Texans Want More Freedom to Raise Chickens in Residential Neighborhoods — At What Cost?
Rising egg prices have prompted one House Republican in Texas to file Bill 1191, the Chicken Freedom Act, in response to the affront on hard-working Texans’ pocketbooks. Filed by Briscoe Cain, R-District 128 (Deer Park), the bill is meant to amend Chapter 251 of the Texas Agriculture Code which deals predominantly with the protection/preservation of agricultural operations. The aim is to assert special protections for residents desiring to raise egg-producing hens on their property.
The amendment states that “a political subdivision may not impose a governmental requirement that prohibits an individual from raising or keeping six or fewer chickens in the boundaries of the political subdivision” before stating that a municipality may impose “reasonable requirements” on the raising or keeping of poultry within city limits — as long as it doesn’t restrict individuals from keeping six chickens or less.
The bill would also amend Chapter 202 of the Texas Property Code to allow six chickens on any single-family residential lot without property owner association interference. That figure would include roosters.
Due to a number of contributing factors, many Americans have started purchasing chickens to create their own egg supplies. In Texas, the demand for hens has skyrocketed, leading many poultry sellers in the state to run out of supply and raise their prices on existing stock. The prices for what are known as ready-to-lay hens are said to have nearly doubled. Chicks, on the other hand, take months to mature, so owners of these birds wouldn’t be seeing a payoff in eggs for quite some time. In the interim, all of the associated costs of raising chickens, which includes feed and whatever consumers sink into their coops, are still there to pay.
Another thing many people don’t realize is that with chicken coops and chicken feed come rats, leading to unhappy neighbors and valid health concerns. Add to that roosters crowing at the crack of dawn seven days a week and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of complaints to city officials.
To date, there is no state law in Texas controlling whether citizens can keep chickens in their backyards. Instead, the matter is managed by city ordinances. According to Texas Monthly, city ordinances in Cain’s hometown of Deer Park prevent locals from keeping noisy animals or birds that “by character, volume, or repetition [are] offensive to persons in the vicinity so as to disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of any person.”
Another consideration is what happens to all these chickens when egg prices inevitably fall and the trend dies off. According to Assistant Director Shiloh Walkosak with Forever Wild Avian Sanctuary in Tucson, “Whenever a pet or animal becomes popular, there is an increased need for rescue. During the pandemic, we saw an increase in the number of people that wanted backyard flocks. Whether for eggs or they thought meat would be scarce…
“When those folks learned that caring for chickens or ducks and geese was not as easy as YouTube or TikTok made it out to be, or they ran afoul of their city ordinances, we started seeing a big increase in the number of flocks needing new homes.”
In Texas, they may not run into ordinance issues if the bill passes, but they could still be facing a glut of unwanted hens and fussy neighbors completely over early Saturday-Sunday morning cock-a-doodle-doos.Whizzco