Urban chicken ordinance advances in Metro Council

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 at 12:19am

Advocates of raising backyard chickens for egg production inched closer to victory Tuesday night, with the Metro Council giving preliminary approval of a bill that would allow the housing of chickens in Davidson County’s urban residences.

By voice vote, the council approved on the second of three votes a Councilwoman Karen Bennett-sponsored ordinance that would legalize the housing of hens in urban dwellings, provided a host of sanitation and other conditions are met. The council defeated a similar bill in 2009. Only a handful of council members voiced opposition this time around.

“There’s an interest in getting back to agriculture,” said Mary Pat Boatfield, one of nearly 200 chicken advocates who attended Tuesday’s meeting, many of whom spoke at a one-hour public hearing.

“Chickens are easy to handle,” she said. “They can teach a young child a lot of things. There are very docile breeds. It’s a chance for us to touch back to our agricultural roots, especially in this state. We need to be part of the food system. We need to understand it.”

With the latest hurdle cleared, the backyard chicken ordinance is set to go before the council for third and final approval in two weeks.

Under Metro’s existing code, chickens are not permitted in any homes within the Urban Services District — which consists of the oldest parts of Nashville, largely the urban core — or within the suburban General Services District in lots smaller than five acres. Bennett’s bill authorizes the keeping of chickens in both districts, but on a limited basis, with six hens the limit in parcels greater than 10,237 square feet.

To house domesticated hens, Davidson County residents would need to apply for an annual $25 permit with the Metro Health Department.

At Tuesday’s meeting, only Antioch-area councilmen Robert Duvall and Duane Dominy expressed hesitation about the proposal.

Duvall, who represents District 33 on the council, said he would seek to exempt his district from the new law if it were approved: “People in my community don’t want this,” he said.

But only three Nashvillians took advantage of a public hearing to express concerns about the bill. Those who have anxiety said backyard chickens would produce unwanted noise, odor and lessen the feel of some neighborhoods.

Dozens of people, many wearing yellows T-shirts designating their affiliation with the group Urban Chicken Advocates of Nashville, lined up to speak for the ordinance. Proponents spoke of the lost art of agriculture and the need to support self-sufficient food sources, which they said is cheaper and healthier.

“Many residents in Nashville are united in their desire to produce their own food locally,” said Andrew Greer, who spoke Tuesday for approval of the bill. “Local farming lets people know where their food is coming from.”

Supporters called the notion backyard chickens would produce unpleasant smells or loud noises “myths and stereotypes.” Some said Nashvillians are already housing chickens.

“I have a lot of neighbors with a lot of different pets,” one woman said. “I can tell you where every single dog lives and identify them by their bark. We have a lot of chickens living in individual yards in our neighborhood. Many of them I had absolutely no idea about until I started asking my immediate neighbors about this [bill.]”

The backyard chicken bill contains several conditions that relies on the Metro Codes department to enforce.

Hens must be kept in “predator-proof” covered henhouses requiring building permits. Henhouses must be at least 10 feet from property lines and 25 from other houses. There can be “no perceptible” odor from the hens. Feed must be stored in containers with metal lids.

Under the bill, no slaughtering of hens can take place on properties. Dead chickens would have to be removed “as quickly as possible” via the Metro Public Works Department. Finally, to ease concerns about cockfighting, the bill prohibits the training of chickens for amusement, sport or financial gain.

40 Comments on this post:

By: TNBear on 1/4/12 at 12:38


**Supporters called the notion backyard chickens would produce unpleasant smells or loud noises “myths and stereotypes.” Some said Nashvillians are already housing chickens.**
This statement alone proves these people have no intention on obeying the rules. They already have chickens knowing they are breaking the law; they see themselves as above it.
And the facts are chickens stink & they ARE noisy. I live next door to chicken owners ( who take care of their chickens,but they still stink. I know this is NOT "myths & stereotypes"
.**Chickens are easy to handle,” she said. “They can teach a young child a lot of things. There are very docile breeds. It’s a chance for us to touch back to our agricultural roots, especially in this state. We need to be part of the food system. We need to understand it.”**
To this statement ; if you want to get back in touch with agricultural - move to the countryside. The state of Tennessee is modern & does not need to be drug back to the 1800s where farm animals where kept in the backyards.
Chickens are FARM ANIMALS, NOT meant for city living. And Animasl Control will not uphold the codes. They don't now & won't in the future if this passes. People in neighborhoods who do know where these chickens are being kept know that when they call Animal Control they are told "We are only liable for domestic animals. Call the police".;who simply come out & tell the people it's illegal to have them, but do not see to it they are gotten rid of.
Do not let this pass or Nashville will be over run with chickens, then goats,pigs & other animals not meant for the city. The codes in place now that apply to chickens are right & should NOT be changed. The city has enough problems without adding more.

