Wednesday, September 19, 2012

4 Chesapeake Hens' Initial Response to Proposed Amendment to Chicken Ordinances

Our grassroots community group, 4 Chesapeake Hens, has been campaigning for more egalitarian ordinances concerning the keeping of laying hens in the city. The current laws state that one's property must be zoned agricultural to have chickens. The only exception is property is zoned "RE-1," a "residential estate" of three acres or more. Then owners can have up to four hens in a pen as family pets. Currently the matter is before the Planning Commission, which has researched a proposed ordinance. Members of our group are not satisfied with the proposed changes; we have published and distributed our own vision for the role of chickens in our community in a document called "A Case for Chesapeake Hens."

Andrea Margrave, our group's political leadership, sent Beverly Hanson, the Planning Department's Office Coordinator, the following message today. It outlines most of our objections:

Dear Ms. Hanson:

I was delighted to read tonight the release of the Planning Commission's draft of the new ordinance regarding backyard laying hens.  Our group has worked hard to get this process done in a professional and speedy manner, and the response from the City on all fronts has been astoundingly fast.  Thank you.

My concern this evening is twofold:  First, I question the inclusion of requiring a 6 foot privacy fence.  The ordinance already mandates an appropriate pen or enclosure for the hens, one which necessarily would include a top to prevent escape and to deter predators.  The reason for the fence requirement would surely not be for keeping the hens enclosed then.  Perhaps it was added to prevent visual contact with the hens?  I would venture to say that chickens are no more unsightly than a dog, cat, rabbit, or other family pet.  I sincerely question the validity of this addition and formally request its removal.

Now, my second concern has to do with a conflict I see arising between the limiting of hen ownership to only 4 per household and the City's own Code making it a Class 3 misdemeanor to purchase or sell less than 6 chicks at a time.  How are we to abide by this ordinance if it is self-defeating?  I would like to see it changed to reflect a more reasonable number of 6 - 10 in order to remain in compliance.  Link to the conflicting ordinance below:

Thank you once again for your time and diligence in serving the citizenry of Chesapeake.


Andrea Margrave
4 Chesapeake Hens

Well-written letter, Andrea! Let's hope your logic prevails in this matter.

Update: On November 20, Chesapeake City Council voted 6-3 to allow hens with certain restriction in residential areas. 


  1. I did get a response, but it was a short and sweet "no" basically. Looks like we need to do some more educating.
    ~ Andrea

  2. Thanks for the effort, Andrea. Richmond is supposed to have their "hen issue" go before its City Council tomorrow. I am hoping for a positive outcome and a positive role model for Chesapeake.