City addresses ‘urban chickens’ ordinance |
Brandon Gee

Back to: Explore Steamboat

City addresses ‘urban chickens’ ordinance

Proposal would allow up to 5 hens in single-family zones

Herald Stout digs up worms for his chickens inside a coop he owns and maintains just outside the city of Steamboat Springs.

Chicken pros

– Chickens are one of the smallest protein producers, and their eggs provide an excellent source of local, fresh protein.

– With the increase in energy and transportation costs, backyard chicken keeping can provide a cheaper alternative than store-bought eggs.

– Chicken excrement can be used as a natural fertilizer and compost.

Chicken cons

– Chicken hens cluck and may be a nuisance to neighbors.

– Chicken coops, if not cared for and maintained properly, can create a nuisance with odors and the attraction of flies, rodents and predators.

Source: City of Steamboat Springs

— As the city grapples with the potential traffic impacts of an upcoming reconstruction of Lincoln Avenue downtown and the proposed Steamboat 700 annexation, residents soon may have one less reason to get in their cars.


An ordinance in the early stages of review would allow as many as five chicken hens to be kept at homes within city limits in single-family zone districts. The ordinance has not been reviewed by the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission or City Council but probably will be this fall.

City planner Bob Keenan said the ordinance was crafted in response to requests from residents and the local food movement across the country. Chickens are classified as “farm animals” in the city’s Community Development Code and are prohibited within city limits. Keenan said even cities as large and New York and Los Angeles have updated their codes to allow “urban chickens.”

Laura Stout, who raises chickens with her husband, Herald, on North Park Road just outside city limits, said she thinks the ordinance is a wise move for the city.

“I don’t see why not. I think it’s a great idea,” Stout said. “It’s great to have the eggs, and (chickens) are easy to take care of.”

Roosters would not be allowed in city limits, hens could not be used for commercial purposes, and coops would be subject to certain guidelines regulating security and cleanliness, according to an early draft of the ordinance. Residents also could apply to vary the number of hens allowed, and the city’s planning director would have the ability to approve chickens in other zone districts if criteria are met.

“Basically, they’ll be allowed in single-family zone districts as a use by right,” Keenan said. “Urban chickens would be a use with criteria in multi-family zone districts.”

Given how cheap hens are to purchase and raise, Keenan said it is the city’s intent to keep any fees associated with raising urban chickens minimal.

“We wanted this to be an attainable thing for people to do,” Keenan said. “The idea is it’s a cheap, efficient way of getting protein.”

While Keenan acknowledged there could be some negative impacts to raising chickens within city limits – such as the noise of clucking and the attraction of predators – he said he thinks the impacts of chickens are less than that of dogs. City officials think some residents already may be raising chickens illegally.

“I have heard that people have them,” Keenan said. “We thought we’d be proactive on this.”

Keenan noted that if the ordinance is adopted by the city, it would not supersede any private property covenants or homeowner association prohibitions about raising chickens.