Chicken Ordinance Has Hens for Houston Seeing Way Too Much Red

In Dallas, you have to keep at least 20 ft. between your chicken coop and your neighbor’s stuff. Here? It’s 100 ft. That’s why this map of the Greater Heights looks the way it does. Hens for Houston founder Claire Krebs, using GIS technology she learned as an engineering student at Rice, created a series of these maps (what she’s calling “policy-making tools”) out of HCAD data to show just how few Houstonians are allowed to keep hens — if they wanted, that is — because of a city ordinance requiring the 100-ft. setback.


On Tuesday night Krebs and her team presented to city council a revision of the city ordinance, one that BARC has been working on since. Included was this map (below), one that shows in green Heights houses that would be eligible to keep hens if the setback were reduced even to 20 ft.

Similar maps for Southgate are available on Hens for Houston’s website. Though the maps show the difference between 100- and 20-ft. setbacks, Krebs says the group’s pushing for zero. She says that the common complaints about noise, smell, and animals “running at large” — nuisances which fall under other city ordinances anyway — aren’t solved by a setback.

Maps: Hens for Houston

38 Comment

  • Really? People are concerned about this? The Heights wants to grown their own chickens? Interesting… I usually try to be pretty open minded about things and I’m a little shocked… What’s next, wanting to allow pigs in HOAs? Oh wait…

  • Let’s make it 500 ft.

  • wow, just because you don’t want to raise chickens (I don’t either), doesn’t mean others should be forbidden from doing so.

  • having been raised in a farming community in north Texas, I wonder if our urban elite have dealt with roosters crowing, the additional fleas and mice that come with livestock.

  • There are at least 2 coops very close to downtown, but they are hidden enough that you would never know they are there unless you walk right next to them.

    As recently as 2009, there were a couple roosters (from yet another, third location) that would roam the streets almost daily. I guess someone complained. This all happened less than 5 blocks from downtown.

  • I hope this gets done. A few hens in someone’s backyard is a lot less of a nuisance than a lot of dogs that people already have.

  • Don’t mean to imply this is just a Houston thing. I have a friend in the SF Bay Area who lives in a fairly nice area and she has 4-5 hens in a coop her backyard. None of her neighbors had ANY idea that these hens were right next door.

  • eiioi, you’ve piqued my curiosity…

  • How can this group say the ‘noise, smell, and running at large’ aren’t solved by setbacks…yes they are.
    If setbacks prevent you from raising chickens, then by default they’re curbing all those pesky problems.

  • There are 2 roosters (no hens, only roosters)in close proximity to my home and i can tell you that they are extremely annoying! 311 has done nothing so far.

  • Yes, people want to keep hens!!! And should be allowed to. Lets treat them like other allowed pets and have no setback other than what’s applicable for any structure on the property.

  • They want to be able to grow food as well, where ever the sun shines on their property, even if it’s the front yard. Garden beds can be far more attractive than useless water wasting, time wasting lawns. Many food producing plants are very attractive. That’s why they cultivated so many ornamental versions of them: Sweet potatoes, kale, etc. Blueberries are beautiful shrubs.

  • Cluck this!

  • @Spoonman, I’m all about “Do what you want with your property”, that’s the beauty of Houston. I just find it funny. But it does sort of go back to land use regulation. I’m not all that familiar with what that is in the Heights. So far, I’m not worried that anyone is going to raise chickens in my neighborhood; Downtown. I guess I’m just wondering how strong the local support on this issue is

  • I remember when I was little, the dog my dad kept at his shop attacked a nearby chicken coop. The rooster didn’t make it. I bet more people will get dogs :)

  • 100% hens, no thanks on the roosters. As long as we don’t end up like Kauai, I’m down with it. :)

  • Geez, all this fuss over hens. Why not spend the time and effort getting rid of the damn starlings that roost downtown in the winter. Have any of you parked your car around the Wortham over night or even for a few hours in the evening? What a mess. Worse than any chicken coop.

  • hahaha, right on bubba

  • You’d only be allowed to keep hens, not roosters. My neighbors have hens. You’d never know it except when they got out post Hurricane Ike and were in their front yard.

  • People who are opposed to having hens in their neighbors’ yards should be forced to live next door to a Basset hound pup for a few weeks. I’m pretty sure my little fella has upset plenty of people. But he’s legal!

  • We’re planning on getting some chickens to go with our little garden. Even inside the loop you can manage to grown your own food, setup water reclamation, and try to be a little self sufficient.

  • I have 3 hens. I’ve had 3-4 hens for 15 years now. Don’t tell.
    Hens for Houston is not talking about roosters (I hope – they SHOULD be illegal). You don’t need a rooster; hens will lay almost-daily eggs with no rooster around.
    2 – Hens make very little noise – they might crow a minute or two after they lay the mid-morning egg, that’s it. And they do make a great alarm – we always know when something unusual is going on. Once, one of our chickens came to the back door, squawking, and pecked on it to let us know that a sick possum had broken into the coop (about 60 feet away from the house).
    3 – Personally, I think a limit of 5 birds would be reasonable. That’s 3-5 eggs per day.
    4 – Composted chicken manure is gold. And it doesn’t smell.
    5 – Most of my neighbors have no idea that I have chickens. The others have kids that have minded them for me when I’m out of town.
    6 – They make a fantastic first pet for a child; introducing the concept of twice-a-day feeding and watering, putting them to bed each night and letting them out in the morning, without having to deal with litterboxes or accidents.