By: dargent7 on 1/4/12 at 5:04

What is it with this state? Is it the water supply?
These law makers should take a junket to any island in Hawai'i.
Try Maui, Kauai. Everyone has "backyard chickens".
The roosters crow at 3:30am, 7 days a week. Just like their dogs who bark. So, you have two meanacing noices before 4:00am, every day, including your day off where you thought you could sleep in.
The upside, you save on needing an alarm clock.
ps., eggs are only $1.50 a dozen everywhere and are USDA inspected.

By: gid on 1/4/12 at 7:11

Hey.,.Rooster dont lay eggs nor are they needed for eggs to be laid. A few hens in the back yard make no noise
I hope this bill passes.

By: bfra on 1/4/12 at 7:18

This council isn't happy with Metro looking more like a 3rd world country everyday, they want it to smell like one! Chickens do smell and are noisey! Codes are not enforced now, how will more codes be enforced? Of course, it will probably help feed a lot of stray dogs!

By: tdterry1999 on 1/4/12 at 7:25

It's begining to look alot like Mexico.

By: RickTNRebel on 1/4/12 at 7:59

I'm so PROUD of the folks that are backing this bill, and those council members who see the merit of it. I grew up here in the late '50's and '60's and I can tell you, most everyone I knew in our east Nashville neighborhood had laying hens in their backyard. This is not a "going backwards" idea, this is very progressive and I hope everyone puts at LEAST one fruit or nut tree in their yard. That's something else that was everywhere and free for neighborhood kids to "munch" all they wanted. I guess that was before Insurance companies were allowed to tell people what they can or can't grow in their yards. I don't like the $25.00 annual permit, or the requirement (another cost) to have a building permit (for a chicken coup? What if we intend to use the "Chicken Tractor" method of lawn care?), but we'll fight the legality of those charges once we get the Chickens in our yards...I'm so proud of you Nashville, you're so progressive!

By: nash615 on 1/4/12 at 8:04

I love how the couch admirals come out in force on the CP comment threads but can't be bothered to show up at a Council hearing (4 "against" comments here so far, only 3 at the hearing). Thankfully we don't govern by text box.

By: Nitzche on 1/4/12 at 8:07

how is the couches on the front porch and cars in the front yard bill coming?

By: sidneyames on 1/4/12 at 8:14

.**Chickens are easy to handle,” she said. “They can teach a young child a lot of things. There are very docile breeds. It’s a chance for us to touch back to our agricultural roots, especially in this state. We need to be part of the food system. We need to understand it.”**

Maybe they could hire the chickens to teach at metro schools and then our children would have a higher reading level and by the time they are in 8th grade, they would be "educated".

If someone wants to be a farmer, then buy a farm in a rural area zoned with an Agriculture zoning. Raising chickens in a subdivision or close quarters is not a good idea.

Yes Dogs are noisey and that can be handled with a call to animal control if you aren't too lazy to do it. But I can tell you that chicken poop does smell and it's nasty when tracked into the homes -- probably can spread disease. And I bet animal control and the health department will be inundated with calls that go unanswered.

By the way, when it comes to noise, chickens do cluck!

By: sidneyames on 1/4/12 at 8:20

: Nitzche on 1/4/12 at 8:07
how is the couches on the front porch and cars in the front yard bill coming?

Nitzche, Karen Bennett is personally going to sponsor that bill. She is now a charter member of the Beverly Hills Hillbilly Club and Nashville is the headquarters.

I live on 4.65 acres. My neighbor has over 30 acres and about 100 birds in his back yard. YES, we can hear the roosters crowing. BUT we live in the country where they are supposed to crow, so it does not bother us. WE chose to live int he country and hear country noises.

A normal city dweller is in the city to hear the hum of traffic and the noises of the city. Someone tell Karen Bennett that chicken cluck and chicken poop are not on the list of what a normal city dweller wants to see, hear or smell.

