Zoning regulations for chickens and bees

Municipal zoning regulations can allow residents to keep chickens and bees within city limits. Raising chickens or keeping bees can be part of individuals’ and families’ income-earning and food-producing activities in urban areas.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased access to healthy food

  • Strengthened local & regional food systems

  • Increased earnings

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased healthy foods in food deserts

Evidence of Effectiveness

Zoning regulations that allow residents to raise chickens and keep bees, as part of urban agriculture activities, are a suggested strategy to increase access to healthy foods, build sustainable, self-reliant food systems, and increase household income (CDC-Urban ag, FAO-Livestock). Models suggest that cities can achieve significant levels of self-reliance for poultry, eggs, and honey through urban agriculture activities (Grewal 2012). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Regulations addressing public health safety concerns and educational campaigns for those in contact with live poultry are suggested strategies to decrease potential risks of infectious disease transmission related to raising chickens (Bailey 2013, ).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Many municipalities have adopted or changed zoning regulations to support raising chickens and bees, including Boston, MA (BRA-Urban ag zoning); Cleveland, OH (CCC FPC-Chickens and bees); Salt Lake City, UT (Salt Lake-Chickens); and Madison, WI (Madison-Beekeeping). The specifics of these ordinances (i.e., codes, requirements, and restrictions regulating urban livestock activities) vary significantly (Butler 2012).

As of 2012, 94 of the top 100 US cities by population (according to the 2000 census) have laws that allow chickens in some manner. Only 3 cities have an outright ban on keeping chickens, and 3 have unclear ordinances that have been interpreted as bans (Bouvier 2012).

Implementation Resources

USDA-Urban ag - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Library (NAL). Urban agriculture.

UMO Ext-Urban ag - University of Missouri Extension (UMO Ext). Urban agriculture.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

CDC-Urban ag - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Land use planning and urban/peri-urban agriculture.

Grewal 2012 - Grewal SS, Grewal PS. Can cities become self-reliant in food? Cities. 2012;29(1):1–11.

FAO-Livestock - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Livestock and dairy products.

Beam 2013* - Beam A, Garber L, Sakugawa J, Kopral C. Salmonella awareness and related management practices in U.S. urban backyard chicken flocks. Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 2013;110(3-4):481–8.

Bailey 2013 - Bailey T, Larson J. Backyard poultry: Implications for public health and safety. Minneapolis: Food Policy Research Center (FPRC), University of Minnesota; 2013.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

BRA-Urban ag zoning - Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). Urban agriculture rezoning initiative.

Bouvier 2012 - Bouvier J. Illegal fowl: A survey of municipal laws relating to backyard poultry and a model ordinance for regulating city chickens. Environmental Law Reporter. 2012;42(9):10888.

Butler 2012 - Butler WH. Welcoming animals back to the city: Navigating the tensions of urban livestock through municipal ordinances. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. 2012;2(2):193-215.

CCC FPC-Chickens and bees - Cleveland Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition (CCCFP). Chickens and bees ordinance: Cleveland revamps zoning codes to promote urban agriculture. Cleveland: Cleveland Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition (CCCFP); 2011.

Salt Lake-Chickens - Hendrickson M, Porth M. An ordinance amending sections 8.08.010, 8.08.060, and 8.08.080, and enacting section 8.08.065, Salt Lake City code, to authorize the keeping of chickens in residential districts subject to certain requirements. Salt Lake City: City Council of Salt Lake City; 2011.

Madison-Beekeeping - City of Madison. Obtaining a city of Madison beekeeping license.

Date Last Updated

May 19, 2014