Shenandoah County could soon allow some residents to keep chickens in their yards.

The Planning Commission holds a public hearing jointly with the Board of Supervisors at 7 p.m. Thursday in the government center, 600 N. Main St., Woodstock, on a proposed change to the county zoning regulations pertaining to chickens on certain residential properties.

Specifically, the Planning Commission members intend to consider a zoning ordinance text amendment that would allow citizens to keep up to 24 chickens on properties in the following districts:

• Rural Residential — Conservation

• Rural Residential — Agricultural

• Low Density Residential

• Medium Density Residential

The county zoning ordinance does not allow the keeping of chickens in any residential zoning districts. The proposed additions to the zoning ordinance would require residents with chickens to keep the birds in a fence, pen or coop. The regulation also would prohibit residents from keeping chickens in the front yard.

Brenda Menefee, code specialist with the Office of Community Development, spoke Tuesday about the proposal

“Just over the course of time, we’ve realized that when we get calls from ... Realtors or potential buyers of property in residential-zoned districts with questions like ‘can I keep my chickens there,’ it is technically not currently allowed in R-1 residential zoning and it seemed to be something that the Planning Commission desired to have allowed in those residential districts,” Menefee said.

County planning and zoning staff members looked at how other localities addressed the matter of chickens kept on residential properties. Community Development Coordinator and Building Official Mark Griffey said he and department staff looked at ordinances from other localities regulating “backyard chickens,” then consulted with representatives with the Farm Bureau and the Virginia Tech Cooperative Extension.

Planning Commission members discussed the proposal at their Nov. 7 meeting and authorized the department to advertise the matter for a public hearing. Supervisors could consider taking action on the proposal at their Jan. 28 meeting.

– Contact Alex Bridges at