Residents raise chickens in urban neighborhoods

Houston, Bellaire permit hens with restrictions

HOUSTON - The 2013 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has wrapped up, but we're still talking chickens. More and more Houston area families are raising them right in their own back yards, in an effort to eat locally-grown, natural foods.

It's a trend that's about to get even more popular thanks to a change in city ordinances.

Billie Stafford is not new to caring for chickens. Her mother had chickens growing up and now this Bellaire grandmother has 15 hens of her own.

"It's actually not much work. You feed them in the morning and feed them in the evening, give them fresh water and fresh feed. She gets to enjoy fresh eggs daily. So does her family, neighbors and friends."

Stafford said she gets anywhere from 8 to 15 fresh eggs every day. She has an elaborate hen house. Her neighbors don't mind, and neither do Amanda Knox's neighbors.

Although Knox's hens aren't old enough to produce eggs yet, they will any day now.

"I saw Food, Inc. and it kind of changed my life," Knox said.

Right now in the city of Houston, residents can't have hens in their yard unless they are at least 100 feet away from their neighbor. But the group Hens for Houston is working to change that.

"Basically, we're at a really opportune moment where a lot of cities are focused on sustainability, kind of a local, more locally-driven movement," founder Claire Krebs


The city is working with Krebs and Hens for Houston to make changes.

"We've seen a real explosion of great homegrown organic, local, real creative movement in our food here in town and this is definitely an extension of that," said Chris Newport with the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care.

A new ordinance could ease the restrictions on having hens, not roosters since they make too much noise and aren't needed to have eggs.

"Essentially we're looking at a way to permit the activity that would essentially allow us that if you demonstrate that you aren't able to keep hens responsibly or in a way that doesn't impose a cost on one of your neighbors, than the city would have the ability to revoke the person's right to keep hens," explained Newport.

The city of Houston does get about 1,300 complaints a year about chickens and roosters, mostly when they get on someone else's property. It's ultimately up to the City Council whether to allow Houstonians to keep hens with fewer restrictions. Bellaire currently allows residents to raise hens.

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