Backyard chickens are becoming more popular than ever.
According to the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey, backyard chicken ownership has increased significantly recently, with 13 percent of respondents reporting they owned chickens in 2020 compared to just 8 percent in 2018.
Neighborly disputes about wandering chickens will rise as more folks jump on the urban homesteading bandwagon.
If your neighbor’s hens have suddenly made themselves home in your yard, what can you legally do about it? Here are some legal steps you can take if your neighbor’s chickens are trespassing in your yard:
- Check local ordinances on the number of chickens allowed and minimum coop requirements
- Build a secure, chicken-proof fence
- Use humane deterrents
- Remove any food sources
- Communicate kindly with your neighbor about keeping chickens confined
- Offer to help improve their coop fencing or build a chicken run
- File a complaint with animal control or local authorities
- Seek mediation
- Never harm or steal neighbor’s chickens
This handy guide will give you the scoop on what rights you have when it comes to your neighbor‘s free-range fowl.
I’ll explain local chicken regulations, give tips for deterring chickens humanely, and share advice for resolving chicken conflicts without ruffling feathers on both sides of the fence.
Let’s get pecking!
How many chickens can my neighbors legally keep?
Before you go storming over to your neighbor’s coop with a chicken complaint, make sure you know your local laws.
The number of chickens legally allowed can vary depending on where you live.
While no federal law regulates backyard chickens, many cities and counties have their own rules.
Urban areas tend to impose stricter limits than rural spots. And if you live within city limits, there’s likely an ordinance on the books.
Here’s the breakdown for major cities:
|Up to 4 chickens allowed without a permit
|Up to 1 rooster and hen with a permit
|Up to 8 hens with a permit
|No roosters allowed, up to 6 hens permitted
|New York City
|No limit to own hens, roosters not allowed at all
The most important things to check are:
- Total number of chickens permitted per property
- Minimum space requirements per chicken
- Whether roosters are prohibited
- Distance chickens must be kept from neighboring homes
So before you cry foul, make sure your neighbor isn’t playing by the rules. Check in with your local zoning or animal control department to avoid getting egg on your face.
Why do neighbors’ chickens get into my yard?
Assuming your neighbor isn’t breaking the chicken cap, why do their hens trespass on your turf? Those chickens keep crossing the road and winding up in your yard for a few reasons.
They’re curious creatures
Chickens are naturally inquisitive and love exploring new areas. Their wandering ways can lead them astray into your yard simply because it’s somewhere they’ve never been before. They also have surprisingly good memories, so once they discover your yard, they’ll remember how to get back.
Your yard is a chicken paradise
Chickens flock to food and shelter. If you’ve got a lush garden, fruit trees, or compost heap overflowing with grubs, your yard likely looks like a free chicken buffet. They also dig shade on hot days and shelter from rain.
Lack of supervision
Free-range chickens need to be monitored so they don’t treat the whole neighborhood like their personal pasture. If your neighbor isn’t keeping an eye on their flock, the chickens can easily mosey into your yard undetected.
Flimsy fencing and enclosed runs with gaps or weaknesses can create an open invitation for roaming. If your neighbor’s coop and run aren’t Fort Knox secure, escape is inevitable.
They have mad skills
You’d be amazed at how crafty chickens can be when it comes to jailbreaks. They’ve been known to fly over fences, squeeze through holes, and push apart loose netting. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Safety in numbers
Chickens feel safest in groups. If one adventurous hen makes her way into your yard, the rest will follow. They’re just looking out for their feathered friends.
Can I shoot my neighbors’ chickens on my property?
It may be tempting to pull out the shotgun when those thieving chickens keep trampling your tomato plants, but you can’t resort to fowl play.
Shooting trespassing chickens is illegal in most areas. Here are some key facts to keep in mind:
- It’s Cruel: Chickens are living creatures that feel pain and distress. Causing them harm should always be avoided.
