In 2006, a Vermont transplant asked us if Lancaster would permit raising hens in the city. Of the all the questions we get asked, that one seemed an oddity. No more. People ask this question all the time, and with good reason. The trend of chicken raising has grown as fast as organic/urban gardening-minded younger adults have been returning to the city.
To find out more about the city's position, we went to the health officers and posed the question, "How many chickens is a homeowner allowed to raise/keep in their back yard." Here is the short answer: None. The long answer can be found in Chapter 96, Section 23, of the City Code. No reasons are offered. But, apparently, according to the same code, pot-bellied pigs are ok (we suppose, as long as you pet them and don't eat them).
It turns out, however, that more and more municipalities are taking a second look at this and more and more people seem to be asking them to do just that. Other cities have done it, including Seattle (as part of an urban farming package) and Madison, Wisconsin. With the growing local demand there is now a petition online in support of raising hens in Lancaster City.
To be sure, there are both positives and negatives that come with the practice, which means that any ordinance on the subject needs to be carefully crafted. Want more information? Here are a few additional resources:
Clean Air Gardening's "Ultimate Guide to Raising Backyard Chickens
Organic Gardening's "5 Reasons to Raise Chickens"
Modern Survival Blog's "Advantages and Disadvantages to Urban Chicken Ownership"
Go Gingham "The Good and Bad of Backyard chickens