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Residents May Keep Chickens in Backyard

By Barbara A. Preston l June 7, 2021

Montgomery Township Committee unanimously approved a new ordinance on May 20 that allows homeowners on half-acre lots to keep backyard chickens. The rules, though, prohibit mature roosters. Any cockerel (a young male chicken) must be culled or permanently removed from the property within five days of maturity.

Montgomery resident Janice Barth commented during the public session of the online meeting. “It seems disingenuous to say that in a residential neighborhood, you can’t have a rooster, but the farmer down the street can have a rooster,” Barth said.

Township Administrator Donato Nieman responded that state law allows farmers (on land zoned for farming) to keep roosters. The new Backyard Chicken Ordinance for residentially-zoned property states: Slaughtering chickens in public view is prohibited. No more than six chickens may be kept on any parcel that meets the minimum lot size.

For each additional one-half acre, two additional chickens may be kept. Chickens are not allowed to “run at large.” No person owning, keeping, or harboring a chicken shall permit it to run at large on public streets or any private property— except on premises where the owner gives permission. No disturbing the peace.

Owners must rein in their chickens so they do not cause a nuisance by loud, or continuous noise. Chickens may not annoy or cause discomfort of surrounding neighbors such that their rest is broken and their sleep interrupted, and/or the reasonable use and enjoyment of their property is disturbed.

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Storage of manure must be located at least 25 feet from any lot line and at least 50 feet from any residential structure on an adjoining property, and must be properly composted per health code or USDA guidelines or kept in a watertight container until it can be disposed of in a proper fashion.

A backyard shelter (hen house or chicken coop) is required to provide protection from predators. Residents who wish to have backyard chickens must apply for a zoning permit before installing the hen house.

Montgomery resident Barth asked: “How does the town propose to enforce this ordinance?” “Last year, one of my neighbors had a lawn that was three to four feet high,” she said. “I was told the town could only send a letter, that there were no teeth in the ordinance regarding property maintenance. And that, I guess, would explain the issues on at the corner of routes 518 and 206.”

The buildings there have been in a state of disrepair for years and years, and are falling down. Donato responded that the township does not have an ordinance regarding property maintenance because previous elected officials did not want one. The current committee is working on this now. The chicken ordinance, on the other hand, empowers police and the animal control officer to remove chickens if necessary.


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