in chickens and coops. Moreover, it subjects the Animal Control officer to decision-making that may be outside of his or her comfort zone. An inspector from Animal Control inspects the proposed facilities before issuing the permit and they inspect annually. I estimate the time involved in meeting all Animal Control requirements to be 5 hours if vet is identified quickly, which may be impossible. This does not include the time to create the coop.

    If Animal Control approves the application they issue a pre-approval letter which the applicant takes to…

    Zoning. At Zoning the process gets even more cumbersome and more expensive. The process is an “administrative review” which means that Zoning will notify the appropriate NGO and councilmember. The applicant will be given a sign that must be placed on his or her property informing the public of the application for the first ten days of a 30-day complaint period. It is also recommended (required?) to get consent letters from immediate neighbors. If there are no complaints during the 30-day period, the applicant must return to Zoning to get his/her approval of the application and a second sign to be posted for 15 days. This sign informs the public how to appeal the approval. The process will be complete after 45 days or more. This will require 2 trips to Zoning: one to apply and pick up the first sign and one to pick up the approval and the second sign. I estimate the time required in meeting Zoning requirements to be 8 hours unless there is a snag in the process.

    The application fee is $100 and the annual renewal fee is $20. The Zoning Department can deny or revoke a permit or a renewal application, apparently if someone complains and they have wide jurisdiction – sometimes overlapping with Animal Control- to review and approve applications. Since Animal Control must issue a renewal permit each year, then that means they, too, have the power to say no. The danger for the chicken owner is that upon renewal if there is a new neighbor who doesn’t like the chicken owner or the chickens the neighbor could complain and Zoning could deny the renewal application. Also, one applicant told me that Animal Control’s policy is that once a permitted chicken dies, the owner cannot simply replace the chicken, rather, he must begin the application process anew.

    And then there is the possibility that the applicant would have to get a building permit. However, I do not know the requirements for getting such a permit at this time.

    Total estimated time to get permit assuming a reasonable ten days from Animal Control and a few extra days in between: 60 days

    Time expended in getting an approval: 13 hours, which includes 1 letter and 1 trip to Animal Control, a meeting with Animal Control at your property, 3 trips to Zoning, posting signs on your property, getting letters of support from your neighbors.

    Total application fees: $150

    Total annual fees: $70

    Not surprisingly, the rules are sufficiently complex and expensive that they provide a significant disincentive to obtaining a permit. From a financial perspective, it is far cheaper for a potential chicken owner to drive to the supermarket and purchase eggs that were trucked to the store, rather than to produce eggs in the backyard. (Of course, this assessment does not take into consideration the cost to the environment or to the metro region’s air or traffic congestion.) I spoke to two animal control staff on February 17, 2009 and the answer to my question about how many such permits have been granted was, “a handful,” and “just a few.” (The Zoning Department does not compile a list of applicants for such permits as their records are by address; I have requested a list of applicants from Animal Control via the Colorado Open Records Act.) Consequently, this leads some Denver residents into becoming chicken outlaws, an observation I confirmed by internet research into the growing underground chicken movement in Denver.


    1Sec. 8-92. Nuisance-free facilities prerequisite to granting.
    A permit to keep livestock or fowl within the city shall not be granted unless the owner or possessor provides facilities which will reasonably assure the manager that the premises will be maintained in a sanitary condition, free from insects and rodents, offensive odors, excessive noise, or any other conditions which constitute a public nuisance.

    2 What kind of livestock are permitted? The law contains no limits, but at least some of the animals contemplated are mentioned in the Zoning Ordinance:
    Sec. 8-91. Livestock or fowl permit required.
    It shall be unlawful for any person to keep, maintain, possess or harbor on any property within the city any livestock or fowl such as, but not limited to, horses, mules, donkeys, burros, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, chickens, geese, ducks or turkeys, unless a livestock or fowl permit therefor has been issued by the manager. Such permit is required to be renewed annually for a fee of fifty dollars ($50.00) for each application.

