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Chickens in the backyard -- are they legal?

Chicken_500
For Southern Californians who are interested in pursuing a green lifestyle, keeping chickens in the backyard takes the urban farming experience to a level beyond the vegetable garden. You can read all about it in a recent Home Section article here. But one question not answered in that article is whether the whole endeavor is legal. To find out, I contacted Capt. Wendell Bowers of the Department of Animal Services. Here’s what he had to say:

“Well, you have to live somewhere that is zoned for having livestock or fowl. So are all places zoned for it? No, they are not. But if you live somewhere that is zoned for livestock, the only thing we enforce is distance requirements. If you have hens they have to be maintained 20 feet from your residence and 35 feet from your neighbors residence—not the property line, the residence. If you have roosters they need to be 20 feet from your house and 100 from your closest neighbor.”

The distance requirement has more to do with sound issues than sanitary issues. “Hens cluck, roosters crow,” he said. “And roosters do not only crow in the morning -- I used to fall for that. They’ll crow at 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m. In fact, they’ll crow all day and all night.”

Final issue? “They also have to be in a pen. They can’t just wander around your yard.”

If you have chickens illegally (and a neighbor complains about it) expect a letter from the Department of Animal Services asking you to get rid of the chickens. If you fail to do anything about the chickens in a week (and your neighbor complains again), you can expect an officer to come to your place with tape measure in hand. If you are in violation of the distance rule you’ll either have to hand the chickens over or pay a $110 fine. I’ll explore how to tell if your backyard is zoned for chicken rearing in a subsequent post.

-- Deborah Netburn

Photo: Two chickens roam the backyard of Audrey Diehl and Dakota Witzenburg's Mount Washington backyard. Diehl and Witzenburg have had them as pets for almost a year. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times

 
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... and 20 feet is supposed to make that infernal crowing at all hours of the day and night less annoying? They may be legal, but they still make you a rude neighbor. There's a place for chickens... it's called the country. What's next? Quaint little cows strolling up and down the boulevard? Last time I checked this was Los Angeles.

Sean, it's 100 feet from your neighbors for roosters, 20 feet from YOUR residence. Personally, I think that's not enough for roosters, but that the hen rules seem fine. I think we need to stop thinking in the box that we've created and this is one way to do it - growing a lot more of our own food, in the city.

Yes, Sean, cows would be nice. That way we could keep an eye on their handlers and make sure they are not using forklifts to move the half dead ones.

Plus, read again: roosters must be 100 feet from the neighbors' house, not 20 ft.

I thought that hens really do not make noise unless they are shook up. I see no problem with having some chickens. If a person neglected their chickens and the chickens were living in unsanitary conditions and/or a neighbor decided they wanted to start raising a whole heck of a lot of chickens for meat, then I would say there is a problem. Roosters I thought generally were not allowed in more dense urban areas as pets due to the issue of their crowing at any time they please. I see no harm in someone or a family having up to 10 chickens at a time on their property as long as they keep it clean and provide good care, which is something I would even request of someone who owned a dog, cat, or any other pet. Yeah to the chickens!!

Being zoned for livestock means you are zoned A1 or A2, agricultural one or two. Go to lacity.org go to planning, put in your address, check your zone. Most homes are zoned R1, residential one dwelling. If your neighbors have horses, cows, you can probably have chickens. If you live where there are only single family homes, duplex, triplex, apartments, condos, you can't have poultry.

Give Sean a break. He probably doesn't know the difference between a hen and a rooster, nor that roosters are the ones that crow.

Roosters would be a welcome change to all the howling dogs in my neighborhood.

My neighbor slaughters chickens in his back yards often leaving them out in his pick up truck during the cold season in boxes so they freeze. I've called the humane society to investigate because this is inhumane. They told me because of their religion they are allowed to kill chickens "it's the kosher way of lving". There's nothing kosher about the suffering of animal.

Viv, animals don't suffer once you kill them. Killing chickens happens in a split second, they don't even feel anything.

