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Chicken Keeping in Baltimore City

Raising Chickens In Baltimore City

ChickensThere is an increasing interest in chicken keeping in Baltimore.  To help would-be city chicken keepers, below are some basic do’s and don’t, rules for chicken keeping from the Baltimore City Health Department and a video to give you a visual of an urban chicken farmer.

Why Keep Chickens?

Eggs are a great source of fresh homegrown food.  Fresh backyard eggs are likely to be the best you have ever tasted. Chickens also provide great fertilizer, they eat pesky insects and are relatively easy animals to maintain.  In addition to being a great resource for sustainable living, chickens are great companions and generally gentle pets.

Baltimore City Rules For Chicken Keeping
Authority:  Baltimore City Health Code, Title 2, § 2-106; Title 10, Subtitles 1 and 3.

1. No person may own, keep, or harbor any chickens without:
a. obtaining a permit from the Bureau of Animal Control; and
b. registering with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Domestic Poultry and
Exotic Bird Registration Division
2.  No more than 4 chickens over the age of 1 month may be kept.
3.  All chickens must be confined at all times to a movable pen.
a. No pen may be closer than 25 feet to any residence.
b. Each pen must be kept clean, free of all odors and materials that can attract
c. Each pen must be moved frequently to minimize turf destruction and the build up
of manure borne pathogens such as coccidiosis and roundworms.
d. Pens with feed boxes and nest boxes must allow 2 square feet per hen.
4.  The chickens must be provided with shade during warm weather.
5.  Potable water and proper feed must be made available.
6. All chickens must be provided with access to a well-constructed shelter that provides
suitable protection from inclement weather.
7. All chickens must be afforded veterinary care if they are known or suspected to be sick or injured.
8.  Roosters Are Prohibited

Things To Consider Before Purchasing Chickens

You are not permitted to keep roosters in Baltimore City.  The absence of a feathery morning alarm clock may ease neighbor’s concerns about noise.   However, without a rooster, your chickens will produce eggs, but the eggs will be infertile.  Chickens produce eggs regularly and “discard” them in the same way that women ovulate, but infertile eggs will not hatch chicks.  So, abandon any dreams (or fears) of a chicken hatchery.

Chickens will make some clucking noises from time to time and their pens will smell if they are not cleaned regularly.  It will likely be impossible to keep your chickens a secret from your neighbors, so bribe neighbors with fresh eggs and reassure them about the noise and smell.

Like all pets, chickens will require shelter, health care and you will have to care for them every day, no matter how busy you are.  Make sure you have a neighbor who is willing to help out when you are away.  In addition, you may want to contact the Herring Run Watershed Center.  They have had a few classes on chicken farming and they may be able to connect you with fellow chicken farmers in Baltimore.

Being an urban chicken farmer requires you to keep your pens especially tidy.  The general rule of thumb with city chicken keeping is, “If you can smell it, your neighbors can too”.  To ensure cleanliness, your coops will require constant attention.  Also, the chickens must be properly contained.  Nothing will anger your neighbors faster that a chicken climbing on their new car -and YES, they can fly.