- It’s Destruction of Property: Those chickens likely provide food and income, so you’d be damaging your neighbor’s livelihood.
- You Could Face Charges: Shooting chickens could lead to animal cruelty charges, lawsuits, and other legal consequences. It’s just not worth it.
- It Won’t Solve the Problem: Getting rid of a few chickens won’t stop the rest of the flock from entering your yard. A more long-term solution is needed.
The only exception would be if a chicken threatens you or your family’s safety. And even then, deadly force should be an absolute last resort.
Your best bet is to find a diplomatic solution. Talk to your neighbor about reinforcing their coop. Build a sturdy fence around your property.
Use humane deterrents to make your yard less appealing. A little cooperation can go a long way.
What can I do to keep neighbors’ chickens out of my yard?
If your neighbor’s hens have turned your yard into their picnic ground, it’s time to take action. Having chickens repeatedly trespassing on your property can be frustrating, not to mention destructive to your garden and landscaping.
With barricades, scents, and remote-activated deterrents, you can give those chickens some tough love and encourage them to scratch the soil in their own pen.
Here are some humane ways to make your yard less tempting to your neighbor’s flock:
1. Build a sturdy, chicken-proof fence
A secure, properly built fence is the #1 way to keep chickens from accessing your yard. Use galvanized hardware cloth or poultry netting, bury the bottom 1-2 feet underground, and ensure no gaps are larger than 1-2 inches. Chickens can squeeze through surprisingly small spaces and are amazing diggers, so your fence needs to leave no room for entry. Go as high as your HOA allows – 5-6 feet is optimal.
2. Deploy smelly scents
Chickens have a keen sense of smell, which you can use to your advantage. Concentrated sprays of citrus, vinegar, garlic, or ammonia around your property will discourage lingering. Focus on applying around the perimeter and any coveted garden/landscaping areas. Reapply after heavy rain. As they associate the smells with danger, the chickens will avoid those areas.
3. Install motion-activated deterrents
Devices that activate sprinklers, lights, or alarms when triggered by movement can scare chickens away from your yard. Position them near common chicken entry points for best results. The sudden lights and sounds will freak those chickens out and deter them from sticking around.
4. Use scary predator decoys
Life-size fake owls, hawks, snakes, or foxes placed around your yard will make chickens feel unsafe and want to escape. The decoys trick chickens into thinking a predator is watching and ready to strike. Move the decoys regularly so they don’t become “normalized.”
5. Remove any food sources
Eliminate anything that may be attracting chickens to your yard – fallen fruit from trees, overflowing compost bins, and uncovered vegetable gardens are common pulls. Secure trash cans, too, as chickens love picking through scraps. With no incentives, your yard becomes much less interesting.
6. Cover-up scratching areas
Chickens love to scratch and dig in bare dirt and mulch, looking for bugs and nutrients. Deny them their favorite scratching spaces by covering any exposed ground with obstacles like large rocks, gravel, or landscape fabric. These materials make it impossible for chickens to dig and dust bathe.
7. Use visual distractions
Chickens are attracted to shiny objects like reflective tapes, old CDs, and metallic streamers. Hang these along your fence line or around your property perimeter to distract wandering chickens. The shimmering, spinning objects will capture their attention and prevent them from focusing on entering your yard.
8. Communicate boundaries with your neighbor
Discuss politely with your neighbor about keeping their chickens on their own property. See if they can reinforce fencing or supervise the flock more diligently. Offer to help build a larger enclosed run. When both households are on the same page about boundaries, you have better odds of resolving the issue.
9. Work together on compromises
Your neighbor may not be happy about suddenly locking their “free-range” chickens up. Negotiate compromises like scheduled garden time for their chickens under supervision. Get creative to find a solution that satisfies both parties. Maintaining neighborly goodwill is key.
