You've heard that the city of Grand Rapids has just passed an ordinance allowing backyard chickens, and you're thinking about free range eggs, and fresh fried chicken? Before you let Foghorn Leghorn loose in your backyard, you'll want to learn a few things about the new law.
First, you'll need to apply for a permit from the city. With payment of the fee, and approval, you'll be granted a one year permit to keep chickens. No guarantee that it will be extended.
You must own the land in question, or get written permission from the landowner.
The city will send out notices to all your neighbors as part of the permit process. If any one of them objects, your permit will be denied. No reason for the objection is needed, according to the ordinance.
Before the city issues a permit, you will have to meet all the requirements of the ordinance, and there are many. Also, this chicken ordinance was added to an already existing animal ordinance, and you still need to meet those requirements as well.
Farm animals in general
The only exception made for chickens is to allow them within 100 feet of a dwelling. Other restrictions still apply, such as:
- No farm animals inside homes. So, no hatching and raising chicks indoors.
- No farm animals within 100 feet of a well, spring, or stream. Do you know where the nearest well or stream is to your backyard?
- No farm animals within 50 feet of a stormwater catch basin that is on private property. Some houses with parking lots or driveways may have underground catch basins that feed into the city stormwater system.
- No odorous or unsanitary conditions. Have you been around chicken manure?
Chicken specific restrictions
First, this ordinance is only temporary. It automatically expires in two years if not made permanent by the city. There are 12 paragraphs of restrictions for chickens. I'll try to explain each simply:
- Chickens can only be kept on lots with 1 or 2 family homes. No apartment dwellers need apply.
- The lot must be 3,800 square feet in size. Many lots in the city are about 30-40 feet by 100 feet, so many lots may be eligible.
- The chicken owner must also live on the lot. No renting your backyard out to your friend who lives in an apartment building.
- Chickens must be confined in a coop, or a fenced AND covered enclosure. They can be free-range inside a fence, but no roaming around the neighborhood, or around your back yard.
- There must be "adequate" space for each chicken, and the coop or fence can't take up more than half of your back yard. No definition of what is considered adequate space.
- The fence or coop must be at least ten feet from any property line. So, if your lot is 38 feet wide, that leaves you with an 18 foot wide coop.
- No more than four chickens on lots under 5,000 square feet. Most homes in Grand Rapids are probably on lots under 5,000 square feet, so this means most people are limited to four chickens.
- No more than six chickens on lots over 5,000 square feet. So, six is the most anyone can have in the city.
- Chicken feed must be kept in rodent and weather proof containers.
- No butchering, or killing chickens on the property for any reason. This would also seem to cover mercy killings for injured or dying birds.
- You have to meet all the health and safety standards of the City's Property Maintenance Code. That's too much to cover in this quick post, but it will cover basic things like flaking paint, broken windows, pests getting into structures, drainage, etc.
- ABSOLUTELY NO ROOSTERS. Someone seemed to really worry about roosters crowing.
Keeping a chicken without a permit, or not following the requirements, will be a civil infraction.
You have no right to keep chickens if the ordinance expires, or after your permit expires. After expiration, you'll have 90 days to remove the chickens. You have no right to sue, for any reason, if the city denies your permit, or based on this ordinance. This is probably to avoid Right to Farm suits based on having a chicken permit.
Ready, Set, Cluck
This new ordinance takes effect on May 1, 2015. Will you be looking at applying? I plan on applying for a permit myself, just to see how the process goes with the city. So, if you're considering applying, and need some help, please contact my office and I will be glad to assist you.