I have only one word - FLIES. It is impossible to have chickens without a significant increase in flies. They walk through poop and then land on your food, or where you prepare food. Yuck.

I'd have chickens in a second if it was practical, but no way in a city.

Having a situation that breeds flies is unsanitary. And the backyard barnyard is that situation.

You know how to have the enjoyment of chicken's, keep your neighbor's happy and thing's clean around your house? Make chicken soup.

I keep chickens in the city. My hens are far less of a nuisance than a dog that barks all day when the owners kick it out so they can go to work. My city, Long Beach, only allows hens, no roosters, and 20 maximum. Most folks I know only keep 4 to 8. There shouldn't be any crowing to bother the neighbors. The only time you really hear the hens is when they announce they just laid and egg.

Long Beach has the same kind of code with distance that L.A. does. I had to build my coop 20 feet from legal dwellings. Anyone who neglects cleaning up after their dogs in the backyard has the same problems with flies that a chicken coop would. Keep the coop cleaned regularly and they are no more of a problem any other pet. I get organic eggs from happy chickens and my kids get to see where their food comes from.

I've been thinking about getting a few hens for sometime but I haven't made the leap... and that brings me to my questions. Do chickens leap over fences into neighbors or street? Must they always be in a coop or can they be free ranging?

Last night, I had an epiphany about getting a couple of chickens and keeping them out on our back balcony *we live in an apartment*. I was thinking about how to enclose it so that they won't get out and predators won't get in...until I read the laws regarding keeping them.

I really think they need to redo the zoning laws for chickens *not roosters though. Not only are roosters as annoying as barking dogs, they're mean little buggers too* considering the climate of the economy. For those of us who don't live in a house with a yard *and who can afford it with the rent being what it is here* and find it impossible to move somewhere else...AND who have the space *as we do* to properly care for them...I think we should be allowed to own chickens.

I had four laying hens and one Plymouth Rock chick I was hand-raising until yesterday afternoon. I came home from work just as two pit-bulls came out of a large hole they had created in my wooden gate. I went in the backyard and discovered my chickens all dead in the pen that I kept them in for their safety, or so I thought. They had not been eaten, just killed. I was heart-broken over the chick that used to snuggle against my arm when I would hold her. I never had a chicken fall asleep in my arms before.

The hens were producing eggs for my family at a rate of almost 20 eggs per week. I had the four large hens almost a year, the chick only two weeks. I reported the loss to the police and they are doing some investigating of the owner. He says they aren't his dogs, but neighbors confirm that they are. I am going to press charges and seek compensation for property damage from the dog owner's home owner's insurance. Most states consider animals property, so in cases like this suing for property damage is an option.

Chickens can live 10-12 years on average, so if you do decide to have chickens, and can do so legally, make sure your pen is secure from dogs that can dig or climb. I have an enclosure in my backyard that I was in the process of renovating for the chickens. I didn't get it finished in time, it seems.

We are petitioning the city of Long Beach, California to relax the city’s chicken laws and goat laws to make it easier for people to raise city chickens and city goats in Long Beach, with fewer restrictions than are currently imposed.
Please visit the LONG BEACH GROWS website, www.longbeachgrows.org, to learn more about the benefits of raising chickens in the city, as part of a healthy, sustainable, animal-friendly and eco-friendly lifestyle. While at our site, please visit & sign our pro urban agriculture petition under Help Long Beach Grow. Ask your friends to also.

so, i went to lacity.org and looked up my house and looked up the r1 zoning and it says you can have poultry, equines, rabbits, chinchillas, etc. as long as it's not being used for commercial use

so I just got done looking over the RE11-1 code (basically all single homes in a residential area will fall under this or a similar code) and it states that the keeping of poultry, rabbits, and chincillas in cunjunction with residential use of the lot is perfectly legal provided that such animal keeping is not for commercial purposes. So it is legal as long as you don't sell the chicken meat or eggs! Go out and buy chickens people, just don't plan on making a profit :)


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