Let’s talk about Durham’s Chicken Law. If you want to own a chicken, Durham has some laws that need to be followed. We’re fortunate because not all municipalities allow chicken ownership in city limits.
Number of Chickens
Durham restricts the number of chickens you may own to 10 female chickens and 0 male chickens. No roosters. Sorry! This limit is per lot, not per person. This means that your neighbor can own 10 and you can own 10. However, your spouse cannot own an additional 10 unless they are on another piece of property.
There is no breed restriction for chickens in Durham.
Personal Use Only
The Durham code is pretty clear that nothing that comes from the chicken may be sold. You may not sell chicken eggs, meat, manure, compost, or any plants that have been fertilized with any chicken manure or compost.
You’re have to keep your chickens cooped up during non daylight hours. During daylight hours, the chickens may be free to roam in a pen or fenced in yard. If supervised by an adult human, your chickens may also run free in a temporary pen.
Here comes the technical details! Coops must be located at least 15 feet from any property line or public right-of-way. Chicken pens must be located at least 5 feet from any property line or public right-of-way.
You must keep all chicken structures clean, dry, odor-free, and in a neat and sanitary condition at all times.
The coop must comply with Durham’s requirements on “Accessory Structures”. However, an existing shed or garage can be a coop. Otherwise, you need to have a coop enclosed on all sides with a solid material and have a solid roof and doors.
The chicken pen must be made of wood or metal posts and wire fencing material. You will also need to cover the pen with wire, aviary netting, or solid roofing. Think of a pen as a screened in porch, but for chickens.
You can use chicken manure for fertilizer if you want. However, you can only store up to two cubic feet at one time. You need to dispose of or compost any extra. If you want to compost the manure, it must be done in an enclosed backyard composter.
The Durham City Code also has a note that unprocessed chicken manure may contain pathogens that can transmit to produce the fertilizer is used on. They say a proper mix of materials and a maintained temperature of at least 131 degrees is necessary to destroy those pathogens.
Other Applicable Chicken Law Related Concerns
Even if you’re 100% in compliance with the Durham’s Chicken Law, you’re still subject to other laws that may restrict your chicken ownership.
Firstly, your HOA may have restrictions. Many in Durham do.
Secondly, you have a duty to your neighbors to prevent odors and noise from interfering with their home. The easiest way to make sure you’re safe is to talk to your next door neighbors before getting the chickens. If you don’t, and your chickens smell real bad, they can sue you and win. It is best to avoid upset neighbors if possible.
Thirdly, you have an obligation to your chickens. Beyond just having a coop, you need to make sure it is suitable for the temperatures and sunlight your yard gets. You could get into some hot water if you boil your chickens in their coop.
Fourthly, if you intend to eat the chicken meat, you have to follow the Small Flock Management Resources guidance provided by the Poultry Science Division of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension/North Carolina State University of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Seriously, that was a terrible title for that guidance! Primarily, slaughter cannot be visible from any adjacent property, public area, or public right-of way. Also, don’t slaughter chickens that die on their own. That’s really bad.
Highlights of Durham’s Chicken Law
Maximum Number: 10
Breed Restrictions: None
Sex Restrictions: Only female chickens may be owned.
Housing: Chickens must be kept in coop during non daylight hours and fenced in during daylight hours. No free roaming of the neighborhood. Coop must protect the chickens from the elements.
Products: Cannot sell chicken eggs, meat, manure, or anything the manure is used to fertilize.