Chickens will be welcome in Plano backyards after a long-awaited council vote Monday night approving changes to a city ordinance.
Council members first had to approve the repeal of an ordinance restricting chickens. Both votes were 7-1, with Rick Grady voting in opposition because of what he said were concerns over property owners’ rights.
Supporters have long advocated for backyard hens, including U.S. Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano, who as a state senator in 2017 laid out a bill to prevent cities from banning them.
The idea took wing during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when eggs increased in price and were at times sold out in grocery stores. Casey Cutler, manager of Good Local Markets in Dallas, told The Dallas Morning News that her husband’s business, Urban Chicken, couldn’t keep up with the flood of requests for live chickens.
“Given the level of citizen interest in backyard hens, I’d like to have a discussion on that on a future agenda,” council member Anthony Ricciardelli said during an April 2020 meeting.
The council received an informational report on the fledgling idea in June and answers to additional questions in September before tabling the issue.
Council members again hatched the idea in June of this year, when several residents spoke in favor of raising backyard hens. They noted that surrounding communities have had success with allowing the practice.
On Aug. 16, Plano’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted 8-0 to change the city’s zoning ordinance as a first step to allowing hens.
Here’s what you should know about the change.
Can you have any kind of chicken?
Only hens are allowed. Roosters are prohibited.
How many hens can you have?
The city’s ordinance allows for up to 10 adult animals.
What are the requirements for coops?
Owners can let hens roam the yard during daylight hours under adult supervision, and coops or enclosures must:
- Be located behind a fence at least 6 feet high and meet distance requirements from neighboring buildings (20 feet for enclosures of up to five animals, 50 feet for enclosures of up to 10).
- Have at least 4 square feet of space for each hen.
- Have an attached exercise yard with at least 8 square feet of space per hen.
- Protect the hens from inclement weather, insect bites and attacks by other animals.
- Have at least 10 inches of roosting space for each hen and one nesting box for every four hens.
Do I need a permit to own hens?
Residents would need to apply for a permit and pay a fee determined by the council. The application must include:
- Floorplans and side elevations for the proposed enclosure or the manufacturer, model, and size of a commercially available coop.
- A site drawing showing the proposed location for the enclosure that includes all property lines, building lines, setbacks and other structures on the property.
- Written, notarized authorization from the property owner, if it’s someone other than the applicant, allowing backyard hens.
- Proof of completing an educational course approved by the Animal Services Department on backyard hen care and sanitation.
What if people get tired of their chickens?
When the council first considered the issue in April 2020, Animal Services director Jamey Cantrell said he was concerned about the birds ending up at the animal shelter. Anyone who wants to raise chickens should consider what’s required to take care of them, he said.
His department has seen a steady increase in the number of chickens captured or surrendered, from eight in fiscal year 2017-18 to 14 last year. Since the current fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2020, Cantrell told The Dallas Morning News the city had already taken in 24 chickens through August.
Can residents sell the eggs?
Yes, backyard hen owners with a permit can sell eggs if they abide by federal, state and local regulations.
Who’s behind the effort?
Plano Hens collected 2,433 signatures on a petition in favor of the change, according to a Dallas Morning News editorial supporting backyard hens.
“We are passionate about the movement,” group member Alysia Conolly wrote in an email. “We are all hopeful to one day be able to raise our own flock.”
Will the change ruffle any feathers?
Cantrell has said he expects his department will field calls from people who don’t want chickens living next door to them. He said homeowners associations can still decide whether they will allow backyard hens in their neighborhoods.
What are the rules in other cities?
Sachse and Fairview have generous limits or no limits at all on the number of chickens a resident can raise. Coppell and Plano forbid all chickens. Addison allows three birds per property and Garland four. In Dallas, there’s no maximum.