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Backyard chickens welcome, roosters booted in Mesa lawmaker’s bill

rooster-620A bill making it legal to have a chicken in every backyard promises to bring a lot of clucking to the Legislature if the measure gets a hearing.

The measure, introduced by Sen. David Farnsworth, an east Mesa Republican, would prevent cities from adopting ordinances banning fowl in the backyard of a single-family home. Cities could restrict the number of chickens per yard and outlaw roosters, except for ones that no longer crow. Silent ones get a pass.

If Chandler’s recent experience with a proposal to lift a no-chicken policy is any indication, SB 1151 will stir a dispute over conflicting individual rights, a debate as old as the chicken or the egg.

Arizona cities have a hodgepodge of ordinances regulating fowl, but Chandler doesn’t allow chickens and roosters in neighborhoods except ones with large lots or agricultural areas.

When the Chandler City Council mulled a change to its no-chicken ordinance in July, about 75 people showed up for the meeting.  Property rights advocates were pitted against people who don’t want the cackling and odor that comes with living next door to a bunch of chickens.

Farnsworth’s bill suggests the debate goes far beyond Chandler, observing that “property rights of property owners in this state are of statewide concern.”

The Chandler City Council voted 4 to 3 against the proposal, which would have allowed up to five chickens in a yard.

“(SB 1151) would basically bring back what we discussed,” said Jim Phipps, a Chandler spokesman.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Government and Environment, but no hearing date has been set.

Farnsworth said banning chickens in backyards is not the role of cities.  He called bans and severe restrictions “kind of ridiculous.”

“The proper role of government according to the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona Constitution is to protect the liberty of the people,” he said. “Liberty of the people is being eroded, particularly property rights.”

He said that, growing up in Mesa, his family had not only chickens but also rabbits and goats.

“And it’s a good thing we did,” Farnsworth said. “Otherwise we might be short on things to eat.”

He isn’t alone in his sentiment: 21 other legislators out of the 90 at the Capitol have signed on as cosponsors.

Farnsworth acknowledged that a next-door neighbor might not want a chicken pen right up against the fence. But he said that right to live in a chicken-free zone is limited.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that our own property rights on our property need to be supreme,” he said.

Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said it’s not that simple.

“I think the issue is, whose freedom are you protecting?” he said, adding that people who buy homes in urban areas have certain expectations of what life will be like.

“If there are noises or smells or things that are not anticipated when they purchased in that neighborhood, then their property rights are being infringed on,” he said.

Includes information from Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services


  1. I was at the meeting in Chandler that was mentioned above. The request was for up to 5 hens to be allowed in traditional (not HOA) backyards. Most of the 75, and many of the letters that the City received that were not in favor of chickens, where represented by HOA management companies They made threats to the City Council that if chickens were voted in, that HOAs would stop taking care of streets and greenbelts. My concern is that Cities are allowing HOAs to dictate what non residential residents are allowed to do. It seems to me that HOA control has gone way too far. I though that our city council worked for the best interest of the residents, not to help the HOAs to have more control over more people.

  2. We would welcome chickens with open arms in my neighborhood. i would LOVE farm fresh eggs grown in my yard or the neighbor’s. and by the way, chickens are NOT noisy or smelly unless improperly cared for. if they are not cooped up and neglected, your neighbors will never know they are there.

  3. A bill that is LONG overdue! Chickens are clean (make less poo smell than dogs), natural pest control, awesome composters, fun to own…oh and yeah they are a pet that produces breakfast! Don’t let propaganda make your decisions – get the facts on urban & suburban chickens!

  4. The Backyard Farmer United is working diligently to make Bills that restore the most basic of all things when it comes to property rights. The Backyard Farmers United Homegrown Freedom Act is proud to present PHASE 1 known as Senate Bill 1151 (Homegrown Freedom Act) to all of Arizona residents. Backyard Farming is not just a movement across the country it is a new way of life. Backyard Farming guarantees that the food you are eating grown to the standard you prefer. Clean Food is what people want, they do not want all the pesticides and chemicals that are used by commercial growers. The experiences and education that come from Backyard Farming with benefit our children and grandchildren for generations to come. Oh, and nothing ever tastes better than anything you put your heart and sole into raising & growing. If you are thinking what about the smell etc? Chickens do not smell a family dogs waste or even a cat box smells worse. Fowl droppings can be used to make compost and intern increase the quality of your garden soil which means even healthier food for you. Plus you will have plenty of Fresh Tasty EGGS!

