Urban chicken coops – and the fresh eggs that come from them – have become the hottest trend among health conscious eaters and locavores. So what kind of person keeps chickens? It turns out they’re not necessarily suburbanites with a lot of land; in fact on average, listings with chicken coops have smaller homes and smaller lots, but larger price tags. It appears some buyers are willing to pay a little more for a home with a henhouse.
But which cities have embraced this trend the most? Here are the top five cities to be a chicken, based on the number of homes that have hit the market in the past three months with chicken enclosures mentioned as a feature in the multiple listing service description.
1) Portland, Ore.
The locavore movement is strong in Portland, with many restaurants boasting a menu made of ingredients from less than 50 miles away. The city’s residents were among the first to raise backyard chickens en masse, and even the former mayor, Sam Adams, had a couple of hens.
“From community urban farms to edible front yard gardens, Oregonians are crazy about keeping it local. We make our own cheese and sausage, brew our own beer, roast our own coffee…we even trade canned food. Chickens fit right in. The eggs taste way better, your neighbors will love you (if you share), and if you have a good chicken coop, you might be sitting on a little pot of gold when you sell your house!” said Jeff Bale, a real estate agent in Portland.
In order to raise more than three chickens in Portland, residents must build a proper enclosure at least 15 feet away from their home, and obtain a permit from the city. But a permit isn’t required if you have less than three hens.
2) Ventura, Calif.
Perhaps it’s the temperate climate that drove so many residents of Ventura to build chicken coops. It’s much easier to take care of chickens when you don’t need to worry about them freezing to death! Locals in Ventura, Calif., have been quick to embrace the backyard chicken movement; there’s even a Facebook page called Ventucky Chicken, where residents can discuss the local chicken culture.
“The year-round weather in Ventura and the surrounding communities is terrific for raising chickens and other animals or having personal gardens for vegetables. With such a mild climate, it is no surprise that farming plays such a large part of the lifestyle in the area,” said John Underwood, a real estate agent in Southern California.
City officials are trying to catch up with the trend. Last October the City of Ventura Planning Commission recommended that the City Council change the definition of domestic animals to include chickens, so that residents can keep up to six hens without a permit, as long as they are in a penned area at least 35 feet from a home. The laws and regulations currently vary by region; for specific details on the regulations in Ventura County, it’s best to contact your local community council.
3) San Diego
Chickens are popping up all over San Diego, and we don’t mean the Famous San Diego Chicken. Backyard coops have gained in popularity since the city amended its code last January to allow single family residents to keep chickens.
“Chicken coops are the trendiest house accessory in San Diego. Some have a small one-hen coop, while others have a deluxe, multiple-level coop brightly painted in neon colors. Hens can often produce more eggs than a household can eat, so some homeowners hold weekly egg sales on their sidewalk or at the local farmer’s market,” said Jordan Clarke, a real estate agent in San Diego.
San Diego residents are allowed up to five hens, as long as they are in the backyard, five feet from side property lines, 13 feet from the rear property line, and kept in an appropriate coop. The city offers residents an online form that makes it easy to look up the guidelines in their area. More information is available on SanDiego.gov.
4) Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento was one of the first major metros to allow chickens, but unlike other cities, it requires a fee. Unfortunately, many residents are unaware of the license and fee requirements, and are keeping undocumented chickens.
“There are a lot of reasons people in Sacramento keep chickens. Some value the free, farm-fresh eggs, some see it as being good for the environment, and others simply enjoy having them as pets. It seems to be a growing trend; over the past few years I’ve been seeing a lot more chicken coops as I go on home tours with clients,” said Lindsay Martin, a real estate agent in Sacramento.
People within Sacramento city limits can keep up to three hens in their backyard, as long as the enclosure is 20 feet away from any homes. An annual license fee of $10 per household and permit fee of $15 per chicken is also required.
Seattle and Portland have a lot in common, including their love of urban chicken farming. Some of the most popular restaurants in Seattle boast organic items on the menu, including Tilth, which encourages the practice by hosting a tour of the top 25 urban farms in the area.
“Seattleites are foodies and conscious about what they put into their bodies. A lot of people have created urban farms on their property; they grow organic vegetables in their garden and raise chickens in their backyard. You’d be surprised by how many homes for sale have coops. Sometimes they’re the front-and-center focal point of a yard, and sometimes they’re unobtrusive, covered by trees and bushes,” said Bree Al-Rashid, an agent in Seattle.
Seattlites can keep up to eight chickens, as long as their enclosure is at least 10 feet away from any home. They aren’t allowed to roam off your property, so some type of pen needs to be created. People with larger lots can keep additional chickens.