Raising backyard chickens is an increasingly popular and mainstream hobby, yet it is not legal in every town and city across the United States. Some states are friendlier toward urban chickens than others. Finding out which state is the best is more challenging than one might imagine. Many states claim to be the most chicken-friendly state in the Union. While raising chickens is legal in all 50 states, rules and regulations vary widely within individual states.
The American South
Many large-scale chicken farms are located in the southern states and there’s no shortage of websites claiming Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas are each the “best” place for chickens. A temperate climate and abundant land seem to be prime reasons to choose the South. What are regulations like in these individual states?
Arkansas seems to be a pretty lenient state for keeping chickens. Fayetteville allows four or fewer chickens, no closer than 25 feet to residences. Each bird must have at least 4 square feet of coop space and an adequate chicken run. Little Rock requires that chickens be at least 5 feet from the owner’s residence and 25 feet from other residences. No more than 4 birds.
South Carolina is another southern state known for its chickens. Yet if you live in Summerville, SC, you are out of luck. Local regulations declare it unlawful for anyone to have poultry of any kind running at large. Aiken, SC, allows chickens so long as they are penned and at least 40 feet from neighboring residences. Rules differ dramatically from one city to the next.
The West Coast
What about America’s West Coast? California is a pretty great place to keep backyard chickens. Many Californian cities permit backyard fowl. The specific numbers and space requirements vary. Irvine allows two hens per household while Albany allows up to 6 (with a permit). In Los Angeles, the number of chickens one can keep on their property is unlimited so long as they are kept at least 30 feet from your residence and 35 feet from other dwellings.
Up the coast in Washington, raising backyard chickens is generally allowed. Up to 8 chickens may be kept on any size lot in Seattle. Olympia allows up to 3 birds while Battle Ground has no restrictions on raising poultry at all.
America’s East Coast
In New York City, one can keep an unlimited number of hens so long as the area is kept clean. Roosters are prohibited. Albany, NY, strictly prohibits farm animals of any kind within city limits and fines violators. Oswego, NY, also prohibits chickens. It appears that quite a few New York cities prohibit poultry, so if you live in that state you must be very careful! New York is certainly not the most chicken-friendly state in the Union.
Boston, Massachusetts, prohibits raising chickens within the city. In Lynn, Massachusetts, one must have a petition signed by their neighbors stating they don’t mind you raising chickens and you can be fined if people complain about your birds. Plymouth, Ma, doesn’t appear to have regulations regarding chickens, nor does Somerville. Northhampton allows up to three hens and no roosters.
No matter where you live, do your research before setting your heart on backyard chickens. The United States can seem like the most—or least—restrictive place to raise chickens all depending on where you live. Good luck!