Letter: Having backyard chickens has legal implications

From: Mark Duwe


Some thoughts on keeping chickens. I lived in San Antonio in the 1970s, and it was very common to see a row of modest homes, each with a 3-foot-tall fence around it where four or five hens, and maybe a rooster, would strut around looking for kernels of corn. It’s very convenient to have a daily supply of eggs for your own family and maybe your neighbors, as well. Of course, there are a lot of people in Columbus right now who are thinking: “I’m not living next to someone with a flock of chickens in their backyard.”

The reasoning is very simple. You may not be thinking about selling your home right now, but someday you may, and if you do, when the real estate agent brings 10 prospects to look at your property, how many will pass knowing you live next to someone who has chickens in their backyard? On the other hand, many cities allow homeowners to keep a small flock in their backyards. (There is a lot of good information on this subject at backyardchickens.com.)

Seattle and Madison, Wisconsin, seem to be the standard bearers on this model. Most communities do not allow roosters to be kept in town, and if you have ever had one “cock-a-doodle-doo” next to your bedroom window, you will know why. I would say that if anyone in town wants to keep one chicken, have at it. More than one, and you will need to get a permit. You would apply for a permit, and the next thing that would happen is the city would send out notices to everyone in a one-block radius that you want to keep up to four, five or six hens in your backyard.

If more than one property owner who can see your backyard from their property says “no,” I would deny the permit. The city does not need dozens of property owners who would be angry with the administration for lowering their property values. Another thing to consider is lawsuits. If you search online for “lawsuit chickens neighbor,” thousands of pages show up about individuals who are suing their neighbors for having chickens in their backyard.

Personally, I’m fine with chickens in the backyard. As a community, we need to be aware of all of the implications.