Chickens and an HOA

by Autumn Hoff
(Wesley Chapel Fl Pasco)

Visitor Question: If there are no chickens allowed in an HOA development but we are zoned Agricultural, does this mean that my daughter cannot have them for 4H? It is an old outdated HOA and this was put in effect in 1986. But you can have horses and a cow! No chickens, goats, pigs or even rabbits!

Editors Reply: Yes, I'm afraid that if your HOA covenants, regulations, deed restrictions, or master deed prohibit chickens, that is a rule that cannot be violated without consequences.

In your case, the consequences would be whatever penalties the homeowners association (HOA) imposes. Probably if you search through your documents, you can determine how severe that penalty is likely to be. It could be anything from a slap on the wrist to a fine to an actual court order to cease and desist, or worse.

A first step would be to contact the directors of the HOA and talk calmly with them about the situation.

Chickens have become popular backyard residents in many quite urban neighborhoods in the U.S. in the several years as part of what is often called an urban homesteading movement associated with growing one's own food.

It may be that the HOA directors would be willing to initiate the steps necessary to change this covenant, deed restriction, or regulation. Sometimes this would require merely a vote of the directors, but in the most extreme instances, unanimous consent of all homeowners would be required.

Not so many years ago, chickens were considered extremely unsuited to the urban environment, due to the crowing and clucking that might occur in early morning.

Just to be clear, a deed restriction or even a regulation imposed by the HOA is an additional restriction in addition to what is required under municipal or county zoning. In other words, the HOA can choose to be much more restrictive and usually will do so.

We agree that if cows and hogs are permitted, it is certainly time to entertain the notion of allowing chickens. Sometimes they are required to be fenced in or caged, but their sanitation impact is certainly less than that of pigs. Their noise impact is considerably less than that of cows.

You note that your HOA was established a number of years ago. Unfortunately the nature of deed restrictions is that in most states, they do not expire and run in perpetuity on the land.

It is the responsibility of the current board to make sure that the regulations do not become hopelessly outmoded due to changing concepts of what is acceptable.

Now you and your daughter can learn a valuable lesson in civic engagement if you decide to take on the task of helping to update the regulations.

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