In the last few years, a number of Pennsylvania municipalities have been faced with the conundrum of deciding if live chickens should be allowed in residential neighborhoods. The hobby of growing a small flock of birds for eggs has grown significantly in recent years. Today, it’s easy to find a wide variety of chicks and custom chicken coops for purchase. But what stores don’t offer is a guide to zoning laws as they pertain to raising chickens.
If indeed the municipality has already permitted the raising of chickens in an urban setting, then the discussion shifts from what is permitted to how best to be a good neighbor and not inconvenience those located near you. Those municipalities that allow the raising of chickens in residential neighborhoods may want to consider providing tips for residents who are interested in starting this as a new hobby:
Consider more docile breeds like Bantams or Silkies and limit the number you have to a manageable level.
Build or buy a suitable pen for your flock These will keep your chicks safe and secure from escape and marauding predators.
Ensure your chickens have enough space, both inside the coop and in an outdoor run. Generally, each chicken needs about 2-3 square feet of coop space and 8-10 square feet of run space.
If you have close neighbors, it is advisable to grow only hens, as roosters can be very noisy and unruly sometimes.
Plan for proper waste disposal, as this can create quite a stink with those living nearby.
Provide appropriate medical care for the chickens, and help prevent diseases such as bird flu from spreading.
On the plus side, you can establish yourself as a responsible mini-farmer by sharing eggs with your neighbors and taking the opportunity to educate them on the proper way to manage urban chickens.
But this blog really isn't about how to raise chickens; the prior discussion are points that need to be considered if the board or council is approached by the citizenry on this subject. The City of Erie is currently addressing this issue, and the topics mentioned here have played an essential role in the decision-making process.
Those municipalities that do not have zoning regulations won't have to address this issue. Those with zoning may be faced with the difficult decision as to whether chickens should be allowed or not and what restrictions should be in place if they do. Those items should include how many are allowed, placement and upkeep of the coop, noise restrictions, and concerns for the health, safety, and welfare of nearby citizens and the chickens themselves.
When faced with this situation, you'll need to "fire this thing up" and be sure not to get egg on your face by not looking at all aspects of the request.
About the Author
David L. Anthony is a member of the Keystone Municipal Solutions team of experts. He is a veteran of municipal government, having served more than 33 years in various positions of public service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about David and the Keystone Municipal Solutions team, click here.