Chicken Chicanery

Urban Chicken Wrangling

There has been a resurgence lately in urban farming and chicken raising.  With that, we frequently hear of people running "a fowl" of city codes.  Some cities, like New York (never thought I'd have anything good to say about NYC) have a long history of allowing chickens, and of people raising them, even in tenements and row houses.  Other cities treat an urban chicken coop not much better than a meth lab.

This article from a nearby city shows the lengths some cities go to to restrict urban homesteading.  Keep in mind that up until the mid-50's much of Newport News was still a rural, unincorporated county.  There are still a couple of small farms, but most of the city is residential or industrial.  According to this article, chickens are only allowed if the chicken area is 175 feet from a neighbor's house.  That is almost impossible in most residential areas.

The article says that many cities have a three chicken maximum with no roosters.  I have mixed feelings... the libertarian in me says that it shouldn't be regulated as long as you are keeping the chickens in a humane and sanitary manner, and that common sense and being a good neighbor would suggest you don't keep a rooster if it is going to annoy folks.  But the realist in me says that we've got to have some regulations.  I think if I was running the show, I'd go for some sort of chickens per 1/10th acre ratio and maybe no roosters unless you are on an acre lot.

What do you think?


  1. Chickens seem like a good size for a pet. Smaller than most dogs, about the same size as a cat. I think a house with a yard could handle a chicken or two. I wouldn't want a rooster next door but wouldn't mind chickens. I would love to have some chickens but we have a small yard and two bird dogs. Bad combination!

  2. Being a good neighbor also means checking with your neighbors BEFORE building that coop and getting the chicks. We did this, and even though we don't fully meet the 175 foot requirement our neighbors have repeatedly told us that they like having the chickens around. Fresh egg bribery is only part of the deal!

    Besides, our five hens and one rooster don't make much of a ruckus, and even the rooster isn't that bad... and I should know, because he lives right beneath my bedroom window. Also, we have a small neighborhood farm nearby, and when you're standing out front you can hear their roosters just as easily as you can hear mine.

    But for smaller yards I agree that just hens is a much better idea. What you'll lose, though, is the protection the rooster provides for his girls. Once, when a neighbor's dog got loose and started after the birds when I had them out (normally they're in a fully enclosed run), the girls all scattered but the rooster and I were BOTH going after the dog. And the rooster is constantly shepherding the hens, keeping them together, and warning them whenever a hawk or whatever comes near.

    But it all comes down to being a good neighbor. Even if you have a large enough property, if you let your coop and run get really stinky then you're not helping. Keep it clean, be discreet, and keep those fresh eggs coming...

  3. I agree that chickens (hens especially) are quite reasonable. Heaven knows neighbors dogs barking at all hours are much more annoying than a few clucking chickens that sleep at night!

    Pretty good idea about a ratio. That would mean things ought to stay sanitary also.



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