1. Come check out hundreds of awesome coop pages (and a few that need suggestions) in our 2018 Coop Rating Project!

Illegal to keep chickens--How did this first happen where you live?

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by ducks4you, Oct 25, 2009.

  1. ducks4you

    ducks4you Songster

    Jan 20, 2009
    East Central Illinois
    I have been reading recent posts about chicken-keeping newspaper articles, the latest is still running: New York Times - "When the Problems Come Home to Roost" Just like Nifty has written on occasion, it used to be that EVERYBODY had chickens in their back yards.

    To quote my own posting, "...we should be vigilent lest ANY chicken diseases cross over to humans and peope become scared that we MIGHT be the cause of an epidemic."

    Does ANYBODY know WHY chickens were originally outlawed in many places?
    --Was it a disease outbreak?
    --Did people get too busy and want to travel?
    --Was it just cheaper to buy chicken from the grocery store:

    I think it's time we research and discuss this. If we don't know HOW it happened in the past, we might have to fight for the right in the future. Agreed? I'll watch for your thoughts. [​IMG]

  2. The Chicken Lady

    The Chicken Lady Moderator Staff Member

    Apr 21, 2008
    West Michigan
    I'm pretty sure it just had to do with people moving away from the farm to the city and not wanting the farm to come with them. A lot of folks [used to] see farm life as being low-class, so outlawing chickens made it possible for them to feel like their community was modern/moving up in the world.

    You know, people went nuts for TV dinners/microwaves/frozen food back during the space race. I was recently reading a book called Fast Food Nation; it mentioned that there was once a fast food place called "Forty Varieties of Meals" where you would basically pick from forty TV dinners and cook it in your own microwave at your table. People thought that sort of thing was "the future" and thus very scientific and healthy.

    Now we know better and are trying to get back to a more "green" lifestyle.
  3. tasymo

    tasymo Songster

    Jul 24, 2008
    Our Village adopted ALL the ordinances from a nearby Village of a similar size, simply because it was easier to do than write all their own ordinances. Luckily, our Village President was willing to listen to my arguments FOR chickens, and agreed to allow chickens based on the Michigan Right to Farm Act, despite a No Chicken ordinance on the books.
    As to WHY the ordinance in the first place, I really don't know. I tend to agree with the ChickenLady's post. I think it was a "class" thing. Thankfully, these days I think the folks who want chickens are willing to make sure their coops aren't trashy or smelly and their birds are well taken care of, at least for the most part. I incorporated my little coop into my flower gardens and painted it turquoise, so it really is attractive. Unfortunately there still seem to be some people out there with deep seated hatred and/or fear of chickens who think it is thier right to make trouble for chicken owners. Thankfully, they don't live near me. All we can do is keep our own personal "chicken raising standards" high, to prove that chickens ARE a good thing![​IMG]
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2009
  4. fla_native

    fla_native Songster

    Jul 1, 2009
    Haines City Fla
    Its real simple. The same reason there are places where you cant buy beer on Sunday or cant park a pickup truck in your drive way or have to keep your grass cut to a certain height.... a bunch of nosey busybodies with too much time on their hands or some public offical trying to justify why he/she has a job.
  5. valereee

    valereee Ordinance Wrangler

    Apr 30, 2009
    I know why chickens were outlawed in suburban towns. There were two primary progressions of events, depending on the areas (usually whether the area was historically a small town that has become a suburb vs. whether it was historically a rural area that developed into a new suburb.)

    1. In the post-war years, when people were moving from rural and urban areas and turning the surrounding small towns into suburbs, chicken-keeping was associated with poverty and rural living and were an uncomfortable reminder that grandma used to slaugher a hen on the back porch every Sunday morning. No one would keep chickens who could afford to buy eggs/meat. So in order to make their town upscale -- which would attract upscale people -- chickens were outlawed. (Similar to how so many suburbs have no sidewalks -- no one would walk who could afford a car, right? Lots of suburbs have rethought that one, too, and have been retrofitting sidewalks and street lamps in.)

    (On a related note, Homeowners' Associations developed to make subdivisions within these 'upscale' towns even more upscale than the town itself by making rules against even more things. The more things that were not allowed, the more upscale the subdivision -- and therefore the higher prices the developers could get. We have a subdivision in my town which outlaws VEGETABLE GARDENS.)

    2. In the second progression of events, many rural areas restricted the lot size on which livestock could be kept, and by default included chickens in the definition of livestock. This was done simply because as people became more mobile and moved into unincorporated areas outside the towns, former farmland was being divided up into lots, and the thinking was that there needed to be some minimum size upon which a "suburban farm" could be run. These laws weren't developed with small backyard flocks in mind -- they were developed with pigs and cows and roosters and large flocks in mind, and no one really was considering "but what about keeping five hens?" As these areas became incorporated into new suburban towns, many of the new towns simply looked at the laws that had governed these areas and simply adopted them wholesale.