    @Bubba – yeah, those awful starlings. I was at Rice the year that they played horrible organ music at them from large speakers in the trees to keep them from roosting near the Rice President’s house. Didn’t work.

  • It has been a few years, but we used to have roaming roosters on West 22nd near Shepherd.

  • We might have the next “Chicken Ranch” right here in Houston. To bad Marvin isn’t around.

  • @Wow – just curious. How does one “grow” a chicken? Plant a row of eggs, water well and wait until spring perhaps?

  • I still occasionally see the roosters that wander the streets around the CVS at West Gray and Brazos.

    I have to think that in the big scheme of things, a City War on Fowl has to be a low priority.

    Of course, I don’t have a rooster crowing outside my window every morning, ether. If I did, my opinion might quickly change!

  • That’s just Cockamamie!

  • While I like chickens, was raised in the country, and have an appreciation for their usefulness, there is a rooster next door to me in my house in the Heights that crows every morning between 4-6am. Unless that is an acceptable time for you to wake up, it is clearly a problem. I have gone and talked to the neighbors who have aleviated this problem, but it is only the current city ordinance and the threat of losing all their chickens that got us here. For those of you who want 0 setback, you should think about the consequences of such and if YOU would like losing sleep every night over it.

  • anse: if you are subjecting your neighbors to your dog barking and whining all day, you are a JERK.

    For some reason, dog owners think that all of their neighbors should be OK with their bored/nervous/angry dog barking nonstop.

    Would it be OK if I stood in front of your house with a bullhorn and yelled “Woof!” all day? Same thing, right?

    “People who are opposed to having hens in their neighbors’ yards should be forced to live next door to a Basset hound pup for a few weeks. I’m pretty sure my little fella has upset plenty of people. But he’s legal!”

  • Hens good, roosters bad. Very bad.

  • Oh Poppycock!

  • Chickens, don’t mind neighbors owning either hens or roosters. Yes, roosters crow at all hours of the day and night, but it’s no different than living a mile away from a railroad track, you just stop noticing all the random noises that accompany it after a while. In fact, you don’t realize how much you don’t notice it until they’re gone, and then you almost even miss it! Maybe I’m weird like that though.

    The only problem I have is when the owner doesn’t keep them cooped up in their coupes. Yes, when they hop the fence and poop and stir the dirt, it’s great for the soil, but if they hop into your raised beds and kick dirt out of the bed, and scratch up the roots daily. You have nothing growing in your beds after a while, and a huge mess in your backyard.

    I started by asking the owners to keep them locked up, then I started to chase them off, finally I got a bb gun and started killing them. That’s why they’re illegal, inconsiderate owners wouldn’t keep them in their yard, and people like me would just kill the chickens.

    Buy chickens, keep them, get a rooster, I don’t care, but keep them out of my yard.

  • We aren’t in the heights, but our neighbors have chickens and we don’t mind them at all.Thier coop is right next to our fenceline and it doesn’t bother me one bit. They have hens, not roosters. Yes, they make a little noise but its no more distracting than doves or other bird sounds.

    I didn’t grow up with chickens, but based on the neighbors, I’ve been thinking about trying myself.

    I say let them have the chickens!

  • I went to school with Claire. Super smart gal with a very reasonable head on her shoulders. Jokes aside, I’m glad she’s making some headway with this initiative. Keep it up!

  • My house is on the second, expanded map of Norhill Heights. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to have chickens, but the people behind me can, and various other seemingly random houses can/cannot. It doesn’t seem to correlate with lot size, size of the house, or how long the owner has had it.

    Does anyone know what criteria were used to determine whether a property owner can have chickens?

  • We have a few coops in the Woodland Heights.

    The first time I noticed a chicken presence here was a couple of months after I moved to Houston, I was on my bike on my way to work, and had to slow down for a stately Poultry Procession, consisting of a big domestic turkey leading two hens across the street. Not quite what I was expecting to encounter here in the big city.

  • The change to the ordinance would be in the setback distance alone from 100ft to 20ft. It would allow a small flock (1-6 birds) of backyard hens (no roosters allowed).

    I find it ironic that Houston has an ordinance regarding chickens when Bellaire does not. When I lived in Bellaire if my grass grew higher than 4-5 inches I got a notice stating that I needed to cut it or would be fined. They are really anal about junk in your yard or near your house too but chickens are not an issue. Chickens should be allowed.

    If you are interested in more info please check out this petition written by one of my students.

  • What about the guineafowl? For years there was a sizable flock along lower Westheimer, ranging between Avondale and Lovett and Bagby and Montrose. In the mornings they would walk on the sidewalk toward Ruggles.