Can you have Backyard Chickens in Virginia?


Many cities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia allow the ownership of backyard chickens. However, some also don’t. Below is a an overview of just some of the most populous cities in the State and their laws regarding chicken ownership. They include:

  • Norfolk
  • Alexandria
  • Roanoke

Norfolk

In order to have backyard chickens in the city of Norfolk you will need to have a permit issued by the Department of Health. Receiving and holding onto this permit comes with many conditions. These conditions were outlined in the city’s code and are listed below:

(3) The holder of any permit allowing the keeping of chickens shall be in violation of this section and may have the permit revoked in the event any of the following conditions are not consistently and adequately maintained:

  • (A) No more than six (6) hens and no rooster or capon shall be kept on any lot.
  • (B) When kept at a residential property, no eggs or chicken meat may be sold from the property.
  • (C) Chickens shall be kept at least fifteen (15) feet from any property line and any occupied building, at least twenty (20) feet from the nearest boundary of any city drainage easement, and shall be located on areas of the property that, at all times, are not visible from any improved public right-of-way.
  • (D) Each chicken shall be tagged with an identification band provided at the time the permit is issued, which shall be attached to either the leg or wing.
  • (E) All chickens shall be kept in a coop consisting of a covered, predator-proof shelter that is thoroughly ventilated, provides adequate protection from elements, is designed to be easily cleaned, can be accessed with at least one door sufficient to accommodate a human, and provides a feeder and watering space sufficient for the number of birds being kept.
  • (F) Coops shall provide not less than six (6) square feet of total area for each chicken authorized to be kept and one-half (½) of the total area shall be a weatherproof, inside area.
  • (G) Any electrical power provided to the coop shall be installed according to applicable building code requirements and no extension cord shall be used.
  • (H) All coops shall be maintained in orderly and working condition at all times and must be cleaned regularly so as to prevent odors from being perceptible from other properties. All feed shall be stored and waste shall be disposed of in a manner that prevents the attraction of rodents, flies, and other pests.
  • (I) Neither the chickens nor the coop shall be permitted to create or constitute a nuisance in accordance with the provisions of section 6.1-76 of this chapter or chapter 27.
  • (J) No chicken shall be killed nor kept in any manner or condition that constitutes either cruelty to animals, in accordance with the provisions of section 6.1-78 of this chapter, or a failure to perform any duties of ownership, in accordance with the provisions of section 6.1-77 of this chapter.
  • (K) All exterior areas of the property in the vicinity of where the chickens are kept, the coop, and any chicken kept on the property shall be made available for immediate inspection on request by any city law enforcement officer, duly designated sworn special police officer, the fire marshal or any of his assistants, the director of public health or his authorized designee, or the Virginia State Veterinarian or his authorized designee.
  • (L) At all times a copy of the permit shall be maintained on the property where the chickens are kept.’

The full code of ordinances for the city of Norfolk can be found here.

Alexandria

Alexandria prohibits the keeping of chickens on residential property within the city limits. Please read the below extract from its code that shows this:

Sec. 5-7-2 – Keeping fowl.

It shall be unlawful for any person to keep or allow to be kept within the city, within 200 feet of any residence or dwelling not occupied by such person, any fowl.

To read more of their code of ordinances click here.

Roanoke

The city of Roanoke have a number of regulations around owning backyard chickens. Below is just some of the rules from the city’s code:

Sec. 6-95. – Limitations on keeping poultry.

The keeping of poultry on a lot shall be subject to these limitations:

(a) A maximum of ten (10) poultry animals may be kept on a parcel with less than twenty thousand (20,000) square feet.

(b) A maximum of forty (40) poultry animals may be kept on a parcel with twenty thousand (20,000) square feet or more.

(c) The limits on the number of poultry animals above shall not apply to any parcel on which such activity is permitted as of right, permitted by special exception, or permitted as a continuation of a nonconforming use, pursuant to chapter 36.2, zoning.

The full code can be read by clicking on this link. The code contains additional sub-sections that discuss how the chickens should be kept and how the area they live in should be maintained.

Conclusion on Virginia Backyard Chicken Laws

Many localities in Virginia allow the ownership of backyard chickens. In Norfolk, no more than six hens and no rooster or capon shall be kept on any lot. In Roanoke, a maximum of 10 poultry animals may be kept on a parcel with less than 20,000 square feet. Alexandria, however, prohibits the keeping of chickens on residential property within the city limits.

To find out more about backyard chicken laws in cities that weren’t mentioned above, make sure to contact the cities in question directly.

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This article is written for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources

  • City of Norfolk, Code of Ordinances § 6.1-7. (2020)
  • City of Alexandria, Code of Ordinances § 5-7-2 (2020)
  • City of Roanoke, Code of Ordinances § 6-95. (2020)

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