Backyard chicken keeping has become very popular across the country. Anyone who has owned these birds as pets know what quirky, fun pets they can be. Depending on breed, some are quite affectionate and enjoy spending time near you. Until recently, Titusville considered chickens to be livestock, and as such, were not allowed within the city limits. This August, that changed. Thanks to a grassroots effort spearheaded by local resident Rose Blanco-Chamberland, the city council voted nearly unanimously to begin allowing residents within the city limit to own up to 4 hens. Hens (no roosters) can only be owned by permit, and naturally, there are a few requirements that need to be met to obtain the permit (for permit application click here). The key items are as follows:
- You will need to submit a site sketch. I found this daunting at first, since I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. My sketch was very simple, pointing out the house, where I will have the coop, and relevant fences.
- Hens can only be on single family properties. This eliminates apartment dwellers from keeping chickens, but does not exclude renters (property owner must be listed in the application)
- Chickens cannot be slaughtered on site, nor can any of their products be sold (eggs).
- Chickens must be enclosed in a coop, not allowed to roam free (just like dogs and cats). They are considered contained if within a fence they cannot escape from if you want to allow your hens to roam around the yard a bit. Keep in mind, that this does leave them susceptible to predators, especially birds of prey. The coop must be 10 feet from your property line and concealed from your neighbor’s view via fencing or landscaping.
- The biggest hurdle for many is that the permit requires that the chicken-owner-to-be take a chicken care class. The next class will be offered by UF/IFAS at the AG extension in Cocoa. The first class will be Saturday Sept 30 (9am, at AG extension office, 3695 Lake Dr, Cocoa, FL 32926 – no reservation required, $10 fee). The class will go over the basics of chicken care, including coop size requirements, nutrition, and other basic husbandry concerns.
I hope many of you consider having chickens as pets. They have much more personality than non-chicken owners usually realize. Plus, much like tomatoes, there are few things quite as tasty as a “home-grown” egg! They also can help a garden tremendously with pest control and manure (back to those tomatoes…yum). I will be following this up next month discussing basic care and disease concerns. I sincerely hope to see more people consider keeping chickens as pets, and not only because I love seeing pet chickens in our practice, though I do!
I recommend that those who are considering having a small backyard chicken flock consider joining the Facebook group Titusville Backyard Chickens. There you can discuss chicken owning, ask questions, and get advice from others here locally. Another great on-line resource is https://www.backyardchickens.com/
Happy chicken keeping from me and my girls!
Angela Bockelman, DVM, PhD