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Interested in Keeping Chickens? You Can Have Up to Six Without Planning Board Approval

Burlington Town Meeting approved a zoning bylaw that eases the process for those who want to keep hen chickens.

Town Meeting voted on Monday to a zoning bylaw change that makes it easier for people looking to keep up to six chickens in their yard.

The change was to Burlington Zoning Bylaw 4.3.1.12 which read as "The keeping of animals other than the usual household pets, subject to restrictions of the Board of Health." The bylaw now reads "The keeping of animals, other than the usual household pets or more than 6 hen chickens; subject to the restriction of the Board of Health." The zoning this applies to is RO, or one-family dwelling districts.

The change means that anyone looking to keep up to six hen chickens no longer need approval by the Planning Board. They must still get approval by the Board of Health and follow the regulations put forward by that board.

Planning Director Kirsten Kassner said the proposed bylaw change came up because in recent years there have been more inquiries about keeping chickens in residential areas.

"We were seeing folks who wanted a few chickens," she said. "We discussed it and figured that six was a good number."

Planning Board Chair Paul Roth said that allowing people to have up to six hen chickens "by right" will help ease the already-long agendas of the Planning Board meetings. He also said this doesn't give people the ability to just get the birds, but puts the regulation in the hands of the Board of Health. 

"The Board of Health has special requirements that are quite rigid,
 he said. "We did not step into their jurisdiction. Nothing we’re doing is limiting their overview." 

The Board of Health regulations on keeping animals can be found by clicking this link. A couple of the regulations that are pertinent to the keeping of chickens include:

Section 3: All domesticated animals and fowl must be housed or penned not less than 25 feet from any lot line and 75 feet from any building used for human habitation.

Section 4: Any building or structure used to shelter or house domesticated animals or fowl must be kept in a sanitary condition, so as not to become a source of filth, disease, insects, or a source of offense to any abutter.

It is also important to note that this change applies only to hen chickens, not roosters that often crow and would be a nuisance to neighbors.

What do you think? Would you want to keep chickens? Would it bother you if a neighbor kept them? Let us know in the comments below.

J. Parker February 01, 2013 at 08:00 PM
No roosters?! Awe shucks, no cheap alarm clock. : )
Richard Hosford (Editor) February 02, 2013 at 03:41 AM
J. Parker, haha, sadly not. Though I will say the whole 'roosters only crowing at dawn' thing is a farce. When I was in the Peace Corps in Bolivia the family that were my neighbors had a couple of roosters and they would start making noise at about 3 a.m. Way before I wanted my alarm to go off!
Heather Landry-Devlin February 22, 2014 at 07:27 PM
I grew up with chickens here in town, and I would love to have them again. I am not sure how my neighbors would feel about it though. There is nothing like truly fresh eggs for your family! (and neighbors) ;)

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