Michael S. Almony Speaks on Suburban Poultry Proximities

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Raising backyard chickens has become increasingly popular in suburban neighborhoods. Author Michael S. Almony discusses the complexity of small-scale chicken farming and zoning regulations.

As consumer interest shifts to consuming more organic and locally-produced foods, backyard farming has become increasingly popular. The New York Times has released an article that discusses the consumer shift towards backyard farming and what this means for neighbors. Author of the best-selling book Hen Houses, Michael S. Almony, states, “Living off the land is especially useful in a weak economy.” He notes that the backyard farming trend is likely to continue growing as consumer attitudes continue to shift away from factory farming practices.

Of course, having access to the finest cage-free eggs surely has its advantages for suburban hen owners, but is often a different story for neighbors. Neighbors of backyard chicken farmers are worried about the effect this could have on selling their homes in an already difficult economy. “Not many homeowners are looking to live next door to the chicken house,” says Almony. “Neighbors worry what effect a next-door neighbor’s crowing rooster will have on their property value.”

If the possible infringement on a new homeowner’s right to quiet doesn’t turn down a prospective sale, the sight of a chicken coop next-door might. “Not every homeowner wants to see chicken’s running around, or deal with the mice that can come along with it,” says Almony. Chicken coops are notorious for attracting mice and other rodents. This is an issue for any farm, large or small, and essentially translates into a problem for suburban hen house owners as well.

Still, when it comes to backyard farming, some say it doesn’t matter either way and even can add to the appeal of the property. Don Mituzas, a sales agent for Prudential Douglas Elliman in Katonah and Somers, New York, says that some buyers see it as added country aura for their property.

In Westchester County and the surrounding area in New York, raising backyard poultry on residential property is regulated by a hodgepodge of complex zoning laws. While some counties see chickens as domestic animals, others strictly prohibit them. In many areas, the zoning regulations get even more complicated, allowing hens but prohibiting roosters, or permitting roosters if they have access to sound muffling coops.

William Walsh, an orthopedic surgeon and owner of several chickens says it’s unconstitutional to regulate what a person can and can’t do on their own property. “Why is a rooster crowing so upsetting when we have to deal with the noise of motorcycles racing up and down the street, along with weed-whackers and mowers in suburbia? The laws need to be revised,” said Walsh.

While Walsh lives in a county where zoning regulations prohibit roosters and do not allow more than six chickens per property, he plans to challenge those regulations before a zoning board of appeals. Of course, Almony supports the ability of homeowners to make their own choices regarding backyard farming and believes the information found in his book might give a homeowner better perspective on what practices not only can benefit their family, but also keep their neighbors content.


Michael S. Almony is the author of Hen Houses, a book on how to properly care for backyard chickens. Almony has raised backyard chickens since he was eight and coached other individuals on how to legally raise their own hens. Almony is a New York Times best-selling author and a culinary expert.

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