Can I Keep Chickens In My Backyard?

Can I Keep Chickens In My Backyard

by Nate Smith

If you have made the decision that you would like to try your hand at keeping some chickens in your backyard, there are a few considerations that you might want to make first, and although you have probably thought of some of these, there just might be a few that might come as a surprise.

Legality of Raising Backyard Chickens

Probably the very first question you should ask yourself about raising chickens is, can I raise chickens in my backyard?’ You know, legally. I know, I know. If you are slightly stubborn like I tend to be you are probably saying to yourself, ‘this is my property, so surely I can do whatever I want on it’! Am I right? If that thought crossed your mind, or anything at all along those lines, trust me, I know where you’re coming from. Here’s the deal.

If you live within the boundaries of a city as most (but not all) of us do, you will want to start out by getting info on whether or not you can even keep chickens in your backyard while staying within the confines of the law.

The last thing you want to do is to build or buy a chicken coop, purchase a few starter hens, buy some food, get the entire family excited about the adventure that lies ahead, only to have a bureaucrat pay you a visit and let you know (kindly or otherwise), that what you are doing against a city ordinance and that not only will you have to get rid of your new chicks, you will also have to pony up for a fine they’ve decided to hand you. What a slap in the face!

Basic Types of Zoning and Chickens

There are a few different types of zoning that exist, each one having different laws and regulations on what you will and what you will not be able to do. If your property happens to be zoned as agricultural, then you probably won’t have any problem raising chickens or constructing any type of chicken coop you might want to have. Most people reading this article will not fit that description, however, and will live on property that is probably zoned as residential.

Don’t let that discourage you in regards to chicken-raising, as many, many residential areas will allow people to raise a few chickens on their property. The best thing that you can do to make sure is to contact your city offices and simply ask them if there are any ordinances on raising chickens in your backyard, and what they are. You will find typically that there are two different areas of laws that will affect what you are able to do. First, there are often laws specific to the actual birds.

How many birds you are able to have on your property (it might depend on the size of your property), what sex they can be (roosters, anyone?), and in some cases, although not extremely common, you might even have to get written permission from your neighbors! I know, that last one sounds a bit strange.

You haven’t burned any bridges there, have you? The second set of laws have to do with the type of housing you use for your chickens. How large can your chicken coop be? Do you have to get a permit to build or even own a chicken coop in your backyard? Will this chicken coop need to be inspected?

I hope I haven’t scared you away from the idea of even wanting to start raising chickens in your backyard, and honestly I believe I have found some of the more extreme laws that you might want to, as your own city ordinance might include anything from having nearly no regulations at all, so maybe just one or two of these issues, which might not seem like much of a problem at all.

Remember, as you are going into this and inquiring about the local laws of your city just remember that joy of fresh eggs, chickens and the family experience is all very much worth it in the end!

A Personal Example on Chicken Keeping Laws

It has been a number years now that raising chickens in your backyard has been allowed here in my city. In regards to how many chickens can be kept here, a person can keep up to 12 chickens, depending on the size of your property.

Anywhere from house lots as small as 5,000 square feet keeping just two chickens, up to larger lots being allowed 12. There was a small public hearing where people were able to voice their opinions on the matter. For the most part, it was thought that people being able to raise chickens in their backyard was fine and that there wasn’t really any detriment at all.

Even public officials mentioned that when it came to complaints about chickens from neighbors (which were extremely rare as it is), the complaints were never about noise, and never about a smell (neither of those things seemed to be any problem at all).

The only complaints on file were for the occasional chicken getting loose, which was always promptly gathered and put back in its place. I’m sure we can all point to that neighbor of ours that would be the first to complain about the slightest inconvenience, or really anything at all.

Whatever the case may be where you live, make sure you have it on good authority that you are able to keep chickens before going out and finding chicks and a chicken coop. Don’t take the advice of a friend or a neighbor or a real estate agent even someone near you that might be raising chickens.

Sometimes when laws are passed that ban certain things, those who were practicing before the law came into effect are exempt from the new law; they are grandfathered in.

What if My City Does Not Allow Backyard Chickens?

If you find that your municipality does not allow raising chickens, don’t panic just yet. All might not be lost. The process of getting a simple law like this changed is often times much more simple than you might think.

You might be asked to attend a city council meeting to state your case, and often times that will be enough for the city to take a vote on the issue, and I think often times you will find that no one wants to be the lone councilman putting their foot down on people wanting to become more self-sustaining. Be patient on the matter as this process doesn’t usually happen overnight.

It can takes months for the ball to get rolling, but you can be a part of making great changes in your area if you stick with it. If you can find others in your area that back you on this issue and will be willing to work with you, even better.

Nate Smith has been homesteading and dealing with backyard chickens for a number of years. He encourages people who are looking to begin raising chickens to gather information first on the best breeds of chickens, types of chicken coops and requirements that go into raising backyard chickens.

M.D. Creekmore

Owner / Editor at
I've been interested in prepping and homesteading topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find here. Five days a week (Monday through Friday) I will get up at 6:00 o'clock, drink a cup of coffee, eat breakfast, pour another cup of coffee and then head to my home office where I will scour the internet for the most 10 recent and important news and happening from around the world and post those in a ten-point list with my thoughts and options. Hope you enjoy.
M.D. Creekmore

Latest posts by M.D. Creekmore (see all)

M.D. Creekmore

I've been interested in prepping and homesteading topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find here. Five days a week (Monday through Friday) I will get up at 6:00 o'clock, drink a cup of coffee, eat breakfast, pour another cup of coffee and then head to my home office where I will scour the internet for the most 10 recent and important news and happening from around the world and post those in a ten-point list with my thoughts and options. Hope you enjoy.

10 Responses

  1. Prepared Grammy says:

    I live in a rural area, and I’ve had chickens for years. Zoning isn’t an issue for me, but it is for friends of mine. None of them have had any problems having chickens in town, but I don’t know if they’ve even checked on zoning laws. Most people around here don’t have a problem with neighbors having small coops in their yards, but all it takes is one person to complain and it could be the end of it.

  2. Prepared Grammy says:

    MD, What breeds of chickens do you have? How are they doing?

  3. Matt in Oklahoma says:

    I’m semi rural but within the city zone. We are allowed 6. I run between 4-6 in a self designed chicken tractor I move with my riding mower.
    I love it. I had someone try and give me a coop and 2 but decided to give them to my neighbor who’d been admiring my setup.
    They are fair simple and worth the effort.

  4. Prepared Grammy says:

    MD, Nothing beats fresh eggs. When we’re away from home at breakfast, I can’t eat eggs from a restaurant anymore.

    • M.D. Creekmore says:

      Prepared Grammy,

      True, and with your own you also know how the chickens have been raised and their living conditions…

  5. Gordon Rottman says:

    When living in a small town in Louisiana near Ft Polk one could raise chickens. One particular cop didn’t approve. To bad, its legal. We let them out of the coup in the morning and they free-ranged on our almost an acre lot. They seemed to know where the boundary was. This cop made noise about this too. There was nothing about them running free in the ordinances or even if they left your property temporarily. Still, the cop sometimes parked in the street and watched the chickens. I guess he was going to cite them for trespassing on city property.

    My point is that there has to be an ordinance on the books prohibiting chickens or raising domestic animals or whatever. Just because a cop or city official does not like it means nothing.

    A couple of points about raising chickens:

    Unless you are going to breed chickens (you need an incubator and time), you do not need rosters. We would buy 18 or 20 Production Reds (expecting one to three to be rosters, which we dispatched when old enough to tell they were rosters). We just about always had enough eggs for a family of five. The hens will be calmer, less hen pecking, and produce more eggs. There’s a couple of spells a year of a week or so that they don’t produce taking a break. They’ll start back up soon enough. Make certain your coup is racoon and possum proof. They will wipe out your flock killing every bird they can reach without eating them…genuine psychopaths.

  6. Robert says: goes to a Chinese site for me ???

  7. jesse mathewson says:

    We live in middle of city, we have 6 chickens currently and I have had chickens for decades now … get to know your neighbors, and than no matter what silly law exists …