I'm Officially a Farmer! (Getting around zoning ordinances)


12 Years
Jan 13, 2008
Howard City, Michigan

I thought my recent experience might possibly help a few people. I recently wanted to build a garage/polebarn for my chickens that are coming in two weeks, and to free up some space in my existing garage. My wife wasn't looking forward to the smell, and my dogs didn't want to share their space, so I needed it soon. I sent the plan to the township, and it was denied, as the zoning ordinance said that any accessory buildings need to be behind the livable portion of the house. Well, I didn't want it there. I wanted it off of my driveway turnaround, so I could put a car in it also, and use it for more than a storage building.

My options were to pay $200 and apply for a variance which would take a couple of months and I was told I would probably not be granted, or just let local government tell me what I can do on MY property. I was really annoyed. I live in a rural area. My house is one of three on a mile long dirt, private road. My driveway is 350 feet long, and I live on a 6 acre fully wooded lot. No one would ever even see the barn. Not to mention the fact that I'm paying a ton more in taxes on my newly built house than probably most of the single wide trailers with junk collections in the lawns that occupy the majority of my township. There had to be another way. (By the way, I'm an employee of a city government, so I'm not one of those "anti-government" people, I just didn't like being told what I could do on property that I own.)

So, I looked up the ordinance online and it said "this does not apply to buildings associated with farm use." Then I looked up their definition of a "farm." It was really loose, and here's why- the "right to farm act" basically protects farmers (from large scale, for-profit farmers down to hobby farmers,) from local governments. Because I am getting "livestock," and the building I wanted was to keep that livestock, they had to leave me alone.

There are a couple of hitches- you actually have to have livestock of some sort, (no set number or purpose,) there are some lot size requirements, and you can't be within city limits or a suburb/residential zone. You have to follow these conditions, too- the zoning guy, understandably upset by the fact that I went around him, said that if I didn't, the township would make me tear the barn down. However, if you can meet these requirements, your local government has no right to tell you that you aren't a farmer.

You might have a hard time fighting against the federal or state government, but with a little research and time, you can get around local government regulations. My brand new 24X32 chicken barn/workshop, complete with a rooster weathervane is proof. Hopefully I'll have the electric in before my 25 chicks come later this month!


There is no "I" in Ameraucana
Jan 18, 2008
Newman Lake, WA
Way to go! Just goes to show you that you don't always have to take "no" for an answer, good things can happen when you stand up for yourself.
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Flock Goddess
13 Years
Jan 12, 2007
Weymouth, Massachusetts
Good job!


11 Years
Mar 15, 2008
100 miles SOUTH of Atlanta
you can get a farm # also. I got mune at a place called NRCS I think it is part of the USDA. you need picture ID & a platt & deed to your land... I feel EVERY little bit helps.


12 Years
If you have a tractor that uses Diesel,there is a tax form that you get that you don't have to pay taxes on the diesel, its about 30 to 40 cents a gallon cheaper since its farm use and not highway use, also goes alone with all the feed bills, fence bills, vet bill,and everthing else that a farm uses. Hey money is money, save every dime you can marrie


12 Years
Mar 28, 2007
once you get the 6acs deemed a farm.you can file for ag exempion on your property taxes.an the chickens will make you a farm in your states eyes.an you wont have to pay taxes on your feed supplies or building marerials.his farm exemption # will allow him to buy dieasel at the farm price.
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I gots Duckies!
12 Years
May 7, 2007
Sterling, Alaska
way to go!

My wife called the state last week to find out what if any permits we would need to start our own poultry business (chickens and quail). they referred us to the department of fish and game who told us that under no circumstances could we raise, own or import quail into our state. (they are a non native game species and could compete with local wildlife for food). a brief check of state laws actually says we can raise and sell quail we just cannt release them into the wild. We can sell them to folks to use for training their dogs (or feeding snakes) and they can release them but must make every effort to capture or kill any bird they release.

moral of the stroy is just becasue the folks in authority give you an answer doesnt mean its correct. keep them honest by verifying the "facts" they give you. Ask for the specific laws they are siting and read them your self.

edited to add, when we filled for the permit to conduct business in our bourough we registered for a "resale"card. since we are a business that raises poultry we can purchase poultry supplies i.e. food, cages, vet care for our flock without paying local taxes on those items.
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