The Legality of Keeping Chickens in Urban and Suburban Areas

Joseph Pond is bringing a taste of good, old-fashioned farm life to the suburbs. By creating a new website, Backyard Chickens Alliance of Cobb County, he has brought supporters of backyard chickens together on the internet and at local events. Actually, the fight to keep hens in one's backyard is not a new one. People all over North America have been lobbying to have chickens as pets and as a source of protein. For Pond, a citation by Cobb County Code Enforcement inspired him to take a stand for himself and other backyard chicken keepers.

How and where can someone find out if it's legal to keep chickens in their backyard? Here is a sample of some of the laws that have been written to address chicken keeping in residential areas of Georgia:

State of Georgia
"Right to Grow Act": The state says you can keep chickens for your own consumption, unless otherwise told by your county, city or HOA
Cobb County in GA
Need at least two acres, the coop must be at least 100 feet from the property line, and the chickens cannot wander any closer than ten feet to the property line
Marietta, GA (Cobb County)
Need at least five acres, and the coop must be at least 150 feet from the property line
Fulton County in GA
Coop must be at least 200 feet from the property line
Atlanta, GA (Fulton County)
Coop must be at least 50 feet from the neighbor's house
Decatur, GA (Fulton County)
Coop must be 75 feet from your neighbor - or as far away from your neighbor as possible if your lot is smaller than 75 feet
Chatham County in GA
Coop must be at least 100 feet from your neighbor's home, if you have five or more chickens
Savannah, GA (Chatham County)
Coop should be at least 50 feet from the property line

Most county and city ordinances referenced here...

  1. Require chickens to be fenced in
  2. Require ample room
  3. Require sanitary conditions
  4. Note the maximum number of chickens that can be kept
  5. Do not allow roosters due to noise ordinances
  6. Do not allow chickens and their eggs to be sold, only consumed privately

Regulations in some urban areas are actually more flexible than suburban areas when it comes to keeping chickens. Paula Deen and her Chatham County neighbors on Wilmington Island were recently cited for keeping backyard chickens. Chatham County quickly decided to change regulations so that residents would be allowed to keep their chickens. Pond and other Cobb County residents may not be able to see such a fast turn around on the county's residential chicken laws. However, it seems that if nearby cities like Decatur can handle chickens in residential areas, so can Marietta and other cities in Cobb County.

PBA special on backyard chickens in Metro Atlanta

If you are interested in finding out if backyard chicken keeping is legal in your area, here are a few suggestions on locating these particular ordinances:

  1. Search for your state, county, and city codes. Rules may be different for each level, so it's important to be informed about these regulations.
  2. Use Municode and local government websites to find these regulations.
  3. Try searching for these terms: poultry, chickens, and fowl.
  4. Zoning and general ordinances often have regulations listed for chickens.

This hub was inspired by Pond's story, so let me take a moment to thank the Pond family for bringing this issue to the forefront.

As I did research on regulations regarding backyard chicken keeping, I was taken by the legal jargon surrounding the issue. I am interested in hearing about what you think about keeping chickens in residential areas, and what your take is on any related laws. Thank you and happy hubbing!

Comments 8 comments

Farmer Brown profile image

Farmer Brown 4 years ago Author

Here is the latest on Joseph Pond's fight to keep backyard chickens at his suburban home:

Long story short, to avoid a $1000 fine he had to give his chickens away. His appeal failed due to a technicality. Now, the backyard chicken groups are lobbying for the "Right to Grow Act" that will allow citizens to grow food on their property. I'm sure Georgia beekeepers will be joining the movement too!

See this website about how a beekeeper was given a citation for keeping livestock on his property:

Farmer Brown profile image

Farmer Brown 5 years ago Author

Chicken and locavore enthusiasts! I found this article in Time that you might enjoy reading - about Joel Salatin's farm and mission.

Farmer Brown profile image

Farmer Brown 5 years ago Author

Go Dallas! Thank you for sharing your research, leroy64. I agree - it's so important to keep the animals healthy - just from an ethical perspective. Also, it's better to get fresh eggs from a healthy bird.

The smell of chicken waste is a large concern for many people. However, if the chickens are well cared for and kept at manageable densities there is no smell to be concerned about.

Are there chickens in your future, leroy64? We are still working that out here in GA.

leroy64 profile image

leroy64 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

Farmer Brown,

The city of Dallas allows chickens, but roosters are illegal. I found the information under animal services. It is one of their FAQ's. There are limits on the number of chickens although the code is not clear. The city is more concerned about the health effects of chicken waste than a set number. You do have to take care of the chickens.

Farmer Brown profile image

Farmer Brown 5 years ago Author

leroy64, It would be interesting to see what Dallas has on chickens. Share what you find!

leroy64 profile image

leroy64 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

I think I will look into what city of Dallas says about this. They used to run all over the city. Interesting hub.

Farmer Brown profile image

Farmer Brown 5 years ago Author

I agree, bethperry. The chickens are truly the responsibility of the owner. As I was researching chicken keeping regulations, animal control came up several times - so animal control might be a good place to start in regards to keeping the chickens and the people who drive around them safe. Thank you for reading and for your great comments!

bethperry profile image

bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee

I need to find out about the laws regarding chickens in TN. We have neighbors with chickens and the poor things get out in the road. They (the chickens) never make problems for anyone, but I am worried about one of them getting hit by a car.

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