Towns, counties regulate backyard chickens

As backyard poultry operations grow more popular, some localities might revisit their rules on keeping chickens but most counties and towns allow it.

Front Royal officials are in the midst of revisiting the town code pertaining to chickens and other fowl. Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp said officials are reviewing a draft of an urban agriculture ordinance that should clarify the regulations on backyard poultry operations.

“So we’re looking at kind of opening the door a little bit to allow for small chicken coops and things of that nature on single-family and duplex-type of lots,” Camp said. “Right now there is certainly a restriction on anything with a lot size of less than an acre.”

One part of the Front Royal code appears to prohibit fowl from inside the corporate limits. The section states that “[e]xcept for duly authorized parades, processions, zoos, circuses, rides, fairs and exhibitions, licensed pet shops, animal shelters and veterinary offices and hospitals, it shall be unlawful to raise, house, or otherwise keep livestock, fowl or exotic animals within the limits of the Town of Front Royal.”

However, the code also states that the article “shall not apply to domesticated household pets, as defined herein, nor to livestock, fowl and exotic animals in transit through the Town of Front Royal by a carrier” nor “to livestock or fowl on any operating farm of one acre in size [or] more located within the town limits.”

Warren County code allows the owner of property in the rural residential zoning district to keep up to 12 fowl per acre. Warren County Planner Matt Wendling noted that Freezeland Manor, off Freezeland Road, is a subdivision zoned rural residential. The use is allowed by right and does not require the property owner to obtain a special- or conditional-use permit. Structures such as pens or coops for fowl shall be located no closer than 50 feet to any property line of a residentially zoned parcel.

Shenandoah County code does not include regulations for chickens and other fowl on residentially zoned property.

Strasburg’s town code does not appear to regulate chickens except to state “no person shall keep any livestock or fowl within the town to the disturbance of the town citizens after ten days’ notice by the town manager.”

Woodstock town code does not include any language to regulate the keeping of chickens or other fowl on residentially zoned property. The town does prohibit owners from letting fowl roam at large and from allowing such animals from making or causing frequent noise.

New Market also does not regulate the keeping of chickens on private property, according to town code. Mount Jackson’s code includes a requirement that all fowl remain sufficiently housed or fenced by the owner or the person who controls the animals. Likewise, Mount Jackson requires that the housing or fenced-in area be kept clean and in sanitary conditions.

Stephens City code does require that owners of coops or pens keep such enclosures safe, clean and in sanitary condition. The town code also includes a prohibition on noise.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or

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