Thinking of the neighbors

Discussion in 'Coop & Run - Design, Construction, & Maintenance' started by BirdOfPray, Sep 29, 2010.

  1. BirdOfPray

    BirdOfPray Chirping

    Sep 29, 2010
    Hi folks,

    I hope I chose the right place for this! I'm doing my research to figure out if and how I can keep maybe 2 to 4 chickens in my backyard. I live in Austin, TX, and my understanding is that I need to have the chicken enclosure 50' from anyone else's residence or business (not property line). I need to do some more detailed measuring to see exactly how that could work, because our backyard isn't huge, but I think we can swing it. Before I do too much measuring, I was wondering exactly how the 50' rule applies. Does every part of a chicken enclosure need to be 50' away, or just, say, the coop where they're kept at night? How would that work with a chicken tractor? And would a covered (not enclosed) porch count as part of a house? (And I suspect this question would technically go in a different forum, but... does anyone in Austin know how strict they are on these things? One of my next door neighbors is totally supportive of me getting chickens and would love to have eggs from us, so could I get away with something like nominally giving one of the chickens to her so that the enclosure could be within 50' of her house since she would also be an owner of the chickens housed in it?)

    What kind of cleaning and maintenance would be necessary to keep the smell from being annoying to my neighbors? They're not especially particular, but I do get along well with them and would like to keep it that way. [​IMG] When we had chickens when I was a kid we put straw down for bedding and cleaned it out about once a month, but I do remember that it smelled inside the chicken coop. I don't really remember the smell or mess being a problem, but we lived in the country so that kind of thing really wasn't an issue.

    Just trying to get a good feel for how likely this is to bother any neighbors. The two nearest ones are both pretty laid back, but I don't want to take advantage of that. They both intend to stay long-term, so if I can set things up to be ok with them I'm in great shape. My only concern would be that the vacant lot behind us is owned by some folks who eventually want to build luxury apartments. They've started and stopped the process a few times over the last 10-15 years, and it's indefinitely on hold due to the economy. My big concern there is that the apartments would go in behind us and the owners would look for some way to get rid of the chickens and catch that maybe a corner of the chicken run is only 49.5' from the neighbor's covered porch, or something like that. It would be impossible for the apartments to be built too close to the chickens, as zoning regulations stipulate a 50' building setback from the property line. So far the apartment folks have been very friendly to us, but I'm not sure if that'll change once they're past the zoning process and have everything built and no longer have to play nice.

    I appreciate any feedback!


  2. Tdub4chiks

    Tdub4chiks Songster

    Jul 8, 2010
    Constantia, NY
    How about a tall fence behind the coop, so the "apartment neighbors" can't see the coop from their lot. Or maybe, just a solid wall on the back of the coop & pen. Just have it open toward your home. Just a thought.
  3. gryeyes

    gryeyes Covered in Pet Hair & Feathers

    I'd go with pine shavings instead of hay or straw, and use the deep litter method. MINIMAL smell from the coop. Just keep the big clumps scooped out and add food grade DE every now and then.
  4. elmo

    elmo Songster

    May 23, 2009
    The people on the Austin Poultry Meetup could probably help you with your specific local zoning questions:

    We have nine bantams in our backyard and use sand in the coop and run. It dries out the poop which means no smell. I also use droppings trays under the roosts at night that I empty out into our composter every morning. A colony of black soldier flies has started in the composter which means everything in there is broken down very quickly, there's no odor from the compost, and I get grubs to feed to my chickens if I wish.

    With our extreme summer heat in Texas, try to put your coop and run in the deepest shade (especially from afternoon sun) possible in your yard. You'll also want extra ventilation in your coop down at roost level for the summer (and able to be closed up for the winter). I would also recommend that you research chicken breeds and pick kinds that can handle heat.

    So many people seem to worry about their chickens handling winter temperatures when it actually is extreme heat that is far more dangerous to them...they can actually die of it.

    Welcome to the forum and (soon) to the wonderful world of chicken keeping! I got my first chickens last spring, and I am every bit as fascinated and entertained by them today as I was when I first got them...more, actually.

  5. kichohana

    kichohana Songster

    Dec 28, 2009
    Johnston County, NC
    I can not speak for your laws/ordinances in Austin, but i'm sure a 50' radius applies. If your neighbor is cool with it, put the coop halfway between the houses and share the birds with them (as long as they're not moving...) I would think the 50' ordinance applies to the coop, but not the chickens themselves if you free range them in your yard. You can have up to 10 fowl per household.

    As far as the smell, it depends. My coop is about 30 feet off my back porch. I NEVER smell anything. The only time there is a smell is after a lot of rain, mixed with a lot of poop. The poop only smells until it dries, which is in less then a day in normal conditions. We just had 2 days of rain with tropical storm Nicole - so i imagine it might be a bit stinky till it dries out! My coop is full of wood shavings and stays very clean and smell free with a occasional sprinkling of DE or Sweet PDZ (both animal safe desiccants). I have a vinyl-covered "poop board" under my chicken's roost that I scrape clean every couple of days. Very efficient for managing chicken poop since they do most of it at night while sleeping! Poop gets scraped into a bucket and it goes into the nearby compost pile. No smell there either even with the quantity of poop that goes in. My run is filled with sand. The girls love to scratch, dig and dust bathe in it and it drains very quickly after it gets wet. My run is covered, so the sand doesn't get too hot in the summer. It is simple to clean with a small garden rake and a giant kitty-litter scoop from the $1 store.

