As far as animal-keeping goes, chickens really aren’t high maintenance. You have an animal that is no noisier or messy than a dog or cat, fresh eggs and–best of all–countless hours of entertainment! I love watching the chickens pecking around the backyard so intently, moving around the plants looking for bugs and other things to eat. But not every place is welcoming to chickens.
So how can you find out if chickens are legal in your city? It’s a true understatement to say that laws regarding keeping poultry in the city and in the suburbs vary. Just do quick Google search for “municipal codes poultry (name of city)” and you’ll find there are different laws for nearly every city in the US! Don’t assume that just because one city in your state allows chickens, that another city will.
Some cities let you have one rooster; most don’t let you have any roosters at all. Some have specific regulations about the chicken coop and its placement; others are more vague in describing the space for birds. There are websites that have many poultry municipal codes listed in one place, which is a good place to start. But you really need to get the information from your own city, preferably from a government source. If you can’t find what you are looking for online, call!
If by some chance you live in a city where chickens are not legal, there are many ahead of you who have led the charge and been successful in getting the city laws changed.
One really good resource is urbanchickens.org, a site that has a lot of useful information for the very new and wanna-be poultry keepers. On their page concerning chicken laws, they give very specific advice for those who want to change the chicken laws.
The issue of whether to allow chickens inside city limits is on the table at many places around the US, from Idaho to Indiana. So, chances are someone in your city has had the same idea. You can find like-minded folks in many ways. Try searching for a Facebook group. Call your local county extension agent and ask if there are any poultry groups in the area. If not, ask for the names of a few people who keep chickens–once you find one person, you’ll find the chicken people tend to know each other, so your network can grow very quickly.
But remember, you’re probably not alone. Most likely there are others like you, maybe even a chicken lover in government.
Many people with children have even joined a local 4-H poultry club and found city, suburban and country folk alike who love their birds. A 4-H club is also a great way to get your children involved in chicken keeping and to get some help if you have chicken questions.
But here is my best advice: Obey the law or change the law. Just avoid going rogue, as it could end badly and you might hurt the chances of getting chickens legalized in your city.
No matter whether you agree with the law or not, its best to follow the current laws and change what you don’t like. I have friends who lived in town before chickens were allowed legally, and the stress of unfriendly neighbors forced them to choose between their in-town home and a country home with the chickens. They chose country and ended up with a great place. But not everyone is willing to go to these lengths.
Going rogue is pretty stressful if you are worried that someone might turn you in at any time if your beautiful little coop is discovered sitting illegally in the city limits.
However, even if it is legal to have chickens in your city, it never hurts to take a dozen eggs to your neighbors from time to time just to make them glad you’ve taken on chickens.