With all the stress on the heath department, codes and other metro government departments caused by lack of money for enough personnel, I'm uncertain as to how she, the lady Bennett, can justify this additional burden. And a burden it will be, I can assure you. It will cause one of those "unintended consequences" that the dems are always talking about after they pass laws and bills.

By: LoveItNashville on 1/4/12 at 8:55

TN Bear - dogs are legal, and does everyone in your neighborhood have one? No, and most everyone in Davidson County will not choose to have chickens when they are legal. When this bill passes, the people who have been illegally having chickens can relax and enjoy, and a very small percentage of new people will choose to get them. Nothing will change in your neighborhood or your life. Relax - it's just a few chickens!

Dargent7 - eggs that are $1.50 a dozen come from feces-dripping industrial chicken farms where salmonella reigns. You could not pay me to eat those eggs. USDA inspection means nothing - where were you in 2010 when 500 MILLION eggs were recalled because of salmonella contamination?

By: bunnymaytrix on 1/4/12 at 9:28

Thanks grid and Rick for adding some intelligence to the mix of ignorance! I don't see where this is a rooster bill so why are people even mentioning it? That is like saying, if this bill passes we will have to deal with people's pet buzzards eating the neighborhood children. Absolutely silly! The hens ( which do NOT crow) will be limited in number so smell should NOT be an issue. At least not as much an issue as the nasty cat and dog poop that my disrespectful neighbors do NOT clean up. Hen poop is NOT odoriferous because it comes from healthy grain and grass, unlike dog poo which is made of smelly meat products and carcasses...And to those who think eggs are cheap, you likely live on McDonald's food and deep fry everything you eat or you would realize that those who care about their health, the health of their families and our right as a nation to produce our own food buy organic eggs that are NOT from chickens pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones - instead are from grass fed , free range and supplemented by healthy feed that provides healthy omegas that have been stripped out of your '$1.50/dz eggs. These are closer to the $4.00/dz mark and WE would like to produce them ourselves and save that extra money, but also KNOW that at least something we eat is healthy and that we can be self sufficient. I guarantee, if there were war in our country and food was rationed, you protesters would be the first to show up on my door step asking for an egg or two!
My day starts at about 4:30 am because the neighbors little doggie with the big voice starts yapping like its on crack- that sets off the basset hound and collie on the other side so I have an off key animal orchestra to wake me up. I would much rather have quiet hens who actually leave something behind that I can EAT instead or wipe off my shoe!!!!

By: Radix on 1/4/12 at 9:48

Its a good idea with the proper limits. I have a decent sized yard, and might do this. I have friends who have some, and they neighbors could care less. Its a non-issue. The stray dog issue is of a bigger concern.

I would much rather see Nashville enforce its existing codes (cars in yards etc) and parking issues than regulate a few hens.

By: NewYorker1 on 1/4/12 at 10:02

WOW!!!! Chickens in the backyard is so country. LOL... Can't you just go to the Harris Teeters to get your chicken?

By: TNBear on 1/4/12 at 12:00


The people for this will regret it when/if this passes. In case no one realizes it the size property 10,237 sf.(what they're calling for) is about a quarter of an acre. 10 feet from property line is no farther than a basic patio. 25 Feet from your neighbors home is about the size of a 2 car garge. That is nowhere near large enough for the neighbors to not have to hear or smell them.
It is not just a few chickens, it is added noise & smell.
City life is not meant for farm animals. That is why chickens are consider 'farm animals'.
All that want them need to move to the country where the land is sized for that type animal.
And as far as not showing up for the meeting; they only allow some many people inside & the supporters crowd in early .Some people cannot get there early enough to get in & be heard. So, it does not mean we don't care about our city & don't care if it ends up looking like a 3rd world country. It usually means we are hard at work trying to improve our life, not move backward.

By: grit on 1/4/12 at 12:11

They can't be worse than the dog poop in my front yard that neighbors won't pick up, the cats that come into my fenced back yard looking for a "sandbox," or the fireworks (at least, I hope they're fireworks!) that other neighbors shoot after midnight. Urban chickens have been allowed in many other cities -- including NYC -- so I'm okay with trying them here.

By: chetuno on 1/4/12 at 1:54

"When The Problems Come Home To Roost"

By: NewYorker1 on 1/4/12 at 2:13

What does a connoisseur of high fashions like myself wear to a chicken farm?

