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Fowling the Garden City: Chickens in Missoula

Throughout the Summer and Fall of 2007, the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition worked closely with Missoula's City Council to research how other cities -- both small and large -- successfully deal with urban chickens and preempt nuisance issues.  CFAC would like to give a special thanks to Councilors Stacy Rye, Bob Jaffe, and Dave Strohmaier, as well as the rest of the Urban Fowl Sub-Committee for spending dozens of hours working out the details of the new chicken ordinance.

Chickens not only allow urban folk to raise protein right in their backyards, they also turn food waste -- a significant burden in the landfill -- into some of the most fertile compost for our garden beds.  The vast majority of Missoulians understand these important edible and ecological benefits and support your right to keeping a small flock of hen chickens (see the results from the City Talk survey (PDF)).

We hope you will be a proactive chicken-keeper.  Talk to your neighbors.  Share eggs.  Know the city ordinance and the resources at your finger tips to be a good steward.
    

Legalized ... under the following stipulations:

Missoula's chicken ordinance can be found in the municipal codes.  Here's the gist of it:

  1. No roosters.  Banning roosters eliminates problems with noise -- by far the most common complaint.
  2. Maximum of 6 hens.  This reduces smell and high concentrations of manure.
  3. Obtain a $15 annual permit from the City Treasurer (552-6000).  This is as easy as spending 2 minutes and 15 bucks at the Treasure's Office at 435 Ryman Street.
  4. Predator-proof housing.  We don’t want to be a nuisance to our wild neighbors either.
  5. Chicken house must kept clean and be at least 20 feet from a neighboring dwelling.  This places a buffer zone between any fowl smells and noises from your neighbor's house.
  6. Chickens must be fenced and have access to outdoor enclosure.  This prevents chickens from wandering the streets, digging up your neighbor’s flowerbeds, and encourages adequate space for the birds to enjoy life, safe from at-large dogs.
  7. Feed must be stored in a rodent- and predator-proof container.  Feed attracts other animals more than the chickens do.

Is it possible to follow the above rules and still create a nuisance for your neighbors?  Probably, but let's not find out.  Please be a proactive chicken owner.  Hint: Many neighbors are much more likely to adore your goofy feathered friends than despise them -- especially if you share excess eggs.
                                           

Chicken-Raising Resources

There are lots of resources about raising chickens on the Web.  Good places to start are:

Here are some very useful books about raising chickens and housing your flock:

  • Damerow, Gail.  1995.  Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens:  Care, Feeding, Facilities.  North Adams, MA:  Storey Publishing.
  • Lee, Andy.  1994.  Chicken Tractor:  The Gardener’s Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil.  Shelburne, VT:  Good Earth Publications. 
  • Pangman, Judy.  2006.  Chicken Coops:  45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock.  North Adams, MA:  Storey Publishing.
  • Roberts, Michael.  1997.  Poultry House Construction.  Devon, UK:  Golden Cockerel Books.