EVENT : Backyard Chicken-keeping Laws

The Grange of Putnam Valley was hosting an event on backyard chicken-keeping on March 23 and asked me to speak about the state of the law across Putnam County. I surveyed the relevant local codes of every municipality in the county and spoke to a range of administrators where clarification was needed.  As it turns out, there are as many different rules as there are towns.

The question of chicken-keeping is not met with a simple yes or no response. Looking past the towns with absolute prohibitions on domestic chickens, we find a range of criteria that may determine whether a particular yard can be home to chickens. Some towns legislate based on property size; in some cases, requiring several acres for even the first small birds. In others, maintaining a certain minimum distance between the coop and your property line or your neighbor’s house is decisive. There may also be a maximum cap on the number of birds you’re allowed.  For some towns, the primary concern is that the operation can’t be a commercial one – the chickens and their eggs are for personal consumption only.

Even within a single town, keeping chickens may vary across neighborhoods due to varied zoning.  As a result, chickens may only be permitted in certain parts of a community. Alternatively,they may be permitted throughout the town under varying requirements – zoning in one neighborhood may require a minimum one third of an acre, while another neighborhood requires at least one half acre.

Zak Shusterman is available to help municipalities across the region as they work toward revising their codes to permit chicken-keeping under reasonable restrictions.

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