By: bfra on 1/4/12 at 2:37

Cars all over the front yard, clothes hung on every fence & shrubt to dry, trash everywhere , la cantana music loud enough to hear for 2 blocks or more, chickens all over the place (codes will not be observed or enforced. Aha! Welcome to Nashxico!

By: meeechelle on 1/4/12 at 2:52

Would be great if all of you folks who are in opposition would write your metro council representatives. We were a very lonely three at the public hearing last night. Right now all Metro Council is seeing are the yellow t-shirts of the supporters.

Please write to your council members soon and often if you have concerns about this bill. Only two weeks until the 3rd and final reading. YOU are the only ones who can make a difference on this.

Here is the link for your feedback to the council:


By: RTungsten on 1/4/12 at 3:05

@NY1: Tall, waterproof boots.

By: Lab on 1/4/12 at 4:12

Our daughter lives in the silican valley area in California in a million dollar plus house on a quarter acre, and they have six chickens who produce about that many eggs daily (with the deepest yellow yolks one could ask for....delicious!! Oh , by the way, the city allows hens, but, of course, not roosters.

By: dargent7 on 1/4/12 at 4:42

Ok, I admit Animal Husbandry wasn't my strong suit in college. But, every "hen house" in Hawai'i had a rooster or two to fertilize the hen to get more eggs.
Kind of like the Republican Party.
If roosters weren't need for egg production, then for cock fighting. That's next on the agenda for Tenn.

By: NewYorker1 on 1/4/12 at 5:20

@RTungsten: LOL... Too funny.

By: NewYorker1 on 1/4/12 at 5:23

"Cock fighting"....hummmmm.... I'm thinking about that one. I may have a new outlook on this thing then.

By: jonw on 1/4/12 at 5:57


By: dargent7 on 1/4/12 at 4:42
Ok, I admit Animal Husbandry wasn't my strong suit in college. But, every "hen house" in Hawai'i had a rooster or two to fertilize the hen to get more eggs.


Dargent, I did have a few Poultry courses in college (Poultry was not in the Animal Husbandry Dept.). & I can attest to the fact that hens do not need to be fertilized to produce eggs. Nor do fertilized hens produce more eggs. In fact fertile eggs will not "Keep" as long as unfertilized eggs.

By: dargent7 on 1/5/12 at 5:19

jonw: The according to your synopsis, God's creating the rooster was superfulous?
Even women in the Republican Party need a man around to increase ovulation and egg production. Phernomes or something.
And "Poultry" isn't under the Animal Husbandry cirriculum?
Where's it found? The Arts & Sciences building?

By: dargent7 on 1/5/12 at 5:22

NY 1: Believe men, with this gaggle of geese passing laws, "cock fighting" will be up for debate and a vote soon.
The "Cock of the Walk" lobby is on it.
They already have the gay vote sewed up.

By: yogiman on 1/5/12 at 7:00


You apparently didn't learn much in your Poultry courses. A rooster does not help a hen produce eggs. He simply fertilizes her eggs to produce more chickens when 'having fun'.

By: tnxplant on 1/5/12 at 8:14

Having had laying hens, I can share my own experience with them.

They are much quieter than the neighborhood dogs, eat ticks and other pests in the yard, provide entertainment and a soothing backyard environment, allow education of children regarding animal care and kindness, provide plenty of compost, and give eggs most days for a healthy breakfast containing much more folic acid and other nutrients than commercially produced eggs.

Our neighbors love the chickens and the fresh eggs we share. They enjoy hearing the ladies cluck when they are happy. The only time we have any odor is when the coop needs its daily cleaning and only if we are standing right at the coop on a warm day with the wind blowing in our direction. None of our neighbors has ever noticed it. And I am not aware of diseases shared with people being an issue for non-commercial poultry.

The presence of hens does not increase the number of predators. We already had coyotes, owls, foxes, skunks, possums, and hawks in our area long before the chickens arrived. If properly housed, chickens do not attract more predators than usual.

Egg production is completely unrelated to the presence of a rooster. As stated above, the rooster is necessary only to fertilize the egg that is already going to be laid at some point.

As for fears of sofas on porches and cars parked in yards, I don't know how that is related to having backyard chickens. The people who have hens for personal egg production are a totally different demographic.

If you want to live where people have to conform to a standard of some sort such as type of fence, yard decor, etc, you already have the option of living in a neighborhood with a homeowners association to set the rules.

