Saturday, June 16, 2012

City Chicks Revisited

 As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am spearheading a group of residents who are working to change the zoning laws in the City of Chesapeake, Virginia. The current zoning law states that residents must live in agricultural zones or on "residential estates" of three acres or more in order to keep laying hens. We would like to see micro-flocks of 2-6 hens allowed in most residential areas. Minutes of our most recent meeting are available online.

The city's initial response to our group's request was so weakly written and pathetic, I was actually saddened to read it. The response is available at the link to our minutes, above. It is not the well-informed, well-researched, and thoughtful response that our tax dollars deserve. Here are the main "impacts" against more residents keeping hens. I quote:

    • Can be loud, especially when laying eggs.
    • Can produce large amounts of waste, resulting in obnoxious odors.
    • Waste can be an attractant for rodents.
    • Containment can sometimes be difficult.
    • Can be targeted as prey by other domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats.

That's it?  

Residents can legally keep prey animals like rabbits; they can keep household waste and birdseed, which attract rodents; they can keep dogs and parrots, which are noisy...but they can't legally keep 2-6 hens penned in their own backyards to turn their kitchen scraps into eggs? It's so ridiculous I feel like we are truly dealing with the fictitious bureaucrat on the XtraNormal satire that we've posted on Youtube.

If you feel as we do, there are ways you can help. Sign our online petition. If you are a Chesapeake resident, read our minutes, like our Facebook page, and get involved. By working together we will get the City Council's attention and, eventually, change.

For other responses to the City of Chesapeake's position, visit this followup post. For information on our speeches to the City Council on July 24 and the television and newspaper publicity we've been generating for our cause, read this post.

**Update 8/25/12: "4 Chesapeake Hens" and Councilman Robert Ike have convinced the City Council to send the  hen issue to Planning. We are inviting Pat Foreman, the author of City Chicks, to Chesapeake on October 9 for educational and awareness purposes. Click here for more information.

**Update 11/20/12: Chesapeake City Council approved a law that will allow up to six hens, no roosters, in a pen in residential backyards. There is a 1-year sunset clause on the ordinance.


  1. Dear Mary Lou,

    In response, I can only say that council can be loud, produce large amounts of waste resulting in obnoxious odors too. Their containment is sometimes difficult as well. I really have a hard time believing the sublime attitudes.

  2. Kelly,

    Thanks for the best laugh I've had all day!

  3. Those 'arguments' were taken directly from a website as common arguments against allowing chickens in residential neighborhoods. Too bad they didn't bother reading the counter points. Then they probably just tasked a secretary with coming up with their justifications.

    I was wondering about the online petition. Typically those are only considered valid if signed by folks within the actual voting district. Are there any legal steps we can pursue to get the local zoning changed?


  5. Valerie, thanks for posting that great article! I linked it to our Facebook Page. We are collecting as many signatures as we can from Chesapeake residents. If you would like a copy to help us collect signatures, visit There are all kinds of steps we can pursue to get the zoning changed. Unlike occasional petitioners in the past, we are going to be very organized and persistent about this. Please join our cause! The easiest way to stay in touch is to join our Facebook Page and to read our minutes. Our most recent campaign is to adopt a "City Councilor of the Week" to address with direct, polite, personalized emails and phone calls. Visit our Facebook Page for more information.