Backyard chicken rules raise questions

FRONT ROYAL – Rules for raising backyard chickens need tweaking, Warren County planners said after hearing concerns from residents.

The Planning Commission decided Wednesday to postpone action on a proposed ordinance that seeks to allow and regulate the keeping of chickens on residential property. Most of those who spoke at the public hearing on the ordinance said they supported the idea of backyard chickens but voiced concerns that the regulations would make it too difficult to raise the birds in residential neighborhoods.

More than 100 people signed a petition in favor of backyard chickens, initiating the Planning Department to look into the matter and to come up with potential regulations.

The proposed ordinance allows backyard chickens on residential property for non-commercial purposes. The ordinance would limit the number of domestic hens to six on one or more contiguous lots; prohibit roosters, guinea fowl, turkeys and peacocks; require chickens to stay in pens or coops; mandate that renters receive written permission from owners or property managers to keep chickens, and, if in a subdivision with a property owners’ association, a letter from such organization. The ordinance also requires pens and coops to be set up in the side or rear yards a minimum of 25 feet from adjacent property lines and no closer than 100 feet from wells, storm drains, streams or springs.

The ordinance would require that chickens remain in secure containers and locations to deter rodents and other animals. Anyone wishing to raise chickens on a residentially zoned property would need to obtain a permit and to submit a management plan to the Planning Department approved by the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office agent.

Many speakers panned most of the rules as proposed, especially the six chicken limit, with more than one person saying the number would prove too prohibitive. One speaker told the commission that the farm-supply store he works at sells a minimum of six peeps at a time. Another speaker said if one of her six peeps died and she wanted more, she would have to buy six, thus exceeding the proposed limit.

Commissioners ultimately decided to table the ordinance to a future work session in order to discuss the proposed regulations in light of the comments made at the hearing.

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