VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – July 16, 2013 – Chickens have been slowly infiltrating the suburbs and cities of America thanks to the rising popularity of urban homesteading, a movement that promotes sustainable agriculture, self-sufficiency and home-grown food. The city of Virginia Beach has been approached by a number of citizens who, as a part of this movement, are requesting changes to the City Code that will allow residents living in residential zones to own and keep hens (no roosters) in their backyards.
At this time, Virginia Beach is only interested in gauging public sentiment on this issue. Residents may visit Virtual Town Hall to share their thoughts on backyard chickens through 5 p.m., September 9.
Currently, Virginia Beach City Code classifies chickens as “fowl,” and fowl are only permitted in “areas zoned for agricultural use.” Nearly all homes in the northern part of the city are zoned residential, which does not allow for agricultural uses, and as a result, keeping chickens is not permitted there.
State Code (Section 3.2-6552) complicates the chicken request as it allows a person to kill on-sight any dog that is injuring or killing a chicken. Though other Virginia cities have amended their zoning codes to allow chickens, this portion of the State Code has not been changed.
Proponents of urban chickens cite a desire for self-sufficiency and knowing where food comes from as primary reasons for owning a suburban flock. Additional stated benefits include chemical-free pest control, plant fertilizer (feces) and their companionship as pets.
In addition to the dog issue, opponents of backyard chickens typically offer sanitary concerns related to slaughter, attraction of predators or rodents, the smell, noise and public health concerns as reasons for maintain zoning ordinances that prevent keeping hens in suburban backyards. If people fail to properly clean up after their flock, there is also the risk of a negative impact on water quality if too much fecal matter enters storm water runoff.
Most cities that have allowed urban chickens have implemented restrictions in their ordinances such as limiting the number of chickens residents may own, requiring a coop and charging a permit fee.