Legal to Keep 'Hipster' Farm Animals in a City?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on August 16, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

As the demand for locally grown produce and livestock increases, more and more city dwellers are left wondering whether they can raise farm animals in their tiny backyards.

Whether it's chickens, goats, or even pigs, state and local laws may keep eager hipster Farmer Browns from realizing their agri-dreams in an urban setting.

City Codes May Prohibit Farm Animals

If you're planning on raising a flock of hipster hens behind your crowded Victorian or raising tilapia in your Gotham apartment, then you'll need to make sure that your local laws allow it.

Many cities, like San Francisco, do not allow cows or other large livestock within city limits without proper permits from the municipal health department as well as adequate acreage for the animals to roam.

The aspiring metro-farmer who wants to get his own farm fresh eggs may be able to legally keep hens on his property, but in cities like New York, live roosters are a no-go.

Even if local laws allow you to keep your farm friends in your backyard, remember that your neighbors didn't sign up to live next to a chicken coop.

Nuisance Suits and Leases

Adjacent property owners and renters have the right to the "quiet enjoyment" of their property. That means unpleasant sounds and smells coming from your nearby urban farm may be cause for your neighbors to sue you for nuisance.

Nuisance actions can be brought by a neighbor who feels that your farm animals' feces, clucks, and oinks are a major impediment to enjoying their own property, despite the fact that your animals have not trespassed on their land.

Unlike rural neighbors who have "moved to the nuisance" of living next to a farm, starting a small farm in an urban area can give your neighbors a great legal reason to complain about you in court.

If you're renting your property, consider that your lease probably has some provision regarding animals, and also that the building may not be zoned for animals other than cats and dogs.

Abandonment and Animal Cruelty

Shelters around the country are coping with an influx of farm animals who have been abandoned, with many blaming hipster farmers who give up once the fantasy of city farming is gone, reports NBC News.

Abandoning animals, even chickens, is generally considered animal cruelty, so even if your city allows livestock in residential areas, you may have to keep them for long after it's cute.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard