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.