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Zoning regulations for chickens and bees

Health Factors: Diet & Exercise
Decision Makers: Community Development Professionals Community Members Employers & Businesses Local Government State Government Nonprofit Leaders
Evidence Rating: Expert Opinion
Population Reach: 20-49% of WI's population
Impact on Disparities: No impact on disparities likely

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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

Increased access to healthy food
Strengthened local & regional food systems
Increased earnings
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, Beam 2013).


United States

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

UMO Ext-Urban ag - University of Missouri Extension (UMO Ext). Urban agriculture. Accessed on November 10, 2015
USDA-Urban ag - US Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Agricultural Library (NAL). Urban agriculture. Accessed on March 16, 2017

Citations - Evidence

Bailey 2013 - Bailey T, Larson J. Backyard poultry: Implications for public health and safety. Minneapolis: Food Policy Research Center (FPRC), University of Minnesota; 2013. Accessed on January 11, 2016
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. Accessed on December 22, 2015
CDC-Urban ag - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Land use planning and urban/peri-urban agriculture. Accessed on December 14, 2015
FAO-Livestock - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Livestock and dairy products. Accessed on November 17, 2015
Grewal 2012 - Grewal SS, Grewal PS. Can cities become self-reliant in food? Cities. 2012;29(1):1–11. Accessed on November 9, 2015

Citations - Implementation

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. Accessed on December 1, 2015
BRA-Urban ag zoning - Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). Urban agriculture rezoning initiative. Accessed on November 25, 2015
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. Accessed on December 1, 2015
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. Accessed on November 25, 2015
Madison-Beekeeping - City of Madison. Obtaining a city of Madison beekeeping license. Accessed on November 10, 2015
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. Accessed on November 18, 2015

Page Last Updated

May 19, 2014

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