  5. This is a wonderful opportunity to reclaim some of our basic rights.

  6. thank you to those who support the right to help raise some of our own food. it will help our children learn to care for animals that in turn will give us food. chickens do not smell that bad if taken care of, 3 or 4 hens will help with the bugs, scorpions and fertilize the yards. thanks again for all your support

  7. Arizona is part of a great western heritage. There is a mindset about being in the west and having your animals and freedom to grow/raise chickens, ride horses and just enjoy life in general. Chickens do not smell and they seldom make noise (typically only when laying an egg). Our neighbors love our chickens and can taste the difference in our homegrown eggs versus the store bought eggs. If you read any news of late about the chickens hitting our stores coming from China – YOU WOULD RACE TO SUPPORT THIS BILL!
    From recent online news sources:
    Last year, according to news reports, a Chinese poultry supplier provided Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in China with chicken fattened by large quantities of illegal drugs. And in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently warned pet owners not to feed their pets jerky treats from China. Since 2007, approximately 600 dogs and cats in the United States have mysteriously died, and 3,600 have been sickened from eating Chinese pet treats, including those containing chicken or duck.

    China has an unusually troubling record when it comes to food safety. Specific instances include: dangerously high levels of mercury found in Chinese baby formula; more than 16,000 diseased pig carcasses dumped in a river to rot; more than $1 million worth of rat and other small mammal meat sold to Chinese consumers as lamb; and more than 300,000 Chinese children sickened, with several dying, from melamine-tainted milk powder.

    ​Yet despite these concerns, chicken can now be processed in China and sent back to this country for human consumption even though there will be no on-site USDA inspectors in Chinese processing facilities to ensure food safety. Furthermore, Chinese-processed chicken does not have to bear “Country Of Origin Labeling,” which means that consumers will not know if they are purchasing or eating chicken processed in China.​

  8. I’m very happy to see this bill. I think everyone should have the opportunity to keep backyard chickens. They’re more quiet than dogs, they eat bugs, and they DO NOT smell, contrary to a common misconception. They’re very easy to take care of, and they are surprisingly entertaining. They also lay eggs, meaning chicken owners don’t have to buy eggs from factory farm chickens that are living in their own filth, with no space to move and their beaks partially removed. The chicken waste can be composted (unlike dog or cat waste) and makes great soil for gardens, or just spreading around trees or on grass.

    I think it’s silly that chickens are not already legal anywhere, and I hope this passes so more people can discover the fun of having a pet that makes food instead of just waste! I’d be surprised if neighbors of current chicken owners even know there are chickens in the neighborhood without being told or looking over a fence and seeing them with their own eyes…

  9. This is about freedom, and that is never a waste of time, In fact it is about time that Arizona starts giving back the freedoms that have been taken by cities and HOA’s. I will support every member that has signed this bill, and supports this bill! Thank you for doing the right thing here! It is time we actually start allowing people to grow their own food in a safe and humane way. We have come so far away from our food, and this is a small step back to allowing us a choice. The people that actually oppose this bill have yet to provide real facts on banning chickens. They are friendly, fun, provide food, quite, good pest control, good at enriching the soil, and not smelly at all. This is one bill with only upsides, and the best use of time for our lawmakers! Thank you for giving our choice and freedoms back!

  10. When will Government fulfill its proper role in protecting rights explicitly outlined in the Constitution–“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” rather than be dictated to and run by those who have the most money to give them or take away from them (e.g., HOAs). This SB 1151 has everything to do with Life–the people, our health, freedom from potentially dangerous additives; Liberty–property rights as guaranteed in the Fifth & Fourteenth Amendments; and the pursuit of Happiness which has nothing to do with seeking one’s selfish hedonistic pleasures but has everything to do with good citizenship, love of country, instruction in “the arts and sciences” and the duty to be “as virtuous and useful a member of society as possible” (Eidsmoe, John 1987). As a government and society we continue to value and uphold property rights and guard against theft of physical property yet we are increasingly tolerant of laws and entities that rob us of our freedoms while ON that property–you can own your home and land, but yet we’ll rob you of your rights while on that land and dictate what you can and can’t do on that property?

