Consider Your Neighbors When Raising Chickens

By Kimberly Willis, Robert T. Ludlow

Neighbors are any people who are in sight, sound, and smelling distance of your chickens. Even if it’s legal in your urban or suburban area to keep chickens, the law may require your neighbors’ approval and continued tolerance. And it pays to keep your neighbors happy anyway. If neighbors don’t even know the chickens exist, they won’t complain.

If they know about them but get free eggs, they probably won’t complain, either. A constant battle with neighbors who don’t like your chickens may lead to the municipality banning your chickens — or even banning everyone’s chickens. Regardless of your situation, the following list gives you some ideas to keep you in your neighbors’ good graces:

  • Try to hide housing or blend it into the landscape. If you can disguise the chicken quarters in the garden or hide them behind the garage, so much the better. Don’t locate your chickens close to the property line or the neighbor’s patio area, if at all possible.

  • Keep your chicken housing neat and clean. Your chicken shelter should be neat and immaculately clean.

  • Store or dispose of manure and other wastes properly. Consider where you’re going to store or dispose of manure and other waste. You can’t use poultry manure in the garden without some time to age because it burns plants. It makes good compost, but a pile of chicken manure composting may offend some neighbors. You may need to bury waste or haul it away.

  • Even if roosters are legal, consider doing without them. You may love the sound of a rooster greeting the day, but the noise can be annoying to some people. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t stop roosters from crowing by locking them up until well after dawn.

    Roosters can and do crow at all times of the day — and even at night. Roosters aren’t necessary for full egg production anyway; they’re needed only for producing fertile eggs for hatching.

  • If you must have a rooster, try getting a bantam one, even if you have full-size hens. He will crow, but it won’t be as loud. Don’t keep more than one rooster; they tend to encourage each other to crow more.

  • Keep your chicken population low. If you have close neighbors try to restrain your impulses to have more chickens than you really need. Two hens for each family member works well for egg production. The more chickens you keep, the more likely you will have objections to noise or smells.

  • Confine chickens to your property. Even if you have a 2-acre suburban lot, you may want to keep your chickens confined to lessen neighbor complaints. Foraging chickens can roam a good distance. Chickens can easily destroy a newly planted vegetable garden, uproot young perennials, and pick the blossoms off the annuals.

    They can make walking barefoot across the lawn or patio a sticky situation. Mean roosters can scare or even harm small children and pets. And if your neighbor comes out one morning and finds your chickens roosting on the top of his new car, he’s not going to be happy.

    Cats rarely bother adult chickens, but even small dogs may chase and kill them. In urban and suburban areas, dogs running loose can be a big problem for chicken owners who allow their chickens to roam. Free-ranging chickens can also be the target of malicious mischief by kids. Even raccoons and coyotes are often numerous in cities and suburban areas. And of course, chickens rarely survive an encounter with a car.

    You can fence your property if you want to and if it’s legal to do so, but remember that lightweight hens and bantams can easily fly up on and go over a 4-foot fence. Some heavier birds may also learn to hop the fence. Chickens are also great at wriggling through small holes if the grass looks greener on the other side.

  • Be aggressive about controlling pests. In urban and suburban areas, you must have an aggressive plan to control pest animals such as rats and mice. If your chickens are seen as the source of these pests, neighbors may complain.

  • Share the chicken benefits. Bring some eggs to your neighbors or allow their kids to feed the chickens. A gardening neighbor may like to have your manure and soiled bedding for compost. Just do what you can to make chickens seem like a mutually beneficial endeavor.

  • Never butcher a chicken in view of the neighbors. Neighbors may go along with you having chickens as pets or for eggs, but they may have strong feelings about raising them for meat. Never butcher any chickens where neighbors can see it. You need a private, clean area, with running water, to butcher.

    If you butcher at home, you also need a way to dispose of blood, feathers, and other waste. This waste smells and attracts flies and other pests. Advise those of you who raise meat birds and have close neighbors can send your birds out to be butchered.

Finally, don’t assume that because you and your neighbors are good friends, they won’t care or complain about any chickens kept illegally.