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Illegal Fowl: A Survey of Municipal Laws Relating to Backyard Poultry and a Model Ordinance for Regulating City Chickens

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Abstract: As the movement towards keeping backyard chickens continues to grow, many cities are facing the decision of whether to allow residents to keep chickens and, if so, how to effectively regulate the practice. This paper provides the information necessary for cities to design a workable ordinance. First, the paper gathers information about the benefits and concerns of keeping backyard chickens. Next, the paper surveys municipal ordinances in the top 100 most populous cities in the United States that concern keeping and raising chickens. This survey reveals that chickens are, perhaps surprisingly, legal in the vast majority of large cities. The survey also identifies regulatory norms and some effective and less effective ways to regulate chicken-keeping. Finally, the paper offers a model ordinance, based on the background information and survey results, that a city can adopt or easily modify to fit the city’s unique needs.

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