Zoning Appeals and Chickens in MD

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by krturpie, Jan 30, 2008.

  1. krturpie

    krturpie Songster

    Nov 11, 2007
    Wow! I was doing some research on zoning regulations and keeping chickens in my state and stumbled onto this gem.


    WARNING: It is a tedious legal document... Frankly, I can't believe that I read the whole thing. But, ironically, I think it was how it was written that goaded me on.

    Apparently, if I read it correctly, the appellant had an enforcement officer from the Dept of Planning and Zoning inspecting his property (no reason given). This officer found a chicken coop on the <1 acre property. The appellant was cited with 1) keeping farm animals on R-2 zoned property (24 Araucanas) and 2) sheltering them in a structure that was 45 ft too close to the nearest dwelling (needs to be 200 ft or more). This document is the result of an appeal for a variance (so he could keep his chickens and not have to move his coop.)

    Now, Howard County does permit fowl on residential property for "the normal use of the family." But, in the CONCLUSION OF LAW section, the hearing examiner wrote this long, twisted ramble on what is "normal family use." He supports his argument with citations of the American Heritage Dictionary and the New York Times. He also throws in the American Heart Association at one point. To add insult, the section has flippant subsection titles like "Counting Your Chickens" and "Flying the Coop."

    IMHO, the CONCLUSION OF LAW section seems to be an unnecessarily long, cynical diatribe by the hearing examiner, just to deny the appellant's appeal. I understand the need for zoning laws, but how this judgment is handed down seems demeaning and disrespectful on the part of hearing examiner, and gives a rather harsh interpretation that I hope does not set a precedent for the rest of us. Have any of you had to deal with this kind of stuff?
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2008
    Yanipique likes this.
  2. fallenweeble

    fallenweeble Songster

    Dec 4, 2007
    why are people so anti-chicken?
    i supsect this is a "classist" issue. i.e. only "lower-class" folks would keep chickens (that's the evil assumption) and therefore certain folks fight to keep chickens out of "their" neighborhoods in order to keep up the apprerance of a certain "level" of class.
    it's BS!

    but that's just my two cents.
    Yanipique likes this.
  3. SeaChick

    SeaChick Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Southern Maine
    Oooohhhh, yeah.... we spent our entire summer dealing with the ridiculous, tedious city council red tape and legal language incolved in getting the ordinance changed to allow pet hens. Fallen weeble is right on, it really came down to the city fearing that allowing chickens would make the city appear downscale. We worked hard to campaign for PET HENS, and had to do a lot of work proving the new backyard chicken trend is often strongest in upscale, educated communities. And then we had to sit through countless meetings while the legal language and rules were hammered out... you could not believe how long it took for such a simple thing!

    Happily, we prevailed, with lots of public support, but I am now no longer surprised to see stuff like that link!

  4. krturpie

    krturpie Songster

    Nov 11, 2007
    I'm glad you got through that ok. A lot of this is pure ignorance. I mean consider this little excerpt:

    Likewise, one cannot imagine that the Council anticipated that a residential lot owner would keep 24 chickens in order to feed the family. I must assume that the Council, like DPZ, was generally aware that the average chicken lays one egg per day. Conversely, the American Heart Association recommends that a person eat no more than 4 eggs per week. The average family certainly does not consume two dozen eggs a day. In sum, I must conclude that, when the County Council restricted the use of chickens on residential lots to “normal use,” it did not intend to allow a family to keep 24 chickens.

    The owner had said that they were pets and that they liked using the eggs, especially since their daughter didn't eat meat, and the eggs provided her with a necessary supply of protein. There's no way that 24 Araucanas could put out 24 eggs a day, and even if they did, they certainly would have to eat them all. Also, 4 eggs a week I think applies to adults with a typical diet. It's just silly, sloppy reasoning, really.​
  5. lo21212

    lo21212 Hatching

    Jan 29, 2008
    Does anyone know what the zoning laws are for Maryland? or for Baltimore County? Nobody seems to have an answer.
  6. saki

    saki Chirping

    Jan 21, 2011
    I was really hoping to get chickens on my Howard County property. So in December 2010, I checked with the zoning people who referred my question to Cindy Hamilton ([email protected]), the Chief of Zoning. She replied with the following:

    "Because you referenced Section 109 of the Zoning Regulations, I assume the property you own is zoned R-12. You are correct that for a property less than 40,000 square feet in size, the R-12 district allows chickens for the personal use of the occupants. By policy established several years ago, this department has determined that the maximum number of chickens allowed for 'personal use' would be 8.

    The location of the structure housing the chickens (the coop) must be compliant with Section 128.A.4 of the Regulations. That section requires that the structure be located at least 200 feet of an existing dwelling on any of the vicinal lots. Please note--this excludes the house on the same lot as the chicken coop."

    While I am fine with 8 chickens, the best I can do with a coop is to have it 140 feet from neighboring dwellings.

    I don't suppose anyone has started a campaign to make it easier for folks in the suburbs to raise chickens. If so, I'd like to know more...especially if it relates to Howard County.

  7. ahdale

    ahdale Hatching

    Apr 10, 2011
    I also looked into BYChickens in Howard County a year or more ago. We also don't meet the offset requirements. You can apply for a waiver, but it's costly (in the hundreds of dollars), and I don't remember now if you're required to get your neighbors to sign off, or if I only assumed (or was told) that it would be a good idea to help the waiver through. Talking with the person on the phone (I can't remember now what county department I talked to, but presumably it was Zoning - and I wasn't the first call that week on chickens), the likelihood of approval of the waiver was unknown at best.

    Although I don't want to head up an effort, I would certainly support an effort to have the zoning requirements modified to something similar to what, I believe, is in a lot of cities. From March 2011 Baltimore Magazine, in an article called "Coming Home to Roost," "city residents are able to keep up to four hens in a clean, moveable pen (to avoid the buildup of airborne pathogens), as long as it stays 25 feet from a neighboring residence." It seems unnecessary to me that if chickens can be kept successfully in the city, that lot-size / offset requirements should be more onerous in the 'burbs. If nothing else, you could bracket the size of the flock based on lot size / offsets. As far as I know, there are no such limitations on pets like cats or dogs for single-family dwellings.
  8. lemongrass

    lemongrass In the Brooder

    Mar 16, 2011
    Maryland, US
    I've heard "free ranging" chickens in a portable pen doesn't count as a coop/structure because it is portable (put wheels on it lol), and as such is a vehicle and does not apply to zoning rules / need permits/ blah blah blah.

    Anyone try that argument? I'm in MD, but on the Eastern Shore, so obviously no problems keeping chickens lol. Everyone and their mother has chickens around here.
  9. Chick named Lola

    Chick named Lola Songster

    Aug 15, 2010
    I live in Montgomery County and we called before we got our chickens to make sure we could have them. We were told that the coop had to be 100 feet from the neighbor's house's and we could not have more than 20 chickens. This is a suburban area and we are lucky enough to have a big backyard, we just made it with the 100ft and only have 5 hens so I think we are ok. Oh, and we are not allowed to have any roosters.[​IMG]
  10. WalkerH

    WalkerH Songster

    We are in St. Mary's so luckily we are a pretty rural district anyway. Got a good six houses with horses and goats a such in like a five minute walking distance. We have 4 acres, so I think we will be fine. I was reading up on keeping chickens and horses and such it the only law I really found was that they had to have sufficient housing for the number of animals you kept.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2011

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