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

CJKrebs

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jan 8, 2012
10
0
22
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!
 

EweSheep

Flock Mistress
14 Years
Jan 12, 2007
21,915
169
541
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.
 

CJKrebs

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jan 8, 2012
10
0
22
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/
 

CJKrebs

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jan 8, 2012
10
0
22
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?
 

beergnome

In the Brooder
9 Years
Apr 4, 2010
38
0
32
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.
 

CJKrebs

In the Brooder
8 Years
Jan 8, 2012
10
0
22
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?
 

queenie67

Hatching
7 Years
Jan 27, 2012
2
0
6
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.
 

queenie67

Hatching
7 Years
Jan 27, 2012
2
0
6
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.
 

Anne530

Hatching
7 Years
Mar 6, 2012
1
0
6
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?
 

MANNA-PRO

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