Annotated Ordinance



 WHEREAS, the City Code currently prohibits the keeping of poultry within the city limits; and,

 WHEREAS, the City Commission recognizes there has been a nationwide movement towards sustainable, local food production which aims to foster a greater sense of community, to educate children about food origins and production, and to reduce energy and transportation costs and environmental concerns associated with modern farming; and,

WHEREAS, at the request of the organization known as Citizens Lobbying for
Urban Chicken Keeping ("CLUCK") and other interested citizens, the City Commission wishes to amend the City Code so as to permit the keeping of chickens within the city limits, subject to the limitations set forth herein; and,

WHEREAS, the City Commission desires to amend the City Code to set forth regulations which will be applicable to the keeping of chickens within the city limits so as to protect the public health, safety and welfare.

Section 1. The Code of the City of Sarasota; Chapter 8, "Animals", Section 8-
2, "Keeping livestock and certain animals prohibited" is hereby amended: 
(Additions to text are indicated by underline; deletions by strikeout).
Sec. 8-2.  Keeping livestock and certain animals prohibited.

(a)   Except for a retail establishment engaging in the lawful sale of animals and
Sarasota Jungle Gardens, it shall be unlawful for any person to keep, harbor, raise or maintain the following:

(1)  Any livestock;  

DISCUSSION: Poultry (such as chickens) are not always considered livestock and hence are dealt with in (2) below.

(2)  Any poultry, except chickens being kept, harbored, raised, or maintained as accessory to a residential single family structure, subject to the following restrictions:

DISCUSSION: Only residents living in a residential single family home are allowed to have chickens. If you live in a duplex, or other multi-family structure, chickens are not allowed. But see 3. (b) below regarding the possibility of chickens in other zoning categories.

a.    No more than four (4) chickens may be kept, with roosters prohibited;  

DISCUSSION: The commission was very clear about the maximum number of birds – four. Taking liberties with this provision will make you subject to a $50 fine and, if someone complains, it will weaken our case in 2014 when the chicken ordinance will be subject to re-consideration (see Section 5. below). Attempting to raise more than four hens will also make you ineligible for participation in any “Tour d’Coops” or other open house type events. Don’t push it.  And remember, Seattle just increased the number of chickens from 3 to 8 so subsequent positive adjustment is possible.

ROOSTERS The no rooster provision may be the most important constraint. Roosters are far noisier than hens and their crowing will bother most neighbors. They are more aggressive than hens and some will attack people. And roosters mean fertile eggs, which increases the chances of creating a wild, or feral, population of chickens, which we wish to avoid. When acquiring chickens demand pullets (young female chickens) and avoid cockerels (young males) or “straight run” (roughly half males and half females). The sex of a baby chick can only be determined by trained experts, unless you purchase sex-linked pullet chicks, which have different markings from the cockerels. If you end up with one or more cockerels, contact CLUCK at and we will attempt to find a farm that will receive it/them. Rarely hens will start crowing and these should also be re-located. Remember the rule of thumb: If it crows, it goes.

b.    No person shall slaughter any chickens;

DISCUSSION: This provision was added both as an animal welfare consideration and to avoid neighbors having to witness deliberate killing of birds for consumption. CLUCK will attempt to facilitate re-location of unwanted birds.
c.     The chickens shall be provided with a movable covered enclosure (i.e. "hen house/coop") and must be kept in the covered enclosure or a fenced enclosure at all times.  Chickens must be secured within the movable henhouse/coop during non-daylight hours; 
DISCUSSION: This section involves several provisions: 1) the requirement for a movable coop, 2) the requirement that birds be kept in the coop or within a fenced yard, and 3) that the birds need to be secured within the coop at night.

