Article written

  • on 19.02.2013
  • at 09:41 AM
  • by Raymond Boyd

Backyard chickens and effort to legalize them unite residents across the city 15

Feb19
In 2012, Maureen Breen's chickens were confiscated from her backyard after a neighbor complained. Photo/Raymond Boyd

In 2012, Maureen Breen’s chickens were confiscated from her backyard after a neighbor complained. Photo/Raymond Boyd

This story is the first of two about backyard chickens in Philadelphia and the effort to legalize them. It’s done in partnership with Philadelphia Neighborhoods and NewsWorks. Read part two here.

In 2004, City Council met to discuss a bill proposed by Councilman Brian O’Neill, R-10th.

The bill — written with help from the Health Department and the Law Department — amended Title 10 of the Philadelphia Code, which addresses ownership of poultry and livestock within city limits. The bill sought to make it illegal to own farm animals  – “any chicken, goose, duck, turkey, goat, sheep, pig or cow” – on fewer than three acres of land.

Paragraph 6 of the Title 10 Amendment reads:

“No person shall cause or permit more than 5 expressions  of sound from one or more animals (such as individual barks from one or more dogs)  during a five minute period from any property audible at a distance greater than 50 feet  from the property boundary. This shall not apply to zoos, veterinary hospitals or clinics,  animal shelters, a circus or other licensed entertainment venue, or a facility used for  educational or scientific purposes, such as schools and laboratories.”

Fox Chase resident Maureen Breen, whose chickens were taken away in 2012 after a neighbor complained, said she thinks the regulations are overreaching. Her chickens were egg producers for her family and neighbors. “Neighbors on each side two doors down like the chickens,” she said, and people walking by on the way to the train station would often stop and ask questions about them.

Many Philadelphia residents raise “backyard chickens” for fresher and more cost-effective eggs, pest relief and fertilizer, and continue to fight against the notion that the birds are a nuisance to neighbors.

My chickens are pets, Manayunk resident Jane Glenn said of the birds she raises for eggs. She and Breen have been working with other chicken owners across the city to argue against the idea that chickens are noisy, dirty and aggressive, and uses the Philadelphia Backyard Chickens to help spread the word.

The 2004 bill passed with an 11-6 vote, and though Council expressed intentions to revisit the matter, the law remains in effect. O’Neill did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

Raymond Boyd is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.


  • http://www.facebook.com/BobHouston517 Bob Houston

    If you want chickens move to a farm

  • Katie

    A friend of mine lives in Norristown where this is legal and she has her own little chicken coop and 7 chickens. She gets fresh, cruelty free eggs. If more people could raise thier own chickens it would help reduce the amount of chickens that are being cruelly treated in factory farms.

  • RockyRaccoon

    City Raccoon’s would kill them and or take the eggs..Ticking time bomb with this many Raccoon’s and opossums running amok

  • beaucheanesr

    way to go Bob

  • beaucheanesr

    Perfect disguise for the slumdog cock-fighters! “Of course we heard the chickens, but we didn’t know they were fighting!” Come to my neighborhood where everyone leaves their dogs bark for hours. 19114

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynda.desouza.3 Lynda Desouza

    O Brien in my opinion wanted land in the northeast to go to a housing developer. What did he get in return I wonder? Doesn’t surprise me he wont comment. (O’Brien)When chicken owners tried to contact him to reason with him about the unfairness and impact of his bill his staff would only say it is a done deal. I went to court and testified on behalf a Somerton, (represented by Paul Gates), woman who provided a hatching egg program to schools to get an exeption from the unconstitional law and the judge would not allow testimony as to aids to various councilman telling callers the law would only be enforced in O Brien’s district. In my opinion we need less city council people not less chickens. What plan does city council have to control lyme disease and west nile virus now that all chickens, turkeys, ducks and quinies are not her to eat the bugs that cause those illnesses? What plan do they have to protect our food supply from the steriods, anti biotics and growth hormones fed to factory farmed chickens? We are facing a global food shortage and I don’t think city council should be keeping families from being self sufficient. Chicken hens make no noise at night, they sleep at night and make very little noise during the day. The don’t produce urine and the droppings have very little oder and can be used as fertilizer. I just don’t see why any one would complain about them. My block is over run with mosquitos not that all the hens are gone. We have a few new council people and I think they should reconsider this bad piece of legislation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynda.desouza.3 Lynda Desouza

    Laying hens are nothing like fighting cocks which are a totally different breed and sex.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynda.desouza.3 Lynda Desouza

    Keeping hens protected in a pen that has wiring both around over and under deters raccoons and opossums.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lynda.desouza.3 Lynda Desouza

    If you don’t want your rights taken away you would do well to defend the rights of others.

  • KB

    That same woman lives next door to me and that yard smelled so bad…in Somerton….Oh the roosters go on all day long, noise free… NOT… If it goes to court I’ll be right there to fight it. I was there for round one and I’ll go back to keep them away. l.

  • Maureen

    Or New York or Baltimore or any one of the other 9 largest cities in the US that have not outlawed chickens. Chickens were legal until 2004 in Philadelphia.

  • sacmcdonald

    Just jumping in to thank everyone for keeping things mostly civil here as you debate what’s obviously a polarizing topic.

  • Maureen

    The city Health Commissioner answers an FAQ on the website that current animal noise ordinances apply to roosters. There are also animal odor ordinances. Philadelphia is a very civilized city where we have plenty of laws against animal problems without singling out chickens. Dogs produce more waste than chickens. In 2004 council spoke of revisiting the law so as not to harm responsible animal keepers. Time to revisit the law.

  • Maureen

    Philadelphia is civilized and has an ordinance against animal noise, such as dogs. Call 911 or 311 and let those laws work for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/maureen.breen.35 Maureen Breen

    We can read in the 2004 transcripts that O’Neill recognized responsible animal keepers and did not intend to legislate against them. People in district 10 want chickens.

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