Should I need a permit for a chicken coop?

Joseph Truini

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Joseph Truini

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Just because your neighbor has a backyard chicken coop and several chickens doesn’t necessarily mean that you can start raising chickens. You must first check with the local zoning and building departments to see if it is permitted in your neighborhood.

Although chicken coops don’t seem like the structure you would require a permit to build, this entirely depends on where you live. Some locations and HOAs have ordinances and regulations that regulate the building of coops. For instance, if you live in a residential zone in Huntington, NY, you will need a building permit to build, alter, move, repair, modify, demolish, or change the use of any building or structure. 

No matter where you live, it is also vital to understand your property’s zoning. The zoning codes are often less permissive in urban residential and commercial districts. However, many communities are nowadays increasingly embracing policies that allow backyard chickens.

The regulations to regulate building chicken coops and keeping backyard chickens are to prevent your neighbors from dealing with nuisances. Chicken coops can smell, plus the chickens themselves can be noisy.

For all these reasons, contact the local zoning office, municipal authorities, and the Department of Building and Neighborhood Services to learn about the permits you need before building your chicken coop. Also, be warned that because chicken coops are not one of the most basic structures, sometimes getting reliable information requires some investigating. Some locations have set specific guidelines for different types of coops, so make sure to inquire about everything that may lead you into trouble in the future.

Are there other permits needed to keep chickens?

After ascertaining that you can keep chickens in your yard and obtaining the permit to build a coop, the next step is to determine whether there are other regulations to follow. This is crucial, considering that some towns have rules regarding the chickens themselves.

Depending on where you live, you may be required to obtain a permit to keep chickens and renew the permit as needed. Moreover, if you don’t own the property where you live, you may need written consent from the property owner approving your wish to keep chickens.

Regarding keeping the chickens themselves, Most areas have policies that bar roosters to minimize noise. Some Local regulations may require placing a leg band on all your chickens for easy identification.

Because chickens can be a nuisance, it is common to find ordinances specifying how far chicken coops should be from houses, property lines, and streets, the maximum number of chickens one can keep, and sometimes the minimum size of property on which you can start chicken rearing. Depending on where you live, you may be surprised by the vast regulations and policies that regulate coops and chicken rearing.

Generally, regulations and policies regarding building coops and raising backyard chickens are more forgiving in rural zoning districts and farming areas and get stricter and more in urban areas. Ordinances vary wildly from one state to another and town to town, so the best way is to check with local offices. If you can’t find any information, your local County Extension Service agent can be of help.

Whatever your reasons for wanting to keep backyard chickens are, ensure your coop complies with all zoning codes and local ordinances.

Other requirements to consider

Chicken coops are often small, but that doesn’t mean every property can hold a coop. Cities, communities, and HOAs have formulated minimum requirements for those looking to try their hands at the chicken-rearing hobby. The requirements are put in place to ensure your flock’s health and protect the safety and welfare of all residents. Depending on where you live, here are some requirements that you might be required to meet by the local municipality.

  • The minimum lot size for a coop— It may vary depending on the size of the Coop you want to build.
  • Setbacks to property lines and structures — Chicken coops must be located within the rear yard, subject to all stipulated setbacks for the principal building. Outbuildings, including chicken coops, are typically required to be 10 ft. from rear property lines and 15 ft. from side-lot lines, but this varies from town to town.
  • Height restrictions
  • Total number of birds you can keep
  • Minimum and maximum acceptable coop size — Many locations allow a maximum of 100 square feet.
  • Specific materials (if any)
  • Types of coops approved in the area
  • Types of permissible enclosures and stipulated predator mitigation
  • Coop location on your property
  • Structural requirements and restricted components

In some jurisdictions, local ordinances regarding the rearing of chickens require those aspiring to become chicken growers to take chicken-rearing classes.

Are there fees associated with chicken coop permits?

Although chicken coops are far from being the most complex structures, they typically do require a building permit. In many states and worldwide, any building project requires a permit before construction begins. But do permits have application fees? In most cases, yes.

Like obtaining other permits, working with local authorities to get a chicken coop permit can be a lengthy process and has some costs. How much you will need to obtain permits to build a chicken coop and keep chickens depends on several factors.

The number of permits you need and associated costs vary wildly, depending on your town, city, or region. For instance, you will need to pay $50 to obtain a permit to raise backyard chickens in Orlando, NY, and Fond du Lac, WI, whereas a comparable license costs $25 in Wheeling, IL. Ordinances usually provide details of the fees you must pay against what you are paying for. Local authorities can provide you with accurate permit costs or at least reliable approximations.

In most cases, you must pay review, zoning permit, and license fees. Some areas, like Saint Paul City, MN, have divided the payable fees into tiers, so be keen to read and understand all documentation. There are also license renewal fees, which vary from one town to another.