10. Set up a chicken run on your property
If you decide to get backyard chickens too, dedicate part of your yard to a large, well-built chicken run. Let them free range only in their designated area, supervised. This allows you to control your chickens while blocking your neighbor’s flock. Two can play at that game!
|– Very effective at blocking access – Can customize to space
|– Can be expensive to install – Permanent, not movable
|– Low cost – Easy to apply
|– Rain washes away – Must reapply frequently
|– Provide visual scare – Can move around yard
|– Chickens may get used to them
|– Triggers sudden scare response
|– Requires power source – Can startle other animals
My dog killed the neighbor’s chicken in my yard
Uh oh. This is an unfortunate situation that requires delicacy. If your pooch took out one of your neighbor’s chickens, here’s what to do:
- Apologize Sincerely: Your first move should be to express remorse and take responsibility. This was your dog on your property, after all.
- Offer Compensation: Ask what a fair price would be for their chicken loss and damage control for the rest of the flock. Do what you can to make it right.
- Review Local Laws: Ensure your dog doesn’t break any leash laws or animal control rules. You don’t want extra fines on top of chickengate.
- Rein In Your Dog: Take steps like new fencing or training to prevent it from happening again. Your prevention efforts will reassure your neighbor.
- Discuss Solutions: Talk to your neighbor about keeping pets and chickens safely contained. Find compromises that work for you both.
- Consult Your Insurance: Your homeowner’s insurance may cover doggy mishaps like this. See if they can help with monetary damages to ease the tensions.
- Don’t Make Excuses: Avoid blaming the neighbor’s weak coop or free-ranging chickens as frustrating as it may be. Take the high road.
- Be Understanding: Your neighbor is probably very upset. Put yourself in their shoes. With empathy, you can resolve this flap amicably.
With open communication and responsibility on your part, you can hopefully smooth things over and avoid an ongoing feud over the fallen fowl.
What you should never do to your neighbor’s chickens
We’ve covered a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to your neighbor’s chickens. To sum up, here are some definite don’ts when handling backyard hen disputes:
- Don’t Harm the Chickens: No shooting, throwing things at, or injuring your neighbor’s chickens. This could lead to animal cruelty charges.
- Don’t Steal Eggs: No sneaking into the coop for fresh eggs. Poaching your neighbor’s property is always illegal.
- Don’t Damage the Coop: Messing with or vandalizing your neighbor’s chicken coop or enclosure is not okay.
- Don’t Let Your Dog Loose: You must control your dog on your property to avoid harming free-range chickens.
- Don’t Retaliate: Avoid taking revenge if chickens damage your yard. Handle issues calmly through proper channels.
- Don’t Ignore Laws: Disregarding local chicken regulations or property rules will only backfire on you.
- Don’t Intimidate: Never threaten or antagonize your neighbor over the situation. Bullying solves nothing.
|What it Means
|Discuss issues calmly and compromise
|Abide by local chicken and animal laws
|Photograph damage, collect evidence if needed
|Involve local animal control or fence authority
|Work It Out
|Offer to help reinforce coop or build run
|Understand chickens will be chickens
|Avoid hostile interactions with neighbors
|Offer to pay for chicken loss or property damage
With open communication and mutual understanding, chicken conflicts don’t have to ruffle feathers on your block. Just remember to take the high road.
Backyard chickens bring a lot of joy to urban homesteaders, but they can also lead to some headaches if they wander where they don’t belong.
If your neighbor’s flock has become a nuisance, don’t panic.
First, educate yourself on local chicken laws so you know what’s allowed in your area. Try humane deterrents like fences, smells, and motion sprinklers to make your yard unappealing.
Communicate clearly with your neighbor to find solutions. And most importantly, avoid harming their chickens or property in retaliation.
With a cool head and thoughtful approach, you can find a compromise that keeps backyard hens in their proper place.
Chickens may cross fences, but with understanding on both sides, you can avoid crossing any lines. Here’s to keeping the peace with your neighborhood flock!