1)    Movable coop refers to a coop that can be moved, as opposed to a fixed coop. It could be rolled on wheels, dragged on skids, or picked up and relocated. Models that include access to the ground are commonly called chicken tractors and numerous examples can be found online. The requirement for movable coops was added for several reasons -- first to optimize relations with neighbors. Second, to provide the hens with different parts of the yard to forage in (particularly if the yard is unfenced). Third, the movable coop can be re-located to a safer location, such as a garage, if a tropical storm threatens. Finally, a movable coop facilitates relocation if situations dictate that the household give up its birds. Households that built fixed coops prior to legalization should take steps to acquire a movable coop and comply with the law. Fixed coops may be subject to building codes.
2)    If the hens are outside the covered coop, they need to be in a fenced yard. If there is no fenced yard, then the birds must be in an enclosed structure. The purpose of the fence is two-fold – to keep the chickens from leaving the owner’s property and to reduce the likelihood that predators will notice the hens and enter the property.  Containing the birds to the owner’s property is the result of three factors: the breed of chicken, the design of the fence, and whether the bird’s wing feathers are trimmed. Some chicken types, such as game fowl and bantams, are stronger fliers and should be probably avoided. Heavier breeds are less likely to be airborne. Some fence types, such split rail, are obviously not going to contain any birds. The fence must be adequate to contain the birds to the property and should prevent crawling under as well as flying over. CLUCK recommends an opaque fence to reduce the likelihood that dogs or other predators will see the chickens and want to chase or attack them.
3)    The chickens have to be secured at night – this means enclosed within the coop in a manner that raccoons or other predators cannot open. Bear in mind that while so-called ‘chicken wire’ may be adequate to keep chickens in, raccoons and opossums will reach through large mesh, grab birds, and kill them. If you hear chickens at night, there is something wrong and you need to investigate. Some cautious hen owners re-purpose baby monitors to make sure nothing attacks the hens in the coop at night without the owner knowing.

d.    The space per bird in the henhouse/coop shall not be less than four (4) square feet per bird; 

DISCUSSION: This is an animal welfare provision. Four square feet is near the high end of recommended square footage requirements. For four birds, this means a coop floor area of 16 square feet minimum. In addition to the interior coop area, birds need access to the yard via a fenced enclosure (c.2 above) or the ground via a chicken tractor that protects the birds while giving them access to the ground.

e.    No covered enclosure or fenced enclosure shall be located in the front yard, nor shall the henhouse/coop be closer than ten (10) feet to any property line of an adjacent property, nor within twenty five (25) feet of any adjacent residential structure.  Odors from chickens, chicken manure, or other chicken related substances shall not be detectable at the property boundaries;

1) The intent of the first provision is that the chickens and coop not be visible from the street. It does not address corner lots with no true front yard. Meeting the intent by screening the coop and birds from visibility from the street is probably the best that can be done for corner lots at this time.
2) There is a ten-foot setback from the coop to the property line. This is a minimum. If you can set the coop further from the neighbors, try to do so.
3) In addition to the coop being 10 feet from the property line, it also has to be at least 25 feet from a neighboring residence. If your neighbor’s house is more than 15 from your property line, this is not an issue, but if their house is closer than 15 feet, your coop will have to be located further away. Be considerate and utilize the movable coop to minimize any neighbor concerns.
4) One major concern about backyard chickens is odor. If litter is kept dry and properly composted, odor will not be a problem.  However when bedding gets wet, it releases ammonia, which both creates an odor problem and allows valuable nitrogen to escape. CLUCK is experimenting with a product called Kemira Klasp that can be used in the case litter or bedding gets wet. This product binds the nitrogen to stop the odor and loss of nitrogen. It is activated by moisture.

f.      All enclosures for the keeping of chickens shall be so constructed and maintained as to prevent rodents or other pests from being harbored underneath, within, or within the walls of the enclosure.  The henhouse/coop must be impermeable to rodents, wild birds, and predators, including dogs and cats.  Enclosures shall be kept in neat condition, including provision of clean, dry bedding materials and regular removal of waste materials.  All manure not used for composting or fertilizing shall be removed promptly;

DISCUSSION: The section addresses several aspects of chicken raising. The first is sound construction to thwart rodents. The second, somewhat redundant, provision also addresses dogs and cats. Third, the coop has to be well maintained and dry bedding is essential. Finally, if you are not composting the manure to use as fertilizer, it must be disposed of.
1)    To thwart rats, coop openings need to be ¼” x ¼” or smaller.
2)    In addition to not having large openings, coops need to strong enough to withstand assaults from large dogs or raccoons, day or night.
3)    The coop must be well maintained and the most important aspect is keeping bedding/litter dry.
4)    if you are not composting the manure to use as fertilizer, it must be promptly and properly disposed of (garbage pickup) and not simply dumped somewhere.

g. All feed and other items associated with the keeping of chickens that are likely to attract or to become infested with or infected by rodents or other pests shall be kept in secure containers or otherwise protected so as to prevent rodents
and other pests from gaining access to or coming into contact with them;

DISCUSSION: Feed sacks are vulnerable to almost any animal and all feeds should be kept in rigid-walled containers and CLUCK recommends metal containers with tightly fitting lids. Rats are the pests most likely to gnaw into feed containers and can chew through many plastics in one night.

h. The sale of eggs or any other chicken products generated in the City of Sarasota is prohibited;

DISCUSSION: The sale of backyard chicken eggs is already not feasible due to numerous state requirements, but this broader language was added to reassure people that there would not be increased car traffic resulting from any chicken product sales in the neighborhood.  Excess eggs can be given away, but sanitary egg handling precautions should be observed in any case.

i.               No dog or cat that kills a chicken will, for that reason alone, be considered a dangerous or aggressive animal.

