Lesson 1223 – Chickens in towns? Heck yes!

It has come to my attention that a group in Deltona, Florida has taken a portion of one of my blog posts regarding a solitary situation with a smelly coop and they are using it to support their arguments for not allowing backyard chicken flocks in their town due to smell.

Utter hogwash. I write for Backyard Poultry Magazine, Mother Earth News, Grit, and I hold chicken workshops throughout New Hampshire. I am in complete support of towns (and in some cases, cities) allowing residents to maintain a backyard coop – definitely 100% in that court. It’s the reason I go around the state and teach people how to care for a backyard flock.

In the Deltona anti-chicken forum, someone posted the following portion of my post as proof that chicken smells are a problem:

Problems with backyard poultry smell

I’m hoping you can help me with a desperate quandary I have regarding my neighbors.  They have a coop and it is SO smelly.  The backyards are not big and they do have it as far away as they can, maybe 50 yards away from my backyard (maybe less), but the smell is so atrocious that I can’t use my backyard, screened in porch or even open the windows in the back of the house because it smells so bad.  I spent the evening yesterday cooking in the kitchen with the only window in the kitchen shut because I couldn’t take the smell anymore.  It was barely perceptible last year but this year it seems to be omnipresent especially in the afternoons and evenings.  It is especially rough lacking any central a/c as we need to be able to open our windows.

I really don’t care if they have chickens or not.  I don’t hear them and they don’t seem to have a lot.  I get it might make sense for them and times are rough all over but I’m feeling like I’m under assault in my own home.  Any advice would be so welcome, Thanks!

What the forum poster neglected to also post, was the *second* part of my blog post that offered a solution to that reader’s chicken smell problem.

Responsible chicken care

Chicken noise and smell is a HUGE thing in residential flocks and if complained about enough, it could cause a ban on chickens for those who have close neighbors. While I believe that we have a right to have chickens, I also believe that we have an obligation to respect our neighbors’ peace and property. We have 27 chickens and our coop does not smell, in fact, we have dinner in our backyard every night, the coop in question must have a lot of moisture in it. Here’s my reply:

First, where are you located? Asking this lets you know if zoning allows for chickens.

That’s a very tough situation. I believe that everyone has the right to have chickens but that everyone also has the right to peace and quiet (which includes smell-free) in their back yard. I believe that reasonable peace in your house and yard trumps your neighbors having chickens.

In our town, we recently had a resident approach the town council about a rooster ban. His neighbor has two roosters that crow night and day. He can no longer use his backyard – that’s a problem. Our town is zoned agricultural and so we can’t have a ban on roosters. That’s not going to help this guy.

I spoke in favor of including roosters in a noise ordinance – roosters are a big problem in residential flocks. If you have the land, then go for roosters, if you have close neighbors, then no – you shouldn’t be allowed to have roosters. End of story.

If the smell is that bad (recognizing that at some times the smell will be worse than others, particularly when there is the spring muck-out), then the first thing to do is talk to your neighbors. I know, I know, no one likes confrontation but brush up on your best negotiation skills.

Approach them by first saying you don’t mind that they have chickens but that the smell is affecting your use of your yard and that it is starting to be a problem. Don’t threaten, don’t say that you’ll call the police, offer to give them time to come up with a solution (1-2 weeks is fair.)

If they are sensible, they will try to do something.

If they are not sensible they will ignore you (and give us chicken owners a bad name.) At that point you can contact the city or town health department to do a site visit in order to determine if there are any health code violations (which, if there is a strong smell, I’m willing to bet that there may be.)

If the health department gets involved, prepare to lose the good graces of your neighbors, but from the sound of it, that may not be such a big loss.

It’s important for residents of Deltona to know that in the 6 years I’ve been writing and teaching about chickens, that letter from my reader was the first time I had ever been sent a question about smell. 1 smell complaint in 6 years, that’s pretty good. Think about it, I know of dog owners that can’t go a week without someone commenting about how irritating their “damn dog” is.

The spring muck-out of which I refer to in my reply, is by all accounts is a smelly event. Yes it is. In order to protect our flocks in the northern states from the cold during the winter, we use a technique called deep-litter. We let the litter accumulate by continually adding to it and not removing any during the cold months. This adds insulation to the coop. When the winter is finally over, we give the coop a good spring cleaning and everything starts off fresh for the warmer months.

You’re just not going to see that situation in a coop located in Florida.

Current backyard flocks are not the flocks of your grandmothers. Few backyard chicken owners eat their birds these days and most rely on them for entertainment and eggs. I have found that people who choose to have chickens are those who care deeply about their birds. They want to know how to raise their poultry and they want to know how to properly take care of them – these are motivated owners who read poultry care books, go to workshops, and even attend poultry shows.

From my 6 years of experience owning, teaching and writing about chickens, I have nothing but positive things to say about chicken backyard owners and their flocks.


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at Wendy@SimpleThrift.com

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

Like what you read here? Consider subscribing to this blog so that you’ll never miss a post. And feel free to share with those who may need a little chicken love.


Filed under All things chickens, Backyard Chickens, chicken care, Chicken fun, Life Lessons, Mama Hen, Personal, Teaching kids, The Family

4 responses to “Lesson 1223 – Chickens in towns? Heck yes!

  1. Stacey Thompson

    Can you tell me where I can find some backyard chicken classes? I am starting new this year and am having a hard time finding a class. I live in Merrimack, NH. Excited to get started and find your blog! Thanks!

    • Wendy Thomas


      I teach the local Merrimack chicken workshops through Adult Ed and have been teaching them for years. I’m not sure if any are available right now, you can check with Adult Ed. I will also be doing a chicken presentation in Amherst this coming week, email me if you want details.

      Pretty soon tractor supply will be getting in their chicks. They have tons of information on how to take care of them.

      Lastly, welcome to flock, let me know of any questions or concerns I can help you with.


      On Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 10:56 AM, Lessons Learned from the Flock wrote:


      • Stacey Thompson

        Hi Wendy,

        I would love to attend the Amherst class. Is it this week?



        Sent from my iPad


  2. Tina Valeri

    We live in Osteen, Fl (32764). Deltona is absolutely messing with our new and very much loved TSC. The first year TSC sold chicks. We went back today and low and behold NO CHICKS on chick days! According to staff and management the city of Deltona restricted them from selling chicks because DELTONA has a 4 chicken per household law. This means the rest of us ACTUAL farmers (ag zoned and all) in Osteen, Sanford, Samsula, New Smyrna, Enterprise, etc cannot buy chicks because this ridiculous Deltona city has a permit management issue. Deltona recently allowed residents to have backyard chickens for a paid permit (they even did a pilot program). Now the new TSC store is restricted because Deltona can’t control their residents!? How does this make sense? Deltona residents can go to ANY other feed store to buy chicks and buy more than allowed… Why is TSC made to suffer? I don’t work for either – just a basic farm owner who trusts TSC products and livestock and am completely shocked that this is happening. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated.

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