Philosophy of chicken ordinances


10 Years
May 27, 2009
So I'm sitting here reading these posts and I'm thinking about the various ordinances which may, or may not, prohibit people from having chickens in their backyards in suburban or urban settings.

To give you some background, I am a lawyer when I am not taking care of my 17 chickens, 5 goats, 1 goose, 2 rabbits, dog and cat, and organic garden with 30 member CSA. We live in an unincorporated five acre historic farmstead established by my family 150 years ago. We are surrounded by subdivisions and the city limits of a suburb but are not inside said city and can therefore have any farm animals we want with the original ag zoning. SHould the city forceably annex us, we have to be grandfathered in with the existing uses.

I was previously on both a township and county planning commisison and am now on a citizens advisory commission to a metropolitan area wide planning agency. I am also an elected park commissioner.

The prohibition on backyard chickens is really a vestige of the mid 20th Century when people, most of who were raised on farms, managed to "escape" to cities and towns and wanted to banish any reminders of their formerly rural existences from their immediate environments to cement in their minds the idea that they had "arrived."

Today, we have people who are a couple of generations removed from farming who are looking wistfully back at it and also looking at the uncertainty of the financial markets over which they have no control and are thinking "Maybe we should stop using our lawns just to feed our lawn mowers and try to grow some of our own food to feed ourselves." This might include some small livestock like chickens, goats, geese, and sheep.

WHen they try to do that, however, they run into the buzz saw of local ordinances which tell them they can't.

I think the pendulum is shifting on this. The ordinances on the books are really just reflections of a certain philosophy that was prevalent at a certain time. As times change, the philosophy may change and there is no reason why the law has to remain the same.

Why on earth, for example, is it all right to keep barking dogs and not clucking hens? The reason is really based on perceived class distinctions. What good are those when our mortgages are being foreclosed?

Your thoughts?


Premium Feather Member
14 Years
Feb 2, 2009
Southeast Louisiana
I'll wax a little philosophy.

First, laws get passed so people can be re-elected. The legislators passing the laws or ordinances are trying to make 51% of the voters happy. How do they make voters happy? By doing the things that the voters perceive they want. It's all about perceptions. Don't cloud the issue with facts. Facts don't matter. Perceptions do.

People that are not around farm animals perceive farm animals to be loud, dirty, smelly, and dangerous, plus they are likely to break out and come over to my property and leave a stinky icky deposit. And they can be, especially if they are kept in confined spaces by people that really don't know what they are doing. Oh, you say chickens are not dangerous. How many posts have you seen on here about roosters attacking people?

If a reasonable number of hens are kept in a reasonable coop and run, totally enclosed and properly maintained, they can easily coexist within a developed neighborhood. That's why you have regulations. People are not going to be "reasonable". Somebody will have too many chickens, including crowing roosters, in a stinky, wet, nasty coop and run that breeds flies and smells up the neighborhood. Or chickens will go over the fence, destroy somebody's expensive plants and leave deposits where they are not appreciated. You know it will happen. Some people just can't help themselves.

When people live together, the individuals have to give up some freedoms for the benefit of the whole society so they can coexist. It's called civilization. The trick is to give up only enough freedoms so people can live together but not so many freedoms that they become enslaved. It is a delicate balance and the balance keeps shifting.

Some places have ordinances against barking dogs.

Sonoran Silkies

Flock Mistress
11 Years
Jan 4, 2009
Tempe, Arizona
I think you've both phrased very well the reasons there are ordinances prohibiting chickens. The real issue is not hte chickens or the goats or ..., but the nuisances they can cause. And of cource there are also many other cuases of nuisances. Seems to me that regulating the nuisnaces rather than the cause is more appropriate.

Instead of saying "No roosters" or "No barking dogs" say "No sustained noise above xxx decibels as measured at the property line." Instead of "No livestock" regulate waste disposal (which should include composting) to minimize fly and pest populations. Etc.


11 Years
Oct 23, 2008
rockaway beach
Hi, when we moved in to our home we asked if there were any covenants or restrictions in the area and were informed by the realestate agent there were none. Our meterman informed us today that we were in violation of our covenant's. I have now picked up a copy of the covenants which appear to be expired all though the restrictions seam to run forever. They both state that in order to change these there must be approval of a majority of the lot owners. So in order to change the rules am I right in guessing that I would need to start a pettion and present it to the water company? As far as my reserch tells me the county government neither prohibts or allows poltry. I've only located a right to farm law. Any suggestions

Sonoran Silkies

Flock Mistress
11 Years
Jan 4, 2009
Tempe, Arizona
The water company having regulations applicable to deed restrictions is a new one on me.

Check with your county recorder to see what if any deed restrictions are on your property. If they are expired, then they are history--irrevelant. Who would enforce the restrictions if they are still valid?

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