    None of these apply to cities, and I can't speak to those. Some cities never outlawed chickens. Cincinnati never did. But I assume that cities represent some third progression of events.


  6. michickenwrangler

    michickenwrangler To Finish Is To Win

    Jun 8, 2008
    NE Michigan
    My mother has stories about how her Poland-born grandmother used to go to farmer's markets and buy turkeys and would feed them corn and let them run over her yard over the course of several weeks to be slaughtered as needed ... in Dearborn, MI, an up and coming suburb in the 1950s. The village I used to live in now outlaws chicken keeping (though there is one chicken outlaw, I was snooping around her chicken tractor during Trick-or-Treating on Halloween [​IMG]) and it used to have quite a thriving hatchery within village limits. Health department regulations made it too difficult for the small hatchery and restaurant/boarding house (owned by the same family) to raise and slaughter their own chickens ... but imagine how fresh that was with the restaurant raising their own fryers!!
  7. LizFM

    LizFM Songster

    Dec 15, 2009
    Well, to be quite honest, in the early to mid 20th century when a lot of these laws were enacted in many of these towns, I think there were conditions in some people's yards and properties who kept livestock (there were still houses in town with small barns on the properties in the 60's and 70's in the small town I grew up in) that most BYCers today would NOT want to live near either!

    Hygiene standards are much higher now for a lot of small livestock keepers.

    Back then, you either had livestock, and accepted the manure, mud, smell and flies as the consequence of doing so, or, if you didn't want those things...you just didn't have chickens or livestock. There was no concept of having the livestock and going to a tremendous amount of effort and expense (buying sufficient straw to keep pens clean and dry or sufficient wood chips to keep the coop nice).

    The farmers (not backyard raisers, but commercial family farmers) I know don't go above and beyond to keep their livestock quarters "nice"...as long as it's not costing them money the fact that their cows are up to their elbows in muck is just accepted. And when people move out to the country and then complain about the manure, smell and flies, the attitude is they should just "go back to town" to their nice residential zoned neighborhoods where that stuff isn't allowed to bother them.

    Another consideration is, the last tiny town (pop. 80) we lived in had a high population of what even the rednecks referred to as white trash. You wouldn't want to live near them if they were allowed to have livestock or fowl either. One memorable case, they kept goats in their house (not in a nice, clean "pet goat" way either). GROSS. [​IMG]

    Municipalities consider it easier to say "NO livestock/fowl" than to prove that someone is a nuisance.

    I am very much a "my property is my property and don't try to control what I do on it" type but after living in the above small town I realize that bad neighbors can REALLY destroy your quality of life. It's a hard call. [​IMG]

  8. SarasotaClucker

    SarasotaClucker In the Brooder

    Sep 19, 2009
    I'm getting the picture that our local crackdown was the result of one household that pushed the envelope too far and the city commission, instead of using nuisance laws to solve a more or less unique situation, passed a city-wide ordinance giving them authority to fine $50.00 a day.

    It is usually bad public policy to solve a specific situation with a generic solution and you can imagine how efforts to ban all dogs would go over if one family sheltered a pack of out-of-control bumpus hounds.
  9. pattypenny

    pattypenny Songster

    Sep 27, 2007
    Green Forest Ar. has Tyson chicken plant and the home owners can not own chickens. This town has a population of about 1200 and two neighbors got in a fight over one parties chickens. We have a Hispanic people who have moved here to work in the chicken plant and they have a back ground of keeping chickens so the hispanic lady had chickens and the neighbor decided to stop her from having chickens which he did, it went to a vote and the chickens lost by 2 votes. There were several people who had to do away with their chickens including one 70 year old lady who had kept bantam chickens for years.You can own horses and cows in Green Forest but not chickens of course we still have the chicken plant.
  10. LizFM

    LizFM Songster

    Dec 15, 2009
    Yes it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of recent local anti-chicken ordinances have their roots in anti-Hispanic feelings (you can't ban Hispanic people from town but you can ban all the things you associate with them). A very large "Not Welcome" sign.

    My master's degree work involved talking to people about home landscaping. A big part of native Arizonan's resistance to desert landscaping was that "bare" (non-grass and trees) yards are associated with poverty and native and Hispanic populations that "don't care" what their yard looks like and wouldn't be good neighbors. People don't want neighbors that have "dirt and a chicken" (often truly free-range chickens that just run up and down the street) in their yards.

    Before Hispanic populations started moving into small midwestern towns (which is where I'm from), the ordinances were meant to 'control' poor white trash...
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2009

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by