Backyard Chickens: City Ordinance Example

Marans in chicken run

Marans in chicken run

In 2008, the City of Fort Collins (my home for the past 24 years) passed an ordinance that allowed backyard chickens.  Oh sure, there were a few older neighborhoods that had been grandfathered in as ‘agricultural zones’ (meaning they could raise and keep livestock), but the majority of the city fell outside of this designation.  Of course there were the occasional city 4-Hers who raised a chicken or two for the county fair, but soon after the fair, most fair chickens were passed onto country relatives for long term keeping.

Even before the passage, I had been know to call the Zoning Office to find out exactly where the agricultural zones existed on a street by street basis.  When it was apparent that even with wishful thinking, that my neighborhood was not in those zones, I called to find out if there were any exceptions to the rule.

But apparently I was not the only person interested in backyard chickens.  Citizens were holding meetings, answering questions posed by neighbors, and addressing issues raised by city officials.  With thoughtful discussions, it became apparent that it was possible for residents to keep chickens in a manner deemed reasonable by the City.

Backyard chicken coop

Backyard chicken coop

For residents who would like to raise chickens, but yet live in a city that does not allow it, take heart.  There is a growing movement across the country allowing backyard chickens.  Within each state, this issue is being addressed on a community by community basis.

The following is an excerpt of the City of Fort Collins Municipal Code, Section 4-117.

  • Up to 6 chickens allowed per parcel of property
  • Roosters are not permitted
  • A person must obtain a permit from the Humane Society and received such information or training pertaining to keeping chicken as said agency deems appropriate
  • Chickens must be provided with a covered, predator-resistant chicken house that is properly ventilated, designed to be easily accessed, cleaned and maintained, and at least two square feet per chicken in size
  • During daylight house, chickens must have access to the chicken house and access to an outdoor enclosure that is adequately fenced to protect them from predators
  • Chickens must further be protected from predators by being closed in the chicken house from dusk to dawn
  • Chicken house nor enclosure may be located less than 15′ from any abutting property line the owner or chicken keeper obtains written consent of the owners(s) of all abutting properties to which the enclose is to be most closely located (not withstanding any subsequent change in ownership of such abutting property)
  • Chickens must be sheltered or confined as to prevent them from coming into contact with wild ducks or geese or their excrement
  • Chickens may not be killed at direction of the owner or keeper except pursuant to the lawful order of state or county health officials

In layman’s terms, the code boils down to these items:

Morning fresh egg

Morning fresh egg

  • No roosters, period
  • No more than 6 hens
  • Chicken house must be predator resistant (neighbors don’t want to find a chicken carcass in their yards)
  • To be legal, purchase a one-time chicken permit (in our case, from the Humane Society)
  • Chickens must have access to an outdoor space, can’t keep them in the coop all day long
  • Get permission from your neighbor if you want to put the coop or run closer than 15′ to your shared property line
  • Keep chickens protected from exposure to wild fowl to reduce the chance of disease
  • Backyard chickens are meant for egg production, not meat… backyard slaughter is not permitted

Municipal code exists not just for the health and safety of the residents, but also for your own peace of mind.  If it hadn’t had been for the code, we might not have built our chicken coop and run so securely (and believe me, the foxes were testing it on day one).  So instead of walking outside and finding a  mauled chicken, we experience the particular joy of gathering still-warm eggs from our hens.


2 responses »

  1. How brilliant for you all. There are sections of Uk, that since 1980 ish, have had the clause “No Fowl” put onto the deeds(title papers) of every new property built, because of one lady and a cockerel…… I can’t be without my hens, so we live rural!!And old.. and Damp!

    • I grew up in the country where there were no such regulations about poultry. Farms animals were just part of daily life. Now, I consider myself fortunate to live in a city that allows poultry. I too, can’t imagine being without chickens.

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