By: bfra on 1/5/12 at 8:20

We also have codes to set the rules! These codes are not enforced now, so adding more codes, is just more codes that won't be enforced. Doesn't make sense, just to please a minority group that wants to have chickens in their backyards.

By: bunnymaytrix on 1/5/12 at 9:56

I wish they would focus on repealing the dogs in public eateries law. It is gross to sit down for something to eat and watch Rover licking his own wienie... Talk about NASTY...
I digress. Applause to TNXPLANT for intelligently describing the reality of chickens to combat the ignorance and elitism so rampantly flowing through this thread.
I guarantee that the ones screaming the loudest are also not in favor of MORE government...I bet they want to drive big gas guzzling trucks, carry weapons freely, spend thoughtlessly and increase waste and leave a HUGE carbon footprint...but they want to restrict the freedom of those who simply want to know what they are putting in their mouths and have the freedom to do so. Do you people want to also eliminate gardens ( they increase pests) bird houses ( they attract birds ..birds carry avian flu)...I could go on and own. People: stop being snobs. Really.
How some people can be so ignorant and still walk upright is amazing to me...

By: bfra on 1/5/12 at 10:16

bunnymaytrix - I agree with you on the dogs in public eateries! The rest of your comment covers the people that live in a city and want farm animals or fowls in their back yard. Otherwise, why have zoning?

By: bunnymaytrix on 1/5/12 at 2:14

Chickens are considered "domestic foul" which puts them in the same category as cats and dogs ( domestic) and parrots or parakeets ( domestic foul). Therefore, they should not be in the exclusion to begin with.
Small scale or backyard chicken keeping is getting more popular again in many countries, as people become more aware of the benefits of free range chicken keeping and the cruelty of battery chicken farming.

Chickens can be kept for a number of reasons including for eggs, for food and in MANY cases as pets. Doesn't the thought of a beautiful bird providing you with nutrition, both in the egg it produces and the poop which is highly nutritious to the soil and often used as a garden fertilizer? More so than a dog that barks and lays nasty, NON NUTRITIOUS steamers in everyone's yard or cats that scratch around in their own poop then hop up on the kitchen table immediately upon evacuating their littler box to leave bits around for you to pick up and eat when preparing dinner for your family? Seriously, the arguments people are using apply MUCH more heavily to the cats and dogs they force non pet owners to live with than to a few birds...

By: bunnymaytrix on 1/5/12 at 2:20

My play on the word fowl "foul" is for my darling friend who asks me repeatedly to keep her parakeet when she knows I have an aversion to him... or any indoor animal...
She is watching this thread in amazed disbelief of my stance because she knows just how much i loath her little sweeeeeetie....
Just wanted to get that out of the way for those who will undoubtedly want to pounce on it as a misuse. NO, I will NOT keep Sweetie while you go to the mountains next month.

By: freddy on 1/5/12 at 4:17

i want a wombat. Are those legal? I think they're quiet,

By: bfra on 1/5/12 at 4:49

I want a goat so I don't have to mow the lawn!

By: san r on 1/5/12 at 5:04

animal control is UNDERSTAFFED. they ride through but have SCREWED-UP laws that leave stray dogs lying in other people's yards because they are lying in the other people's yards. animal control does not recognize leash-laws and fenced-in laws.
wonder what codes will do with chickens? and litter-demons? and speed demons? and road rage drivers? and domesticated abusers of spouses? and thugs? and text-messengers, and cell-phones(one-hand-on-the-other-hand-off)??
the list of un-enforced laws goes ON AND ON. may i see your id for beer? it is all a mind-blowing game. these mf's need to be tarred and feathered. here you chicken-hearted people of the u.s.a. here chicken-chicken-chicken..

By: JayBee56 on 1/6/12 at 7:04

Codes will not be able to enforce it - not enough time or people. Like they enforce it now . . .

By: sidneyames on 1/6/12 at 7:58

"Absolutely silly! The hens ( which do NOT crow) " - a quote by somone!

My answer: Chickens do cluck!

And our codes department is overburdened by the understaffing and under-funding, so now they can just have more piled on them with chicken complaints.

Way to go, City Council. Maybe Ms. Bennett should volunteer to be in the codes department and pick up the slack.

Look at the garbage on the streets, Ms. Bennett. How about a little pick up? What are you doing saturday? Want to volunteer your time to clean up Nashville, Antioch, Tusculem, and other areas? I didn't think so.