Tuesday, April 29, 2008

urban chicken laws: how to write your own

If you're thinking of approaching your local city council in an effort to make urban chickens legal where you live, you're likely to get a lot more traction if you can come to the table with sample legal codes from other municipalities (and maybe even your own proposed code, to boot).

Where can you find such things? By using the Municipal Code Corporation's online (and searchable!) municode library.

Here's how it works. Let's say you want the exact municipal code for keeping chickens in the city of San Francisco.
  1. Go to the online municode library
  2. Click on the state of California on the pretty map
  3. Scroll down to the link for "San Francicso" and click it
  4. At the top of that San Francisco page, click the "Search all of the San Francisco, California codes we host" link
  5. In the search box at the top of the page, type "chickens" (I usually search on the plural, as the singular "chicken" tends to bring up a lot of ordinances related to food, not pets. your mileage may vary, though)
Within a couple seconds, you get four results, and can choose the one that gives you this:

SEC. 37. KEEPING AND FEEDING OF SMALL ANIMALS, POULTRY AND GAME BIRDS.
(a) Number of animals. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to keep or feed, or cause to be kept or fed, or permit to be kept or fed, on any premises over which any such person, firm or corporation may have control within residential districts, (1) more than three dogs of age six months or older without obtaining a proper permit and license to operate a dog kennel as defined in Section 220 of the San Francisco Business and Tax Regulations Code, and (2) more than a total of four of the following in any combination: dogs of age six months or older unless part of a dog kennel, hares, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, doves, pigeons, game birds of any species, or cats. Nothing in this section, however, shall prohibit the feeding of any wild bird not specifically prohibited by this section unless such feeding creates a public health nuisance.

(b) Enclosures. Any person, firm or corporation, keeping, feeding, or causing to be kept or fed, or permitting to be kept or fed, on premises over which such person, firm or corporation may have control, four or less hares, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, doves, pigeons, parrots of any species, game birds of any species or wild animals of any species except those animals prohibited by Section 50 of this Code, shall keep same in coops or enclosures that are approved by the Director of Public Health. Where the coops or enclosures are located on the outside of or on top of any buildings, premises or structures, the coops or enclosures shall be not less than 20 feet from any door or window of any building used for human habitation.

(c) Prohibition. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to engage in the business of keeping, feeding, or breeding any hares, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, doves, pigeons, parrots of any species, game birds of any species, dogs, cats, for commercial purposes, within the residential districts.

(d) Commercial Purposes. It is hereby declared to be unlawful to conduct for commercial purposes any establishment in which dogs, cats, hares, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, doves, pigeons, parrots of any species, game birds of any species, are kept and maintained in the commercial or industrial districts without first obtaining from the Department of Public Health a permit so to do.

No permit shall be issued by the Department to any person, firm or corporation, to keep or maintain for commercial purposes any of the above named fowl, animals or birds within the commercial or industrial districts, unless said person, firm or corporation has complied in full with the following requirements:
(1) It shall be unlawful to establish hereafter any place of business for the sale of the fowl, animals or birds specified above within 25 feet of any door, window or other opening of any dwelling, apartment house or hotel if live fowl, animals or birds intended for sale are kept therein; provided, however, that this restriction shall not apply if a wall, ceiling, floor or other impermeable barrier between the place of business and such habitation will prevent odors and noise from disturbing the occupants of the habitation. It shall be unlawful to keep said live fowl, animals or birds in any basement, sub-basement or cellar in any place of business unless such basement, sub-basement or cellar is adequately ventilated, as approved by the Director of Public Health and is also adequately lighted, completely rodent-proofed and complies fully with the sanitary requirements set forth in Section 440 of this Code.
(2) The floors of all such premises must be of waterproof material, smooth and of durable construction properly drained to the sewer. These floor surfaces shall be coved at the juncture of the floor and wall with a 3/8-inch minimum radius coving and shall extend up the wall at least four inches.
(3) The premises shall be rodent-proof, all openings properly fly-screened, and adequate provision must be made for the elimination of all odors.
(4) The walls and ceilings of all such premises must be of durable, smooth, nonabsorbent, washable surface, and be light-colored.
(5) In all premises where slaughtering of fowl, birds or animals is carried on in connection with the keeping of said fowl, birds or animals, the killing room must be entirely separate from that part of the premises occupied by the live fowl, animals or birds.
Refrigerating equipment must be installed for the reception of the dressed fowl, birds or animals, properly connected to the sewer. Toilet and lavatory facilities for the use of the employees engaged in the handling and slaughtering of such birds, animals or fowl must be installed in conformity with the provisions of the San Francisco Plumbing Code.

(e) Exceptions. The terms and provisions of this Section shall not apply to the keeping, liberation for exercise, or racing of homing or carrier pigeons which are not raised or kept for the market or for commercial purposes, and the lofts or pigeons houses wherein said homing or carrier pigeons are kept are elevated at least three feet above the ground or other foundation upon post-legs or pillars completely surrounded or covered by smooth, jointless galvanized sheet metal and within not less than 20 feet from the door or window of any building used for human habitation, and the entire floor and sides for at least two feet extending upwards from the bottom of the floor of said lofts or pigeons houses, are covered or protected by galvanized iron or its equivalent, concrete or 18 gauge wire mesh of not more than 1/2-inch and the interior of said lofts or pigeons houses, wherein such carrier or homing pigeons are kept, are registered by the owners thereof with the Department of Public Health and the said lofts or pigeon houses shall be inspected by the Department at least once a year.

(f) Definition. For the purposes of this Section, the terms "residential district," "commercial district," and "industrial district" shall have the same meanings as those found in the San Francisco Planning Code.

(Amended by Ord. 256- 90, App. 6/29/90; Ord. 185-00, File No. 000335, App. 8/11/2000; Ord. 125-01, File No. 010269, App. 6/15/2001)
voilá! More than enough info to craft your own ordinance (or get your council better informed for writing their own).

2 comments:

sallydi said...

Now that you're a chicken expert (I'd say a year of dedicated chicken mama-ing qualifies you) may I ask... have you ever had troubles with snakes? I have been having this wonderful backyard chicken farming fantasy and a friend told me I better beware of snakes that slither into the hen house to eat the eggs. Since FLorida is full of nasty,venomous types, this has vexed me. Now I'm thinking I better build a chicken stockade to protect my girls! My girls... a phrase I adopted from you. Problem is, when I told a friend I was getting a pair of girls... she thought I meant a boob job!
Anyway, Chickens are not against the law where I live... although they may be against my deed restrictions. Therefore, I have to be discreet... everybody bends the deed restrictions in my neighborhood... i figure if I keep them private, i'll be okay. Wouldn't want anybody to nix the chix!
Can't begin my mission until I'm back from a 3 week trip to Italy in October... but I purchased plans for the Biddy City and I am going to start my "nesting" like an expectant mother and preparing for the big day.

Thank you for inspiring me. I read your blog from the beginning.
-Your new friend, a future urban chicken farmer of America, Sally

ThomasK said...

Sally, so great to hear you've made a decision (and thanks for the kind words)!

I haven't had any problems with snakes myself (nor have I seen anything in the literature I've read). I'd rely on the reports of much more experienced folks than I as to whether there's a snake problem to beware of (Granny Annie, others, do you know otherwise?)

Can't wait to hear what kind of girls you get when you get back from Italy, Sally. Please do share pix of the nesting process.

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