Letter to City of Hayward... What do you think?


10 Years
Nov 26, 2009
I recently received a letter from the city of Hayward noting that our chickens are in violation of a city ordinance which requires a permit to have "livestock". After some research, I decided to respond with a letter. I'd like to get some feedback from BYCers on their take on my letter.


May 20th, 2012
Hayward Animal Services Bureau
16 Barnes Ct.
Hayward, CA 94544

Dear Animal Services Bureau:

In a letter we received dated15-May-2012, we have been made aware that having our 3 chickens (all hens) are in violation of Hayward Zoning Ordinance section 10-1-220. We would like to formally request consideration for the continuance of keeping our chickens. They are part of our self-sustaining garden and attempt to improve our healthy eating as a response to my wife's recent bout with cancer in 2004. Besides, they are a wonderful teaching tool to our children regarding healthy eating, taking care of the earth and patience.

The chickens (all hens) are housed safely and contained in our property. Additionally, contrary to the letter we received, we do not have any roosters on our property. There have been, however, roosters sighted recently in the fire access road behind our property. We do not know who they belong to. I assure you that they are not ours.

Finally, the ordinance states that "livestock" is not allowed in the RS district which we are in. According to the legally and generally acceptable definition of the word "livestock" as animals raised for revenue and/or profitable gain, we assert that our chickens would not qualify as livestock. Neither our chickens nor the eggs they have produced have ever been sold for any revenue nor have they been bartered for any goods or services.

According to our legal counsel, there are two cases in the state of California dealing with the issue of chickens as livestock. The cases of Butler v. City of Palos Verdes Estates, 135 Cal. App. 4th 174 (Ct. App. 2005) and In Re: Barker, 151 Cal. App. 4th 346 (Ct. App. 2007) define chickens as livestock. However, in both cases, the chickens were raised on the property explicitly for the purpose of commercial revenue.

My wife and I - and our two children - are law-abiding citizens who love our city of Hayward, serve in the community (we are members of our local school site councils) and have contributed to the business revenue of the city. As such, we have every intent to ensure that our activities are within the bounds of the laws. If the city has clearly documented chickens as livestock in our city ordinances or has had a court assert that they are livestock even if they are not raised for revenue, then we will absolutely comply with the requirement to obtain a permit. We have no desire to do anything other than abide by our laws.

Please advise as to the appropriate next step so that we may comply immediately.


that sounds good

but i would think about mentioning the other roosters

i know its to help you and to state theyare not yours but it may cause retaliation from who ever they belong to if they get a letter too

i think wothout mentioning roos your letter is perfect for consideration

and if i was a council member i would be yes you can keep them

also on a side note

very sorry to hear of your wifes cancer and good luck with it in the future, may god protect her from it ever returning.. amen
In our ordinances each chapter starts with a list of definitions applicable to that chapter. You should check if and how livestock is defined in your local ordinaces. Additionally, our ordinances have a hardship clause for medical cases, and you can check if you yours do, or ask for them to be instated.

In your comment about the roaming rooster, add that you have never fed them...feeding is often used to as an excuse to make a person responsible for a feral animal. No kindness goes unpunished! If you can copy and past the ordinace other people probably have helpful advice to offer...

And did you look up california state laws? They can override local ordinaces...
he idea is to have a friendly party edit hard, so that the letter is as effective as possible. I'm a scientist and can be blunt and honest - apologies for any offense in advance. Here goes:

Your opening sentence seems to indicate that you are now aware that you are in violation of the code. Is that what you mean to say? Later on you suggest a different interpretation which would NOT be in violation. . . Sorry to be nick picky but opening sentences are critical. I think you want to present a case that you have a different interpretation of the law from the very start.

I would also not call attention to the rooster. It is not yours and never was yours. Or better yet, if you do want to call their attention to it, you can request that they remove this and other feral animals in order to protect you and other family pets from potential diseases. . . or something like that. Basically make lemon aid of this issue. You can give them this point w/o losing anything you care about.

I think you don't need to say "all hens" twice, at least not with the exact same words. In the second case you could simply say " These hens are are housed. . ."

