Friday, July 19, 2013

(ABC) Annotated Bibliography of Chicken Legalization Reference Material

Here are several documents you need to get hold of and read if you are trying to legalize chickens in your community. These are NOT how to raise or take care of chicken documents, but rather material related to legalizing backyard hens. 

There are three basic types of documents: synoptic reviews of chicken communities and their ordinances, persuasive case statements, and strategic advice. 


The most current and most authoritative is Jaime Bovier's Illegal Fowl: A Survey of Municipal Laws Relating to Backyard Poultry and a Model Ordinance for Regulating City Chickens, which appeared was published by Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. 

Bouvier, Jaime M., Illegal Fowl: A Survey of Municipal Laws Relating to Backyard Poultry and a Model Ordinance for Regulating City Chickens (July 27, 2012). 42 Environmental Law Reporter 10888 (Sept. 2012). Available at SSRN:

"A survey of municipal ordinances in the top 100 most populous cities in the United States that concern keeping and raising chickens offers lessons that may be applied to designing a model ordinance. This survey reveals that chickens are, perhaps surprisingly, legal in the vast majority of large cities. The survey also identifies regulatory norms and some effective and less effective ways to regulate the keeping of chickens. A proposed model ordinance, based on the background information and survey results, could be adopted by a city or easily modified to fit a city’s unique needs."

This is a fantastic document that should be given to all government staff charged with developing chicken keeping ordinances. Overall, it is a well-researched and well-documented analysis. It contains a model law and it is generally very reasonable. 
Here are the places where we might disagree with the model:

(a) a. Number Model calls for no more than six hens. CLUCK argued for six unsuccessfully with the City. Six is a good number for a truly urban, small-lot situation, but at some point (half acre?, one acre?) it would make sense to allow a few more birds.

(a) c. Enclosure  Models calls for 2 square feet per bird and they can't be allowed to run free in the yard unless supervised by an adult. CLUCK supported 4 square feet per bird in the City of Sarasota and believes chickens should be allowed out in the yard it is if equipped with a fence sufficient to contain the birds. As far as supervision goes, if birds are out in a yard that is fenced, but lacks a top fence, we agree that some responsible party should be within earshot. But a responsible child can handle this task. 


Residential Urban Chicken Keeping: An Examination of 25 Cities. This 2008 document by KT LaBadie was the gold standard until the Environmental Law Institute document came out. It is starting to get stale because so much progress has occurred in the last five years. Still, it is must read material. Here's the abstract:

City councils across the United States and Canada are increasingly being faced with the task of deciding whether or not to allow chicken keeping in residential backyards. In many cases this issue has two opposing sides: those citizens who want to keep chickens for egg production and those citizens who are concerned about the effects of chickens on their communities. This paper provides an analysis of pro-chicken ordinances from 25 cities in an effort to define the components of a just and well functioning chicken ordinance. Of the 25 ordinances, no two were identical but a variety of common regulatory themes were found across cities. Based on these findings, some considerations are suggested when forming an urban chicken keeping ordinance.

The model ordinance is very short and straightforward, but appears to make chicken tractors illegal. It also has a permitting requirement, which seems to be an older approach for people who want just a few hens. 


A Case for Backyard Chickens in Salem (Oregon) This is detailed and inspirational case statement with great information. 

Public Informational Meeting on Urban Chickens (Springfield Missouri) This is very graphic, powerpoint-style presentation prepared by a planner. That makes it more acceptable to other planners when compared with documents just prepared by citizen groups. Very accessible. 

Chickens for Montgomery A 27- page well-researched and illustrated case statement that uses pictures of children to good effect. 

Case Statement for the Re-Legalization of Backyard Hens in the City of Sarasota Well-referenced document that spends more time refuting objections than advancing the benefits.


One Dozen Tips to Legalize Chickens in Your Community originally appeared in Backyard Poultry, This article provides specific strategies and tactics for a chicken campaign. It is based on the successful campaign in the City of Sarasota Florida. 

Frank Hyman’s excellent article on legalizing chickens in Vol. 4 #6 of Backyard Poultry (now out of print).

If you are aware of other documents that should be included, please let us know. 

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