Thursday, April 9, 2020

How to Lookup if Chickens allowed at Your House in Prince William County

Back in 2011 the Board of Supervisors changed the zoning 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. To know if your house is within the “Domestic Fowl Overlay District” you start by going to the  Prince William County RealEstate Assessment site at this link.

Next you enter the number and name of the street without street direction (N, S, E, W) or suffix (St, Dr., Ave, Ct etc.) and hit search. 

This takes you to the property information page. You notice I am using as an example Reagan Middle School in Haymarket.  I did this because the information page has lots of information about the property: Who owns it, the purchase price, taxes, size additions etc.

If you look at the top of the page, along the first row are three tabs; General information, notes and map. Click on map. This takes you to the GIS mapping for the property that looks something like this.

In the upper left corner of the map site is a drop down menu that says layers. Click on “Land Development” in the left hand column and check the box forth from the bottom of the list on the right for Domestic Fowl Overlay District. If you property turns coral it is in the overlay district.

Next click the box for zoning. If your property is in the Domestic Fowl Overlay District you need to know the zoning to know your next steps. Reagan Middle School is zoned A-1. Note that when you check the zoning box the coral color disappears.

In areas of the overlay district (coral areas) 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 further 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.

There are additional rules for the keeping domestic fowl in the county. 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. In addition, 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 be 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 even in A-1 zoned properties. 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- so you can’t sell them. Fowl raised on parcels of ten acres or larger can be sold if the property is not further restricted by HOA Covenants, many rural neighborhoods restrict the number of animals that can be maintained on site and the type of activities that can take place within the neighborhood. These restrictions take precedence.  


  1. Question about this. The map turned green when I selected Domestic Foul Overlay. Do you know if the county has changed their colors on the map? I was not able to find a legend indicating what the colors mean.

  2. Hi Joy,
    I’m not sure what or when it happened by the colors for Domestic Fowl overlay and Agricultural seem to have switched recently.