DISCUSSION: This provision has been misinterpreted to mean a neighbor’s dogs or cats can kill chickens with impunity and the chicken owner has no recourse. The intent and meaning are different and this provision was added to protect the dog from being labeled as a problem and possibly being considered for euthanasia. In other words, the dog should not be penalized for expressing instinctual behavior (chasing and attempting to kill birds), but the dog’s owner may be held accountable for the dog’s behavior (depending on circumstances).

(3) Any rabbits, except those being kept, harbored, raised or maintained:
 a. As pets within a completely enclosed dwelling or detached garage capable of housing at least two cars;

b. In an outside enclosure, coop or pen, up to a maximum of two rabbits.

DISCUSSION: This rabbit language was pre-existing.

(b)   Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (a) above, the city manager or his designee may, by special permit, authorize the keeping harboring, raising or maintaining of livestock, poultry or rabbits (not within a dwelling) within the city limits. A special permit may only be issued for a specified limited period of time and shall set forth such conditions or requirements as shall be deemed necessary to mitigate the potential adverse effects upon neighboring properties.
In determining whether a special permit shall be issued, the city manager or his designee shall consider the nature of the request, the potential benefit to the city or the general public which may result if the special permit is granted, and any adverse effects which neighboring properties may experience if the special permit is granted.

DISCUSSION: This is a pre-existing provision that has not been used previously, but could be invoked to allow demonstration chickens in areas not zoned for single-family residences (for example, schools, community gardens, etc.).

 Section 2.  Nothing herein shall affect the ability of private property owners and/or neighborhoods to create and/or enforce private restrictions (including but not limited to: deed restrictions, condominium/association restrictions and by-laws, or private covenants), which may provide more stringent regulation of chicken keeping than provided for herein, including the prohibition of chicken keeping.

DISCUSSION: If you live in any situation in which you have agreed to be bound by a legally-enforceable restrictions and those restrictions prohibit poultry then that restriction takes precedence over the City’s ordinance.

Section 3. It is hereby declared to be the intention of the City Commission that the sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses and phrases of this Ordinance shall be deemed severable, and if any phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph or section of this Ordinance is declared unconstitutional or otherwise invalid by the valid judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction, such unconstitutionality or invalidity shall not affect any of the remaining phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs or sections hereof.

DISCUSSION: This is bollerplate language added to most government ordinances to ensure than one problematic section doesn’t invalidate the entire measure.

Section 4.  Ordinances in conflict herewith are hereby repealed to the extent of such conflict.

DISCUSSION: Rather having to review every other ordinance to identify any possible conflicts, this provision clarifies that, in the case of conflict, this more recent action takes precedence.

Section 5. City Neighborhood and Development Services Department staff shall make a presentation and report to the City Commission regarding the keeping of chickens in the City pursuant to this ordinance by no later than three (3) years after its effective date.  The report shall contain an assessment and evaluation of how this ordinance has worked in practice and may recommend amendments to this ordinance in order to better address any particular circumstances that have occurred as a result of urban chicken keeping.  After receipt of the report, the City Commission may determine that no further action is warranted or may set a public hearing to consider either amendment or repeal of this ordinance.

DISCUSSION: This ‘trial period’ language establishes what amounts to a probationary period after which the staff will evaluate any issues related to backyard chicken keeping in the City. After receiving the report, the City Commission can take no action, or schedule a public hearing to consider changes, or repeal the right to keep chickens.

Section 6. This ordinance shall take effect immediately upon second reading.

DISCUSSION: The measure passed second reading on Feb. 7, 2011.

PASSED on first reading by title only, after posting on the bulletin board at City Hall for at least three (3) days prior to first reading, as authorized by Article IV, Section 2, Charter of the City of Sarasota, Florida this 24th day of January, 2011.
 PASSED on second reading and finally adopted this 7 day of
February, 2011.


In addition, the City provides for enforcement penalties through a variety of separate provisions, many of which carry a $50 fine. These include violations of 11-4955 (above) as well as Noise violations. Citizens can research these provisions by using the website Municode.
Finally, In addition to city rules and CLUCK advice, you should probably familiarize yourself with the CDC’s  Health Risks associated with raising chickens. Most of the material is common sense (wash your hands) but it is worth noting that the Center for Disease Control does not recommend chickens in households with children under 5, presumably because of the negative synergies present in an individual with a not fully developed immune system and a tendency to put things in their mouths.