Monday, June 26, 2017

The Rules for Backyard Chickens in Prince William County

By vote of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors back in 2011 a zoning change was made to allow backyard chickens in some parts of Prince William County. The Supervisors voted to create a Domestic Fowl Overlay District in the county where residents can keep a limited number of chickens and other domestic fowl.

In areas of the overlay district (pink area) that are zoned A-1 and consisting of more than one acre, chickens and domestic fowl are permitted “by right” subject only to any restrictions that may exist in the HOA Covenants and Restrictions. In areas of the Domestic Fowl Overlay District that are zoned SR-1, SR-3 or SR-5  that have more than one acre and not restricted by HOA Covenants and Restrictions, chickens and domestic fowl are permitted after a Special Use Permit is obtained from the County.

To obtain the Special Use Permit for those in areas zoned SR-1, SR-3, SR-5 within the Domestic Fowl Overlay District, you first fill out an application. Then the Special Use Permit applications are submitted to the Planning Office for staff review. The planning staff will then prepare an analysis and recommendation for consideration by the Planning Commission at a public hearing. The Planning Commission will then submit its recommendation to the Board of County Supervisors, and at a subsequent public hearing the Board will consider the case and the Planning Commission recommendation and either approve or deny the application. The Board action is final.

The maximum number of chicken or domestic fowl permitted is proportional to the size of the lot. One "bird unit" per acre is allowed for properties of 1 to less than 5 acres, three bird units per acre for properties of 5 to less than 10 acres. There is no limit on the number of bird units allowed on properties greater than 10 acres other than restrictions by HOA Covenants and Restrictions. A bird unit is:
10 chickens (though only one rooster per acre) or
6 ducks or
4 turkeys, geese or pea fowl or
1 ostrich or emu
20 pigeons, doves, or quail

Note: Only domestic fowl six weeks and older are allowed under the regulation. Also, only one rooster or guinea fowl are allowed per acre. Roosters and guinea fowl must be confined between sunset and sunrise within a caged area on any lot less than ten acres, and the caged area must be more than 150 feet from neighbor’s homes.

The domestic fowl regulations require coops or cages and runs on any lot with less than five acres and specifies construction standards and humane areas for each bird, distance from Resource Protected Areas (RPA) under the Chesapeake Bay Act, distance from well heads. The required coops, cages or runs must be enclosed with a minimum four feet high chicken wire fence and must be kept clean and free from excess feed, excrement, and such substances that may attract rodents or other predators.

Runs and cages for chickens must have a maximum density of four square feet per bird. For larger fowl, such as geese or turkey, the maximum run or cage density per bird is 15 square feet. For emus, ostriches and similar large birds, the maximum run or cage density is 100 square feet per bird.

Coops and runs must be located only in the rear or side yard and shall adhere to the same setbacks as non-commercial kennels. Such structures shall also be set back at least five feet from the principal dwelling on the property and at least 100 feet from an RPA stream (Resource Protected Area under the Chesapeake Bay Act) and 50 feet from all other streams. A zoning permit must be obtained for these structures.

Cages, coops and runs on properties not served by public water must be separated from the well head on the property. If the well is a class 3A or B with grouting then the minimum separation distance is 50 feet. If the well is a class 3C or class 4 well, then the minimum separation distance is 100 feet. If the chicken coop is enclosed, has a concrete floor and the chicken manure is removed and placed for trash pickup, or other best management practices are applied, then the separation distance for a class 3C or 4 well can be reduced to 50 feet. Waste management guidelines for surface and groundwater protection were established using Prince William Soil and Water Conservation district guidance. You can get the specifics from the District.

Prince William also regulates how the chicken and domestic fowl can be used. Fowl raised on properties less than five acres in size may only be used for producing eggs. No "dispatch" of fowl may take place on the premises. Chickens and domestic fowl raised on properties five acres or larger but less than ten acres may be dispatched for domestic use only. Fowl raised on parcels of ten acres or larger shall be under the same provisions for dispatch as any other livestock. Got it?

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