Proposed backyard chicken bill runs afowl in Texas senate

A bill proposed by Texas legislators could have made it a little easier for residents to raise chickens in their backyard.

But Senate Bill 1620, authored by Van Taylor (R-Plano), died following Sine Die Monday after the bill didn’t go for a vote in the Texas House of Representatives.

SB 1620 could have allowed Texans to raise six or fewer chickens in their backyard. The bill was approved in the Senate April 5 and was voted out of the House Committee on Urban Affairs May 20.

Some large metropolitan cities, including Austin, and smaller cities, like Kyle and Buda, already allow residents to raise chickens.

While SB 1620 intends to prohibit local municipalities from preventing residents from raising six or fewer chickens in their backyards, it would have allowed cities to enact some restrictions.

The bill allowed cities to impose a limit on the number of chickens an individual may raise, as well as prohibitions on poultry breeding, keeping roosters, and the minimum distance between a chicken coop and a residential structure.

To align the city’s ordinances with the proposed Texas bill, Kyle city council recently amended its chicken ordinance.

The revised ordinance states residents may keep no more than six hens, and coops must be maintained at least 20 feet from neighboring residences and at least 10 feet from the owner’s residence.

With the previous chicken ordinance, there were very few areas in the city where backyard chickens were allowed, Councilmember Travis Mitchell said.

“Our chicken ordinance was a little bit difficult to understand,” Mitchell said. “You were only allowed to have chickens or hens in R-1-1 subdivisions.”

However, residents of subdivisions not zoned R-1-1 with similarly-sized or larger lots were still not allowed to raise backyard chickens.

In 2013, the city of Wimberley adopted an ordinance allowing backyard hens, but not roosters, in properties of two or more acres.

According to the ordinance, enclosures to keep chickens must be placed at least 20 feet from any adjacent property line and at least 30 feet from any adjacent residential structure.

In Buda, residents can raise at most six adult chickens in a ½ acre or smaller lot. Owners of a lot 1 acre or bigger can raise at most 12 adult chickens.

Additionally, shelter for the chickens must be kept at least 50 feet from neighboring residences.

While Buda residents may not raise roosters, they can apply for a permit to keep one rooster for breeding purposes.

Despite these local ordinances and the Texas bill, residents may still be prohibited from raising backyard chickens by their corresponding homeowners association.

State and local law will not change that, Mitchell said.

What’s the scoop on backyard chickens?

According to a 2014 study by the Poultry Science Association…

71% of backyard chicken owners have fewer than 10 chickens
70% of survey respondents had kept chickens for less than 5 years
53% of survey respondents got their chickens from their local feed store

Why do people raise chickens?
• Food for home use
• Gardening partners
• Pets/companionship

What are the biggest challenges for raising chickens?
• Minimizing predation
• Providing and affording adequate feed
• Dealing with soil management
• Complying with zoning rules

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