    This bill will restore what should never have been taken away: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Please stop stealing from us the right to be good citizens, to teach our families good citizenship, and our duty to be a useful member of society.

  11. I am for property rights, that I should be able to keep chickens in my back yard. As for roosters I understand objections. The notification an dashing permission in ear shout for roosters is reasonable. As for noise, the unhappy chicken is very noise, usually fallowed by over crowding and unsanitary conditions as are found in production farms. The only time noise is heard is the egg song or if there is a hawk over head, otherwise very quite.

    I believe the no of chicks should be based on space available. Guide lines as to a minimum number of square feet. IE: 20 Sq ft per bird. Or 30 sq ft. I have a 240 sq ft area. I believe I can handle 12 max. I am a believer in human treatment and care of all animals. Extending to chickens.

  12. I want the right to choose where my food comes from. Chickens in a back yard was at one time very common. Vegetable gardens in the back yard were once very common Still is in many places. Americans have always been know as a self sufficient people. Part of that is taking care of our own. That means the ability to provide for our families good healthy clean food and eggs. It is an inexpensive source of protein. Raised at home it is healthier than what we can purchase. I fully support this bill and all signers

  13. cant wait for bird flu to hit arizona.. we will be the pandemic example of this disastrous retarded idea

  14. I’m so glad to see that the state of Arizona is going to take a stab at this issue! Why didn’t I know about this story a few years ago? I’ve been following “chicken fights” across the country since 2009. I chronicled many of the more humorous and poignant ones in a guide to backyard chicken keeping called, “The Backyard Chicken Fight.” I wish I had had THIS story!

    So far, only municipalities have weighed in on this issue. Keeping backyard chickens has become a property rights issue. It’s also about keeping chickens for the vitamin-rich eggs, food security (knowing EXACTLY from where your food originates) and sustainability. These are the big reasons people keep chickens. You can also count on these sweet birds to provide nitrogen rich fertilizer and they will patrol your property for bugs: natural pest control.

    Most chicken keepers I know, are thoughtful stewards to their environment and their flocks. So, the smells and noise issues are irrelavent. As more and more people want these benefits from their backyard pets, I hope more and more STATES will weigh in on the backyard chicken debate.

  15. How about hogs so we can eat bacon and pork chops? Which constitutional amendment is the chicken and hogs in the backyard one Mr. Farnsworth? What if our chickens get the bird flu and infect our neighbors, will the guvment kill our precious chickens?

  16. I have long wanted to have some back yard chickens. We as property owners should have the right to have self sustaining food sources for our families. I was raised around chickens, goats, pigs, horses, cows. If the chickens are cared for properly there should be no smell and very little noise. What have we come to in this country when an HOA, City Government, or a federal government can tell us what type of pet we can own or whether we can have a back yard garden. With all of the **** that is added to the store bought food these days it is now a necessity to raise your own meat and vegtables and eggs. Those rights under our constitution should have never been taken away in the first place. I support this bill and any one that supports it. We need to overcome these ridiculous HOA’s too. Mesa allows Chickens, at least that is what I read, but the lowsy HOA does not. Since when should an Hoa be in control of my food source!!!!

  17. If people choose to live within a subdivision with covenants that do not allow poultry/livestock, this law would not effect them, if it was passed. When you choose to live within a residential common interest development with covenants, you agree, by signing the agreement with the HOA, when you purchase a home there, to legally abide by the covenants. Those covenants are a contract and are legally binding. When you purchase a home within a subdivision with covenants, some of your property rights are subordinated….such as, raising poultry/livestock. The only way to legally change that is to have a vote mailed to all lot owners within the subdivision. If members agree to amend the covenants to allow poultry/livestock by 51%, then it happens. If they do not, then it does not. It is up to the members of that subdivision to decide, not the city, county, or state. It is a choice. If you want to raise poultry/livestock, it’s not a good idea to purchase a home in a subdivision HOA with covenants because usually people who live there do not want to live around poultry/livestock.

  18. In my experience, chickens are quieter than our dogs and their waste does not smell nearly as bad. As with any other pet, chicken owners will be required to clean up after them and prevent them from becoming a nuisance. If pets are allowed, than chickens ought to be, too!

  19. I totally agree with the allowing of chickens in the backyards of private homes. There should be more legislation ensuring basic freedoms such as this.

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