(Update-COVID Response-June 23, 2020-Nyack)- A few years ago, farm to table eating became a “thing,” now it is even more important because of the COVID response of homeowners to staying in place. Everywhere you look in suburbia gardens are going in, chickens are being tended, honey bees added to back yards like never before. At the same time, people who have never lived next to animals, bees, poultry, chickens, or other back yard friends (some say “nuisances”), are reporting their friends and neighbors to building departments to complain. Suddenly the back yard chicken farmers must review the laws of zoning and morality.
We have seen these types of complaints in the Town of Clarkstown, New York. New neighbors, new problems. If taking fresh eggs to the new neighbor doesn’t work and you need to review the law, zoning and planning attorneys can help with violations, building permit applications and zoning variances we can help you. In places like Congers, Valley Cottage, Nanuet, different zones beget different sized lots. Right now, the Town of Clarkstown Code provides:
Additional Bulk Regulations §290-20(K). In the R-160, R-80, R-40, R-22, R-15 and R-10 Zoning Districts, keeping domestic animals (except pigs) for individual domestic purposes shall be permitted, provided that not more than one horse or cow per acre, five cats or dogs over six months old, and not more than 25 fowl shall be kept on any lot. No animals (except cats or dogs) shall be penned or housed within 50 feet of any lot line, and there shall be no storage of manure, animal waste or odor- or dust-producing substance or use, except spraying or dusting to protect vegetation, within 50 feet of any lot line, watercourse or wetland. [Added 3-22-2016 by L.L. No. 5-2016].
Even if your lot is large enough to house a few back yard girls (roosters are trouble), the Building Department has been issuing violations for letting them scratch around in the back yard.
No person shall permit to run at large any horse, cattle, sheep, swine, fowl or other animal on the roads, streets or highways of the Town or on property of persons other than the owner or owners of said animals or fowl.
Leaving aside the societal concerns of nosy neighbors, what’s the big deal about a few chickens scratching around the back yard. Clearly, under any reading of that section of the local code, if you keep your chickens on your own yard, you should not be subject to a neighbor complaint about them pecking around.
(Nyack-April 2017) With the farm-to-table movement all the rage, and demand for more transparency in the production of our food, home coops have taken off. You may think that because you live in an urban area you can’t possibly be permitted to have your own chicken coop or because you live in a suburban or rural area you can keep as many chickens as you’d like, but you would be surprised. For example, the City of White Plains only requires that any chickens kept in the city be, “securely enclosed in such a manner as to prevent them from straying from the premises of the person owning them.” White Plains Code of Ordinances, § 5-2-1(a). On the other hand, the Westchester Village of Port Chester prohibits any chickens or roosters from being kept within its limits. Port Chester Village Code, § 136-14.
While many towns and villages in New York permit the keeping of chickens on residential property, it is common for localities to ban roosters. The Village of Nyack prohibits “owning or keeping a rooster within village limits” and violation constitutes disorderly conduct. Village of Nyack Code, § 131-1. Similarly, some towns place restrictions on just how many chickens you can have on your property.
In the Town of Somers, Westchester County, a maximum of six (6) chickens (but no mature cockerels) may be kept on your property if its area totals 40,000 square feet or more. Somers Town Code, § 170-11. If you want to keep more chickens on your property than your town allows, you’ll need to ask the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance and/or a special use permit.
Bottom line: Home coops are permitted in many localities throughout New York State, but always check out your town code before bringing your chickens home.
We at Klose & Associates can help you navigate the rules in your locality, and obtain the necessary variances or permits to get you eating fresh eggs daily!