Rules For Keeping Backyard Chickens in Boston

Rules For Keeping Backyard Chickens in Boston

More and more, Boston residents are joining the backyard chicken trend across North America. Why? Backyard hens are a cost-effective and healthy way to produce your own eggs. They also diminish your carbon footprint, because no fuel is required to transport the eggs from the hens to your refrigerator.

As more people grow weary of conventionally produced eggs and poultry, they are learning the benefits of having healthy chickens right in their own backyard. There are some things you’ll need to keep abreast of if you plan on keeping backyard chickens in Boston though.

Don’t be Fowl: Follow the Boston Rules

For the most part, raising chickens isn’t allowed in Boston’s zoning. There are a few places that do allow it, such as some parts of Chinatown, south Boston and Allston/Brighton. If you’re not in one of those areas, you’re going to need to need to get creative.

This past spring, a Roxbury man was the first to be successful in petitioning the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance, which made it possible for him to keep a coop for six chickens in his yard. Typically though, amateur chicken farmers in the city have had to tend to their hens without the authorities knowing. Yes, folks who raise chickens in most parts of Boston are “Scof-fowl-laws.”

Khrysti Smyth, Blogger and Boston’s self proclaimed “Chickeness” attests to the fact that in spite of the regulations against chickens, there are chickens being raised all over the city, under the radar of the authorities. The inspectors, she says, have better things to do than to be on the hint for, as she calls them, “Renegade Chickens”.

At Green City Growers, an urban farming supply store in Somerville, Smith teaches a chicken Keeping 101 class where she teaches the basics of chicken nutrition, treating illnesses and finding the right breed. There are breeds that are best for meat, for eggs and each breed has its own distinct look. She has been a chicken farmer for six years, and she blogs about her passion at

In 2013 an ordinance was adopted called Article 89, which gave support for growers of produce. Chicken enthusiasts hoped this would open the door for legalizing their livestock, but thus far, they’ve had no such luck. Chicken raising is still banned in most neighborhoods. Activists are fighting for their rights to farm their own eggs, however. The Citywide Urban Agriculture Rezoning Initiative is offering handouts with instructions for individuals and groups that are looking to change the zoning in their neighborhoods.

Sustainable Food Source

Backyard chickens are a sustainable source of high-quality, healthy food. Free-range eggs are more nutritionally dense than commercial eggs, as the chickens are allowed to eat insects and plants in open spaces. This gives Boston homeowners a reliable way to source their own food and protect their families against the risk associated with infected animals.

Parents who own chickens have an opportunity to teach children about the importance of agriculture while instilling an appreciation for the origin of their food. Caring for backyard chickens requires daily work that teaches self-sufficiency to young children as they care for their chickens over time. Having backyard chickens reduces the cost of food. Your chickens will help you recycle the food waste that usually ends up in landfills. The birds work to compost food and provide nutrient-rich manure that improves the quality of your vegetation and gardens.

Chickens feed off the insects and help manage the number of pests in your yard. This includes worms and ticks, as well as the weeds you pull from your garden. If it’s legal in your part of town, Boston residents are choosing backyard chickens as a reliable and cost-effective way to source high quality food and decrease their carbon footprints.