There’s a place for backyard chickens

Published 9:40 pm Tuesday, January 6, 2015

To the editor:

As people seek healthier food sources, many have turned to producing their own.

Backyard gardens can be seen in almost every neighborhood. In cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Charlotte, N.C., Baltimore, Md., Richmond and Norfolk, health-conscious individuals are raising backyard chickens for eggs.

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These are not large-scale production houses, merely a half a dozen or fewer hens, enough to provide a family with fresh wholesome eggs. So why does the big city of Suffolk deny its citizens the same opportunity?

Suffolk’s animal regulations state: “The purpose of this Section is to provide rules and regulations for the keeping of agricultural animals, household pets and other animals so that these animals do not become a nuisance, hazard and/or health problem to the adjoining neighbors and the general public.”

The regulation goes on to say agricultural animals (including chickens) are prohibited in all but agricultural and rural zoning districts.

What I do not understand is why I can have up to six 150-pound Newfoundland dogs, because they are not considered a nuisance, hazard and/or health problem, but I cannot have six eight-pound chickens.

Comparing the two species highlights the illogic. When a Newfoundland speaks, neighbors five houses away know it. When a chicken speaks, you have to be standing next to it to hear.

And then there is the “stuff” they make. Six Newfoundland dogs can make a lot of stuff. Besides not smelling like roses, their stuff has no useful purpose. Six chickens produce far less stuff than the dogs, and their stuff is highly sought after by organic gardeners.

Claiming a chicken is more of a nuisance, hazard and/or health problem than a dog is absurd.

As a good neighbor, I am not suggesting that large, free-roaming flocks of chickens and roosters would be appropriate. I am suggesting that hens can be kept in a manner to prevent a nuisance, hazard and/or health problem to my neighbors.

If large metropolitan areas like New York and Richmond can create regulations to allow the safe and unobtrusive keeping of backyard chickens, then why can’t Suffolk?

Contact me at if you feel the same way.

Chris Dove