    3 Sec 59-38(a)(12)e. Keeping of animals . In addition to the animals permitted by the zoning administrator, the zoning administrator may authorize, upon application in specific cases, subject to terms and conditions fixed by the board and pursuant to the conditions hereinafter set forth, an exception permitting the keeping of animals in connection with the operation of a single unit dwelling or a dwelling unit in a multiple unit dwelling. Such exception shall be personal to the applicant therefor. Notwithstanding other provisions of chapter 59, which limit the number of animals, the breeding of animals may be permitted.
    1. The application shall be filed in the name of the land owner.
    2. The owner/tenant seeking the exception must occupy the subject property as his/her primary residence;
    3. The animal shall be kept solely as a pet; a hobby; for educational, research, rehabilitation or propagation purposes; or for the production of food products for personal consumption by the resident;
    4. The application shall contain provisions which ensure that the exception will not substantially or permanently injure the appropriate use of adjacent conforming property. In determining that this condition will be met, the zoning administrator shall consider the following factors:
    i. The type of animal to be kept;
    ii. The number to be kept;
    iii. The maximum size of the animal;
    iv. The space or area in which the animal is to be kept and whether or not other animals may occupy that same space;
    v. The methods by which any sanitation problems will be controlled;
    vi. The methods by which abutting residents will be protected from any nuisance; and
    vii. The applicant's intent to allow reproduction.
    5. The applicant shall have written approval from the department of environmental health;
    6. The applicant shall have written approval from the division of wildlife, Colorado Department of Natural Resources, if applicable, for species of animals considered to be wildlife;
    7. The applicant shall have notified abutting owners about the proposed animal and shall have requested letters of support or petitions of consent from such owners. If any of said owners fail to consent, the zoning administrator shall consider the circumstances, including any letters or petitions of opposition. Further, the zoning administrator shall give serious consideration to any letter from a physician stating that a resident living nearby is allergic to some feature of the proposed animal and may have a serious reaction if exposed to such animal.
    8. Any structure erected for the shelter of such animal shall comply with all regulations for the zone district in which such property is located. If a variance is required for any such structure, an application for a variance must be made to the board of adjustments. Any such structure shall be maintained in accordance with the building and housing codes and shall be subject to inspection by the building inspection division and the department of environmental health.
    9. An approved exception for an animal shall not be valid until the applicant has executed an agreement listing the terms and conditions fixed by the zoning administrator and the applicable conditions set forth above. Such agreement shall be recorded with the clerk and recorder. The permit for an approved exception shall expire at such time as the applicant no longer resides at the property, or discontinues the keeping of subject animal.
    10. Upon receipt of a complaint from an abutting property owner, the department of zoning administration shall investigate. If any deviations from the conditions listed in the agreement exist, an order may be issued terminating the exception. The order may then be appealed to the board of adjustments for review.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2009
  7. Smoky73

    Smoky73 Lyon Master

    Feb 8, 2007
    Yes, I have been hearing lots of stories even out here in the middle of BFE in the Northeastern plains.

    I am the Secretary for the Colorado Poultry Association and I have been trying to gather all information I can on zoning rules and regulations around Colorado. I just last week talked to the pres of my club Eric, who is supposed to be meeting with a Denver group next Sunday? Called Urban Homesteaders? Not sure on name but there is a person he has been talking too that has gone through the process in Denver, and most of what I read here he mentioned.

    We should all keep in touch to try to help each other out.

    Incidently, there is a Avian Vet in Ft. Collins, CO that has seen several chickens for me as well as others. I know its not Denver, but it is something that can be put down on the paperwork if your willing to go that far.
    Aspenwing Animal Hospital
    (970) 344-4257
    Address: 3904 W Eisenhower Blvd, Loveland, CO 80537
    Dr. Chappelle is who has seen my birds. She is very nice.

    By the way, can I post the information you have posted here on the CPA website?
  8. Urbansustainability

    Urbansustainability Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 15, 2009
    Denver, CO

    Thank you for your informative post and certainly you can use the information I posted here on your website.

    I googled Denver Urban Homesteading and found a Meetup group by this name and I will go to their next meeting.

    Thanks again.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009
  9. COcountrygirl

    COcountrygirl New Egg

    Feb 16, 2009
    ***I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate all your wisdom and assistance!***
    I sent zoning an email and believe it or not, I got an immediate response. Here is my email and the response:

    Sent: Saturday, February 21, 2009 12:48 PM
    To: zoningreview
    Subject: Zoning approval for 4 laying hens

    Dear Zoning Official,

    What is required to obtain zoning approval for backyard chickens in zone type R-1? I am unable to find any mention of the requirements or processes on your site.

    The Denver Animal Care and Control site states that zoning must give approval before a "livestock permit" can be issued. What type of process does this entail?

    Any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated.


    Ms xxxxx,

    Good Morning. Hens are one of the types of animal that are only allowed with an approved permit. The permit process is approximately 30 days with a processing fee of $100. I have attached the permit application and criteria for maintaining these types of animals on a residential zoned property.

    If you have any further questions, please contact us again.

    Thank you,

    Vicente Gomez-Ferrer
    Associate Development Project Coordinator
    Zoning Permitting Section
    Community Planning and Development
    201 W. Colfax Ave, Suite #205
    Denver, CO 80202
    720-865-2721 Office
    720-865-3057 Fax
    [email protected]

    Please take the time to fill out a customer survey online at:


    The documents sent by zoning are obviously not written with chickens in mind. The have just continued to use the old forms for a new purpose; the questions don't always seem to apply. They seem to indicate that I must have approval from Animal Control, Div. of Wildlife, Dept. of Environmental Health AND Zoning. I would attach them but I don't know how in this forum.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009
  10. Urbansustainability

    Urbansustainability Out Of The Brooder

    Feb 15, 2009
    Denver, CO

    Just before I read your post I got off the phone with Vince Ferrer. He told me about a section of the code that Zoning follows that I had not previously uncovered. So I will now amend my report posted above. Using this section of the code makes the process even more complicated as it requires letters of consent from neighbors, etc.

    Anyone can get three big dogs who snarl and bark at the neighbors, cats who prowl around at night and cause mischief but if you want one chicken, better get all the neighbors to approve and pay the hefty fees.

    This law is a mess, and that is the reason I am trying to change it.

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