We are a group of Baltimore County residents, their friends and family, as well as allies from around the State of Maryland that have come together to advocate for changing the Baltimore County Code as it pertains to the keeping of backyard chickens as pets. Currently, the section of the law that deals with keeping and raising backyard chickens is found in §100.6 of the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations (BCZR) and requires county residents to have a minimum of one (1) acre of land to be able to keep and raise backyard chickens; however, once you have cleared that 1-acre requirement, there are no limitations on how many chickens you can have: basically it’s all or nothing!
The impact of the1-acre requirement becomes an even more imposing burden if indeed you want to keep and raise backyard chickens. Since it is a requirement under the BCZR, Baltimore County residents who do not own a lot that is an acre or more in size, are required to navigate a lengthy, confusing and expensive process to request a variance from the Baltimore County Zoning Review Office. Unfortunately, the variance process is designed for and much better suited to requesting variances related to construction and land development. The most disheartening part is that, even after undertaking the effort and expense (possibly up to $300-400) to apply and complete the related requirements under the variance request process, there is no guarantee that the request will be approved.
Many of us have sought and been granted variances, and there are those of us that have applied but were unsuccessful. Each case is unique and we all have our justifications for our particular situation – but it would be nice to have the law be set up in a way that is based on common sense, scientific facts, and addresses the issue in a way that is constructive and designed to truly care about the welfare of both county residents and the chickens that are at the heart of the issue. Currently, the law is simply a barrier with no justification or relationship to protecting the health or welfare or quality of life of anyone.
That is why our primary mission is to seek and secure changes to the Baltimore County Code so that: 1) the requirement for a minimum of 1-acre of land is no longer a barrier, and 2) the County adopts common sense, factually informed laws regarding the keeping and raising of backyard chickens.
But we don’t want to stop there. We are also making it part of our mission to provide education and resources to backyard chicken owners as well as to the county residents we call our neighbors. Now more than ever as more and more people try their hand at owning backyard chickens as an unanticipated result of the current pandemic, it is important to educate everyone on how to successfully raise their flocks, and how to ensure that we as the owners of backyard chickens are still being good neighbors. It is not just enough to legalize backyard chickens, declare victory and then exit stage left. We feel that if we care enough to invest out personal time and effort into advocating for the right to keep and raise backyard chickens, it is our responsibility to provide as much information, resources and support as possible for those around the county who will try their hand at raising backyard chickens, hopefully, thanks to our efforts.
Keep checking back over the next few weeks as we continue to develop and include additional content for this site. Keeping and raising chickens is a subject we take very seriously, and one about which we are very passionate; however, all the wonderful people contributing to this effort are doing this in their spare time as a labor of love. So be patient if you are looking for specific content – and if you have ideas or suggestions, feel free to pass them along, or better yet, join our effort!
We also want to address several common misconceptions when it comes to chickens. One of our goals is to help dispel these myths by providing fact-based information and changing the perception that some may feel as a reason against someone owning backyard chickens.
We also want to be clear that we are trying to legalize ‘backyard’ chickens for all, which in the very essence of the word means they live in backyards. These are small flocks of chickens with names and personalities. Just like cats and dogs, they are treated with love and affection for many years to come.
– The Members of the Backyard Chicken Caucus
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