County planners take on chicken rules

Warren County officials are considering rules that would let residents keep chickens in residential neighborhoods.

The Planning Commission discussed the idea Wednesday but they still have a ways to go to craft regulations for the practice. County Planner Matt Wendling pointed out Thursday that the Department of Planning and Zoning needs to research backyard poultry practices before presenting more information to the commission. The department also would need to create a draft ordinance to include definitions and regulations that the commission could consider. The commission and the Board of Supervisors would need to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance before the county could put the regulations into effect should leaders adopt the ordinance.

Warren County’s work on the issue comes at the same time that Front Royal officials are considering regulations for backyard poultry operations. Interest in backyard poultry operations continues to grow as people show a desire to harvest their own eggs and chickens.

Approximately two-thirds of the county remains zoned for agricultural use. Keeping chickens is a by-right use in the agricultural zoning district. Such practice is prohibited on any property zoned for residential use. That could change if the county seeks to change the zoning regulations.

The commission on Wednesday directed the department to collect more information about the matter. Wendling said he and Planning Director Taryn Logan will collect data that shows how other localities regulate backyard poultry and bring that information back to the commission.

The department and the commission looked into the subject after Supervisor Tony Carter received a call from a resident who asked about keeping chickens on a residential property. Carter asked the Planning and Zoning Department and the commission to research the matter, Wendling said.

“In the past, we’ve had complaints regarding chickens in residential areas and typically from the property owners associations,” Wendling said.

In some cases chickens will wander from their owner’s home onto another property, prompting that resident to call law enforcement.

At the same time, Wendling said the department has received just as many calls from people expressing interest in raising chickens in their backyards.

Wendling noted that the commission during Wednesday’s work session on the subject acknowledged the pros and cons of raising chickens in a residential neighborhood.

Wendling has created a list of possible regulations the commission might consider:

  • No roosters
  • Minimum lot size and maximum number of chickens per lots of different sizes
  • Suggested maximum of six chickens for lots up to 2 acres, 12 for lots up to 5 acres
  • No commercial sale of eggs or meat as a business
  • Potential limit on types of poultry
  • Charge a one-time fee for a permit
  • Establish appropriate setback distances for coops and other related structures
  • Require the applicant to receive permission from property owners if the applicant is renting or leasing to purchase
  • Request a recommendation by a homeowners or property owners association
  • Mandate that slaughtering of chickens be for personal use only

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

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