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Urban Chickens, and the Rotten Eggs. ; )

This spring, I aspired to acquire some laying hens to provide my family with fresh, healthy eggs. We have a fenced-in back yard, and it seemed like a great project for the children as well as a big benefit to our family, especially in these times of high food prices and contamination. To my chagrin, it appears the counties and cities in our area are not chicken friendly.

Now, you all know me.
You're all thinking,
"Well, she's a bandit, what does she care?"

I shift my pose to a politician's stance.

"Friends, I fight this fight not for myself, but because I am very aware of all the families that would benefit by this being legal. There are so many recently-arrived immigrants where urban livestock has always been accepted in their countries, or native-born enthusiasts that just want to provide their children with locally raised eggs.
(clap clap clap clap clap! Thank you. Thank you veddy much.)

I have contacted a local environmental legal group who is interested in the issue, will keep you posted. If you would like more information on urban chickens, there are many great sites on the web including:
In the meantime, amuse yourself by reading my correspondence with zoning! : )

----- Original Message -----

From: Copeland

To: Pat O'Bannon

Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2008 9:13 PM

hens in Henrico?

Hello Mrs. O’Bannon,

I’d like to keep some (3? 4 at most hens, not roosters) chicken in my large, enclosed (6”high privacy fence) back yard. I was under the impression it had to be 400 feet away at which point I was going to apply for a variance and hopefully discuss sustainability and what Brooklyn, Seattle, and Portland are doing in their much larger cities in regards to livestock, and actually how their board of supervisors are encouraging it, but then found this: (See line 648)

So, I am reading this to mean I can have 3 chickens?
Also, nowhere can I find on the web site what the actual fines would be if I were to attempt such a transgression… do you happen to know offhand?

P.s. I plan on building a chicken tractor, which is an enclosed coop that you can move, and will just move it daily about the yard so that my garden soil is improved *while* removing the mosquitoes and ticks and weeds, and providing an educational experience and fresh eggs for our children. Curiously, I guess I could roll the chicken tractor around 400 feet at any given time… is there a law against mobile chickens? I am on very good terms with our immediate neighbors, who, like us, are avid gardeners and said they would not mind occasional free eggs. : )

Thanks for your insight!

Sincerely yours,
Copeland Casati

copeland casati

From: Blankinship, Benjamin []
Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2008 12:44 PM
To: copeland
Cc: Knight, Mikki; Tuckahoe; Silber, Randy; Emerson, Ralph; O'Kelly, David
Subject: RE: hens in Henrico?

Dear Ms. Casati:

I have been asked to respond to your email on behalf of Ms. O'Bannon.

The zoning ordinance allows "poultry raising," subject to the requirement that "any buildings or yards for the enclosure or feeding of animals or poultry shall observe the distance requirements of section 24-10." (Section 24-11(c)). If you could comply with the distance requirement of 400 feet from the property line, you could keep hens on the property. Since the property measures about 100 feet wide by 150 feet deep, it is impossible to meet the distance requirements.

You mentioned applying for a variance. The Virginia Supreme Court recently ruled that boards of zoning appeals can grant variances only in circumstances where the zoning ordinance prohibits all reasonable use of the property (Cochran v Fairfax County BZA). The Henrico County Board of Zoning Appeals has taken a strict view of its powers since the _Cochran_ decision. I would be very surprised if the BZA granted a variance in these circumstances.

You asked about fines. The amounts of fines are determined by the court. I believe the following guidelines are applicable:

Any such violation shall be a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $10 nor more than $1,000. If the violation is uncorrected at the time of the conviction, the court shall order the violator to abate or remedy the violation in compliance with the zoning ordinance, within a time period established by the court. Failure to remove or abate a zoning violation within the specified time period shall constitute a separate misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine of not less than $10 nor more than $1,000, and any such failure during any succeeding 10-day period shall constitute a separate misdemeanor offense for each 10-day period punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,500. (Code of Virginia § 15.2-2286)

If you need anything else, please let us know.


Benjamin W. Blankinship, AICP

Zoning Division Manager

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At 8/27/08, 8:55 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you. I had hen house plans drawn and pullets on order when I reread the setback requirements in Henrico's zoning laws.

Absolutely ridiculous.

I can understand not allowing roosters in neighborhoods -- but a couple of laying hens? Come on.

At 8/30/08, 11:15 AM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

P.s. More good links:

At 4/1/09, 5:56 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since policy makers set policy/laws based upon their constiuents and political clout it is of no surprise that only their best interest are at play. They have no incentive to change policy that would enable you to be self suficient. Now if they could make money off of you by changing the law that would change things quite expidentiously.
What they shoud do is charge a flat chicken tax or sell a chicken permit? Much like dog tags and building permits.

If they can figure a way to make money I can see chickens in the future in Henrico.


At 4/1/09, 7:07 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Point taken but the whole point of this are not laying hens as pets, like we license our dogs and cats, but to provide sustenance. If our counties make money off of our eggs produced for our families will they tax our homegrown onions, broccoli and tomatoes next?

However, *selling* eggs, vegetables is another thing... and would certainly add to the county coffers...

At 4/1/09, 7:25 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

(Did someone say bandit?)

"When chickens are outlawed, only outlaws will have chickens."

--From Backyard Poultry, see them here:

P.s. I would prefer to have legal laying hens, let's all work on it together to benefit the community! : )

At 5/18/09, 10:58 PM , Blogger Bio Gas Project said...

This seems to be a moot point based on a previous interpretation of 24-10.

Quotation from MAY 27, 2004 Minutes of the Board of Zoning Appeals of Henrico county.

The speaker is the Chairman: R.A. Wright:

(Lines 641-648)

"Mr. Wright- Because if you only have 3 chickens you don’t have to be
400 feet from the line.
Mr. McKinney- If you keep a kennel for the dogs, you have to be 400 feet.
Mr. Glazebrook- You mean I can keep 3 chickens and not be 400 feet?
Mr. Wright- You can keep 3 chickens with no problem at that location."

There only two appeals that can be found on the county's website. Both involve cases where the chicken owners had more than 3 chickens/roosters.

Case Glazebrook Matter:

Mr. Glazebrook was seeking a variance to keep 20 chickens on his approximately 1/3 acre property in Henrico county. The section referenced above Chairman Wright instructed Mr. Glazebrook that he keep no more than 3 chickens to stay within the bounds of the law and not be subject to the 400 foot provision in section 24-10.

The Mr. Neyra matter was also reasoned along the same lines where Mr. Neyra had five roosters so therefore was in violation of the three animal limitation in Section 24-10.

At 5/20/09, 10:08 PM , Anonymous George Lansing said...

I'm with you Copeland. Let's get chickens legal in Henrico, and then in Richmond, Chesterfield, and wherever there is support. Incentives for supervisors to vote for change can be found in not just income to the county, but more important to any politician is what? RE-ELECTION! I'm sure if we can generate enough grass root support for a reasonable idea, the right kind of political pressure will push them over the fence into our chicken yard. ; )

At 5/20/09, 10:25 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

EGGcelent comments, all.

(Sorry, couldn't help it...)

Thank you, Bio Gas Project, for pointing us towards a valuable legal area of contention.

What I am pushing for is not for myself, but for "what would help sustain a family with 2.5 children during an economically difficult time while connecting them closely with their food chain."

So, I would think, in an average yard... less than ten, no roosters, (and then check other codes) 25 feet away from a residence?

Ironically my 6 year old opened our compost bin today "to make a worm environment" - I can attest that the compost heap STUNK (as did the dogs after they rolled in what they could drag out) whereas a chicken coop that is routinely rotated on a raised bed method of gardening does not, not at all.


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