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Houston, TX: Let's Change the Chicken Laws and Ordinances in COH

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by CJKrebs, Jan 12, 2012.

  1. CJKrebs

    CJKrebs Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 8, 2012
    Houston, TX
    Hello!


    So I am new to BYC, and new to chickens, although I have wanted to have a small backyard flock for a while. I recently moved back to Houston,TX (hopefully for the long haul), and started investigate the local laws regarding family flocks in the city. I quickly realized (like most hen-loving Houstonians) that the rules are not friendly to our feathered friends:

    -30 roos or hens on a lot 65x125 or smaller, or a larger number as long as the 30:8125 sqft ratio is preserved
    -pen must be 100ft from a private residence not owned by the flock keeper (no clause for your neighbors to waiver these distance restrictions)
    -7 with a health permit and doctors note for a medical condition which requires unfertilized eggs

    from the Chapter on Animals, Article 2 Sections 6.31-6.39
    library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=1023

    While initially the ordinance seems generous (30 roosters? wow!), the distance restrictions make it functionally impossible to keep chickens legally in the city. (I haven't met anyone who has managed to qualify for the medical permit.) There are also some other oddities in the code, which seems to prohibit composting. I had heard about an exotic animal exception that might allow chickens, but I couldn't find anything in the rules about it.

    But despite the unfortunate nature of our code, there are many cities which have rewritten their ordinances. It seems even West U has tried, and our neighbor Alvin has really reasonable laws. New York City even seems to have a leg up on us. So why not Houston? We are the best city in the world! :) Don't we deserve to raise chickens too?

    I've started doing research on how to legalize chickens in Houston. I think it's a worthy cause, although it will take time, energy, people and muddling. But wouldn't it be great to finally not have to worry about our Hen-riettas being impounded?

    If there is a legalize chickens movement in Houston already, I want to join it! If not, let's start it! Today!
     
  2. EweSheep

    EweSheep Flock Mistress

    21,917
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    418
    Jan 12, 2007
    Land of Lincoln
    A medical condition that requires unfertilized eggs...now where did that come from?!

    Religious standpoint, yes! But medical? I don't know what else to say except if the farmer has been injecting hormones in hens or roos to get fertilized eggs and that hormone would pass down to the consumer.
     
  3. CJKrebs

    CJKrebs Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 8, 2012
    Houston, TX
    I have put together a summary of the ordinances in towns near to Houston, to see what our neighbors are doing. It looks like Bellaire, Alvin, and Conroe are the most hen friendly. (Bellaire doesn't have any rules... which means no restrictions, as long as you are a good neighbor!) I think a good step would be to get in touch with the animal control boards for these three towns to see how having lenient laws affects their citizens. I'm betting there aren't many complaints, and that's positive support we could use to convince Houston officials!

    If anyone who lives near Houston knows the ordinances for their towns/neighborhoods, and could provide a link to the codes, it would be super helpful!

    CITY,
    STATE

    # BIRDS
    PERMITTED

    ROOS?

    PERMIT?

    PEN
    REQUIRED

    NUISANCE
    CLAUSE

    SLAUGHTER
    PERMITTED

    PROPERTY LINE RESTRICTIONS

    DETAILS/ EXCEPTIONS

    Date
    Houston, TX

    30, on lots 65x125 ft or less, increase in ratio 30:8125.

    Yes

    No

    No

    Yes (noise, and composting prohibited)

    Not explicitly prohibited

    100 ft from actual residence or habitation/building, not including keepers, measured a straight line from pen/enclosure to nearest point of building.

    7 with health permit for unfertilized eggs. No selling of or dying of chicks

    Jan ‘12
    West University

    No

    No

    No

    No

    No

    No

    No

    No

    Jan ‘12
    Bellaire, TX

    No mention

    Unclear

    Unclear

    Unclear

    Nothing heard outside property

    No

    None. Chicken keeping is legal

    No

    Jan ‘12
    Baytown, TX

    No restrictions

    Not stated

    No

    Not stated

    No unreasonable noise

    Cruelty is defined by animal control officer

    No fowl (includes chickens) w/in 100ft of private residence not owned by keeper, nor w/in 300 ft of church, public place where food is consumed



    Jan ‘12
    Katy, TX

    25 on an acre, none on less than an acre

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Yes

    Unclear

    Must be an acre unless FFA or 4H club and then 300’ from residences/ business, unless a signed waiver. Schools exempt

    $500 fine

    Jan ‘12
    Webster, TX

    100/acre, 2 acre min.