They are part of our strategy to be more Self Reliant Americans and to improve. . . I've edited out "attempt to" You ARE doing this. It isn't an attempt, it is happening. Attempt to is weaker language.

I'd like to get others feedback but think it might be worth considering calling these 3 hens "family pets" at some point in the letter. I"m new to chickens and until recently thought of them as farm animals as well. However, almost everyone has or has had a family pet - the idea here is to help the reader identify with you. Your not a weirdo with farm animals in the city, your an American striving to be more self reliant and healthy with a victory garden and a family pet that provides breakfast.

I might put the "According to" paragraph before the "Finally" paragraph.

I'm not sure that the 2nd to last paragraph helps. You are saying your law abiding, their letter you received says you are not. . . Also that last paragraph sounds to me like you are ready to cave, in which case, why write back?

I would conclude with the fact that you have 3 family pets and are not a farm. You agree with them about the rooster and will be happy to help them catch and remove it.

Hope this helps

I agree with James. Take out the part of "made aware of" and say "your letter stating.."

When you mention the roosters, do so only to state that you do not own any and leave it at that.

I would check out other ordinances. For example in the city I used to live in, chickens fall under the animals ordinance and not zoning. check to see if you city messed up and has conflicting ordinances.
I just got 3 chicks, and live in Hayward. The guy at the feed store (Close Feed on Industrial) said that it was legal to have them. this letter seems to say no. How long have you had yours? Do you think someone complained? Now I'm worried....
In addition to writing your letter as amended, I would recommend writing a petition stating that the hens are not an issue with any of the neighbors and have all your neighbors sign it. If anyone balks, it could be the complainer. Nevertheless, if you can provide support from your neighbors with your letter, that may be helpful.

I went though a similar thing, only I had 10 hens in a city where it WAS legal. My battle with one stinky neighbor was won by being patient an working with the City Counsel and City Attorney to have some laws changed. It worked and here in our Roseville (just a hope, skip and a jump from you) and we have happily had our hens for four years now and everybody is happy (except the stinky neighbor).
I just got 3 chicks, and live in Hayward. The guy at the feed store (Close Feed on Industrial) said that it was legal to have them. this letter seems to say no. How long have you had yours? Do you think someone complained? Now I'm worried....

I live in South San Jose, and I recently adopted a few birds from a lady in Hayward who got cited. Such a shame, her yard was very tidy, and the birds are sweethearts to this very day. :-(
I agree with most of the previous posts, fight this. Do not mention the rooster, it isn't yours and by acknowledging you know about it just takes the focus away to the real matter at hand---you are not a poultry production facility and you want to have your chickens (hens) in your backyard to help your family be healthy and happy. You are in compliance. Your wife's physician might even be willing to document how Omega-3 enriched organic homegrown eggs can help your wife's condition by providing nutrients she needs in a cost effective way. I can't imagine that someone would refuse to help you with this.
Have your neighbors sign a letter, talking to them as individuals might just shed some light on the situation-- maybe someone has a problem with them and you don't even know it. Contact the appropriate city counsel person who will more than likely be sympathetic to your situation, and help you rectify it.
Good luck and sending you lots of strength! You deserve to have those chickens & enjoy them.
So... after more research (all worthwhile hours, I might add, since it is educational and useful to others), I discovered that Hayward does have documented ordinances explicitly stating that chickens are not allowed with an "administrative use permit".

The relevant language can be found in the Hayward City Ordinances:

I'll summarize for you the relevant areas:
- Chapter 10, Article 1, Section 1.220 - States that "livestock" is not allowed in the single family residential zones without an administrative use permit
- Chapter 10, Article 1, Section 1.3500 - Defined chickens as "small livestock"
- Chapter 10, Article 2, Section 2.2735 - Defines conditions livestock must live in

I am about to start the process of getting an Administrative Use Permit. Once I figure that out, I will post an update.

The battle won't end there. I fully intend to lobby City Council to adopt a "Sustainable Living" ordinance and plan to spearhead the effort. So, if anyone reading this lives in Hayward, please post a reply or send me a private message noting your interest in at least signing a petition.
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