How to apply for a chicken coop permit

Now that you probably need a permit to build a chicken coop, it is imperative to know how to apply for one. Although the process can vary, it is nearly identical across most states. Here is how to go about applying for a chicken coop permit:

  • Talk to your neighbors: Before you bring chickens home, you want to talk to your neighbors and have them all agree with your idea of keeping chickens. Ideally, you want to assure your neighbors, especially those within about 150 feet of your property lines, that your chickens won’t be a nuisance. This is critical because most authorities will turn down your application for a permit if your neighbors object.
  • Review the requirements: You may need to meet many conditions to qualify for a permit to keep backyard chickens. Depending on the stipulations provided by local ordinances, double-check to confirm you satisfactorily meet each requirement that counts in the eligibility criteria. If you live in a rented property, remember you need written permission from your landlord expressing their consent.
  • Get your attachments ready: When applying for a chicken coop permit, you must attach (upload for online applications) several documents to increase your chances of being approved. In most cases, you need a site plan, compliance statement, proof of property ownership, and floodplain information. Be sure the site plan includes all property lines, existing structures, fences, and chicken coop.
  • Complete the application form: Each town has a unique chicken coop permit application form. Fill out the form, then read and understand all chicken coop regulations before signing. Next, mail or upload it if you’re applying online.
  • Pay permit fees: You will likely find the fees payable indicated along with other requirements. You should be able to make a payment using any of the common types of credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, and Discover. Enter your credit card information to pay the ordinarily non-refundable permit application fee.

After applying and paying the permit application fee, the authorities will review your application and give feedback based on your application. The local authorities will contact your neighbors, and depending on whether they object or agree on lot lines, your application will be turned down or approved. You will likely be permitted to build a coop and start rearing chickens if there are no neighbor objections.

Unless stipulated otherwise, most chicken coop permits have a one-year validity, so remember to renew your permit as needed. This is also true for chicken-rearing licenses.

What happens if you build a chicken coop without a permit

Although it is not apparent you will find local ordinances regarding building chicken coops, this does not mean the law will spare you when you delve into rearing chicken without necessary permits and licenses. This is true even when the local building codes are unclear on whether you need a permit for a chicken coop.

Most states and cities building codes state that “A Building Permit is required for the construction, alteration, moving, repair, and modification, demolition, in whole or in part or the change of use of any building or structure.” Since a chicken coop is a structure, you would need a permit to build one unless local ordinances state otherwise.

Constructing a chicken coop and bringing some chickens into your backyard without permits can attract hefty consequences.

To stay on the safe side of the law when building chicken coops, always do your due diligence to identify anything that can easily land you in trouble. While the regulations regarding building cops are surprisingly simple, the consequences of not adhering to them can be severe.

There are some areas, especially rural and farming districts, where residents don’t need a permit to build a chicken coop smaller than a certain footprint. If you are lucky to live in such areas, there is nothing to worry about when building a chicken coop as long as you comply with all other requirements.

Note: While building a chicken coop without a permit is an offense possibly with legal consequences, obtaining a chicken coop permit and violating its stipulations can also lead to unpleasant consequences. In most cases, failing to adhere to local ordinances regarding chicken coop building can lead to nullifying your permit, a heavy fine, or seizure of the chickens.

The penalties for keeping chickens without the necessary permits and licenses and failing to comply with local ordinances after obtaining such permits vary greatly.

How many chickens can you keep without registering?

You will most likely need a license if you plan to keep chickens in your backyard or rented property. However, this majorly depends on where you live. Many states and towns have set a limit to the number of chickens residents can keep. With some ordinances allowing up to 6 backyard chickens per property, keeping even one chicken without a permit can be a serious offense.

If you are in a rural area, you might be able to keep a few birds without a license. Livestock ordinances here tend to be more forgiving than in urban districts.

The best way to know whether you can keep chickens without a license is by checking local laws and the local homeowner’s association.

When it comes to keeping backyard chickens, one of the regulations is the outlawing of roosters. They are unreasonably loud and aggressive, which can bother neighbors, especially early morning, and are not necessary to produce eggs for consumption. Also, remember that most municipalities consider the chicken coop’s purpose for raising hens for egg production.

You may need to return to local ordinances to slaughter your chicken. Some locations require chicken growers to take their bird(s) to a veterinarian or licensed butcher for slaughtering.

Conclusion

Even if you are desperate to bring some chickens home, it is imperative to understand the policies and bylaws that regulate the construction of chicken coops. There are a lot of regulations regarding the construction and maintenance of chicken coops and keeping the chickens themselves. The laws usually vary from state to state and town to town, but most urban areas require a permit for a chicken coop. To escape potentially harsh consequences, do your homework to understand all regulations and ordinances regarding keeping chickens in your municipality. Hopefully, this post will be helpful to you when making decisions regarding building a coop.

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