Chicken Wings on the Hoof? Coops Could Be Legal in City Soon

Brian Meyer, Buffalo News, June 18, 2009

Raising chickens might soon be legal in Buffalo, with advocates insisting that strict rules would prevent odors, rat problems and other nuisances.

People would have to pay a onetime $25 fee for a license, with the money offsetting the costs of a mandatory inspection of coops, under the legislation sponsored by Niagara Council Member David A. Rivera.

No roosters would be permitted, and no more than five hens would be allowed per dwelling. The fowl could only be kept in rear yards, and coops could be no larger than 32 square feet.

In addition, the coops would have to be at least 20 feet away from any window or door of any property and a minimum of five feet from all side lot lines. Chickens would have to be kept inside the coop within a fenced yard.

“People won’t have to worry about walking into someone’s yard and having chickens running all over the place,” Rivera said.

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The issue surfaced after a West Side woman was forced to move her hens to a site outside Buffalo after learning that city laws do not permit people to raise chickens. Monique Watts launched a campaign to change the law, noting that urban chicken farming is a growing trend nationally.

Watts believes the bill is a good first step, even though some of the conditions are “very restrictive.” For example, Watts said some people with small rear yards would be unable to comply with rules that require coops to be certain distances from dwellings and property lines.

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Watts also questioned another rule that would bar people from selling eggs that are laid by backyard chickens.

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Rivera hopes the new regulations will be approved by the end of July. Recognizing that some residents and lawmakers are worried that allowing chicken coops in yards could cause neighborhood tensions, Rivera highlighted nearly two dozen restrictions.

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Other rules would require rat-proof chicken feed containers and would bar people from slaughtering chickens outside.

Before a license is issued, property owners who live within 50 feet of the applicant would be notified and given an opportunity to comment.

If chicken coop owners don’t comply with the rules after obtaining licenses, Rivera said, there will be an easy remedy.

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