    Yes

    For the broilers

    Inside fence

    Yes, noise

    Unclear, seems to be allowed

    250 ft from residence/ building for humans. 15 broilers, 2 months w/ waivers w/in 200ft.

    no selling or dying of chicks

    Jan ‘12
    Alvin, TX

    7 hens on at least 6,600 ft2 or ratio. 1-2 acres: 100

    No roos less than 1 acre

    No

    Yes

    Yes

    Unclear

    Pen 25 ft from residential home, occupied bldg for 10 fowl, 500ft for 50 fowl

    2 hens, on property smaller than 4900 ft2, exempt from the 25' clause

    Jan ‘12
    Conroe, TX

    Unlimited

    Not stated

    No

    Yes, 4 ft2/ chicken

    No

    Unclear

    Pen 20 ft from residence, eat/dinning/sleeping facility



    Jan ‘12
    Beaumont, Tx

    Unclear

    Not stated

    No

    Must be enclosed

    Yes

    Unclear

    Must be completely enclosed so no noise/odor escapes



    Jan ‘12








    Sources:
    Houston: library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=10123
    West U: library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=14072
    Bellaire: library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=13798
    Baytown: library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=10022&stateId=43&stateName=Texas
    Katy: z2.franklinlegal.net/katy-flp/
    Webster: library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=12477
    Alvin: library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=10357
    Conroe: library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientId=13822
    Beaumont: z2.franklinlegal.net/Beaumont-flp/
     
  4. CJKrebs

    CJKrebs Out Of The Brooder

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    22
    Jan 8, 2012
    Houston, TX
    So, I'm still moving forward with this idea to revise the Houston ordinance. I've reached out to several Houston chicken owners, neighbors and now I'm reaching out to some university students; Rice Environmental Club.

    We will be meeting Thursday, Jan 25 at 5:45 pm on Rice University campus to discuss the issue.

    Are there really no Houston backyard chicken enthusiasts who'd want to see the ordinance changed?
     
  5. beergnome

    beergnome Out Of The Brooder

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    Apr 4, 2010
    Austin, Texas
    I would love to see the Houston ordinance changed, but I am in Austin. The main problem with that one, as you said, is the 100ft restriction. Ours is 50ft and it narrows your choices for a coop location, but I understand the point. I have also heard that the bird limit here is 10, but I can't find it in the animal ordinance. There was talk of banning roosters, but nothing happened as far as I know.

    Doctor's note for unfertilized eggs? Dying chicks? This ordinance seems pretty kooky and out of date. I bet you can find some more folks who want the rules changed. I would put up flyers at Whole Foods, health food places. Wherever H-town's enviro-types/foodies etc hang out. My guess would be Montrose (my sister lives there, but in an apartment) and around the colleges. Thirty birds and you can have roosters? Yall definitely need a more modern law.

    Make all your friends come out to the Rice thing. Is it talking to COH people? If you bug them at council meetings or whatever I bet you can get it changed, though you might be branded crazy chicken lady/man.
     
  6. CJKrebs

    CJKrebs Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 8, 2012
    Houston, TX
    Thanks for the support! The Rice meeting is talking to their environmental club to get them involved; I don't feel that we have enough momentum to talk to the actual council members yet. Although granted, I'm usually more cautious about these things; that's why I'd like to get some energetic college students to keep chomping at the bit and pushing for action.

    Your flyer idea for health/sustainability-oriented businesses is excellent; I printed one up, but I had mainly been giving it out to friends and neighbors to beta test. There are several feed stores in town which probably would be happy to post a flyer or two, eh?

    Yeah, I was looking at the Austin ordinance, thinking it might be one of the most liberal, so I was taken a back to see that the coop must be 50ft from the neighbors. That still seems very restrictive; are there many properties where that even works?
     
  7. queenie67

    queenie67 New Egg

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    Jan 27, 2012
    Although the City of Houston has the chicken ordinance it is basically for those neighborhoods where there aren't deed restrictions. Most deed restrictions in Houston neighborhoods prohibit chickens or foul of any kind.
     
  8. CJKrebs

    CJKrebs Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 8, 2012
    Houston, TX
    Thats very interesting. Do you know of any specific examples?
     
  9. queenie67

    queenie67 New Egg

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    Jan 27, 2012
    Not sure what you want examples of?

    Houston does not have zoning so when a neighborhood is platted and formed by the builder they file initial deed restrictions with the city. Deed restrictions prohibit certain activities such as having a business in your home, have barn animals, etc. All neighborhoods initially have deed restrictions- most last 50 years.

    When the deed restricitons expired they are usually extended by a vote of the neighbors which is accomplished by the Homeowners Association.

    If they are not extended by the Homeowner's Association then you will see businesses mixed in with residential homes such as some parts of montrose. In these unrestricted areas where the deed restrictions have lapsed and have not been renewed, the city of houston ordinances are the only laws that control.

    In neighborhoods where you don't see business mixed in with the homes there are deed restrictions still in force and like a said in my earlier post, most deed restrictions prohibit chickens.
     
  10. Anne530

    Anne530 New Egg

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    Mar 6, 2012
    I am also interested in getting the ordinance changed to something more reasonable.

    Just had to find a new home for our 5 hens that we had for 2 yrs. We live in the Heights, someone complained, and BARC left us a notice we had 3 days to remove coop & hens.

    So now very motivated to change the ordinance & get them back.

    How did the Rice meeting go?
     

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