    Build your coop in a permanent place, as best as you can to the 50' mark. It's best in a shaded area. If you have no shade, fence it nearby and grow some vines on the fence. This will provide shade and privacy. There are also some excellent tall grasses or bamboo you could plant to camouflage your coop from the potential "high-rise apartment" going in behind you. If they're waiting on the economy to improve, and it's already a 10-15 year project... well, it may never happen. [​IMG]

    Ok, so basically everything that Elmo said... and

  6. Bossroo

    Bossroo Songster

    Jun 15, 2008
    I am in the horse business. I had an inquiry from Australia to receive 25 straws of semen from my stallion for AI . To ship into Australia ... Australia Department of Agriculture has the requirement that the stallion must be isolated from all animals for at least 3 months and at least 100 meters ( 1 meter = 39"), that is from every corner of the stall with no outside pen with NO other animal to have access to that 100 meters. The USDA Vet must inspect the housing facility and certify as to the health of the stallion and be present to witness the collection, packaging, freezing and shipping of the semen. Only one designated person is allowed to feed the stallion and clean the stall. That person must wear freshly laundered coveralls or disposable suits and wear rubber boots and then walk through a vat filled with sterilizing solution. Long story short the USDA Vet said that there is no spot on my 20 acres that I could build one stall to qualify. So if in doubt ask for their specific enterpretation of the laws from the powers that be in Austin.
  7. BirdOfPray

    BirdOfPray Chirping

    Sep 29, 2010
    Thanks so much for all of your help.

    Kichohana, do you think it'd be legal to share the chickens with my neighbor and thus get around the 50' rule? The law reads: "An enclosure used to keep two or more fowl must be located at least 50 feet from a residence or business, excluding the residence or business of the fowl’s owner or handler." So if she was the owner of one or more of the chickens, and so was I, we wouldn't have to have them 50' from either of our houses? I'm pretty certain she'd be willing to do that, and I'd be more than happy to take on the cost and care of a chicken or two for her (giving her the eggs) in exchange for being able to not worry about the 50' rule with regard to her house.

    I'm thinking the back corner of our lot would be perfect -- it's shaded, out of the way, and would be hard to see from the lot behind us unless some resident climbed the privacy wall on their side, came across the 25' vegetative barrier and looked over my 6' fence. At that point, I certainly hope any code enforcement officials would be rolling their eyes. [​IMG] Our backyard is actually pretty well situated -- the sun comes up over the back fence, and we have four trees along the property line there (and there will be more planted if/when the apartment complex goes in, at their expense!) so most of the yard is shaded during the morning. If I can put the coop and run in the corner I'd like, it'd also have shade directly overhead to protect it from noon and early afternoon sun. It might get some afternoon sun, but the house blocks the late afternoon and evening sun pretty well.

    Not sure yet what breed(s) I'd be getting, but definitely something that lays well and can tolerate the heat, and hopefully a relatively docile breed to cut down on the noise. When I was a kid we had mostly Orpingtons and Rocks, if I recall correctly. I think I also remember some Rhode Island Reds, an Auracana and several varieties of banties. I don't think we lost any to heat, but they were also free to move around and find the best shelter during the day.

    I'll be doing some research on bedding/litter next and I'm sure I'll be back with more questions on that! I'm trying to put together a pretty comprehensive report of exactly what I want to do and how so that I can give it to my husband to think over. He's the practical side of the family and likes to have all the information in front of him and some time to think... I'm the one who comes up with all the crazy ideas. [​IMG]

  8. sourland

    sourland Broody Magician Premium Member

    May 3, 2009
    New Jersey
    [​IMG]2 to 4 chickens will present absolutely minimal odor problems. Get set up in conjunction with your present neighbors and prior to the completion of the apartment complex so that you are grandfathered. Knowing human nature, there is almost a guarantee that someone in a large rental complex will complain. If you were there first and have a good track record it will minimize your hassle. Good luck with this.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2010
  9. BirdOfPray

    BirdOfPray Chirping

    Sep 29, 2010
    I called 311 (city services and information) and the lady I spoke with said they have a document on keeping chickens and other fowl and livestock because she said they get this question a lot. Reading from that, she said 1-2 chickens are unrestricted (i.e. no 50' rule). She also thought it sounded like I should be able to co-own chickens with my neighbor. Either of those would work for me; two chickens would be plenty for our family if they'd be happy in that size flock, but if I were regularly supplying eggs to the neighbor I'd want one or two more. I'm kind of thinking I can build in that corner either way and if the neighbor wants I can have 3 or 4 chickens, and if not I can have 2. If she moves or changes her mind (extremely unlikely), I can rehome any chickens beyond just the two and then 50' rule no longer applies so my enclosure would still be ok.

    Any idea how I would go about making sure the 50' rule does not apply to two chickens? What I found online through the City of Austin says two or more chickens triggers the 50' law, but I asked the lady at 311 twice if it actually said one or two would be exempt from the 50' rule. She did have a document in front of her and it sounded like it's referenced frequently, so I'm not sure which to trust. I'd feel better having something more concrete than "the lady at 311 said...".

  10. BirdOfPray

    BirdOfPray Chirping

    Sep 29, 2010
    Quote:A fellow cynic! That's exactly my concern. I just want to be sure I'm squeaky clean so I'm not dependent on the goodwill of strangers. My immediate neighbors I can count on, especially if I'm sharing fresh eggs. An entire apartment complex full of people... not much I can do aside from being on firm legal ground.

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