Rousted chickens: Zoning board rules hens not allowed in Roslindale or Jamaica Plain

The Zoning Board of Appeals today denied a Roslindale resident's request to keep hens in her Firth Road backyard because city zoning codes expressly forbid poultry in Roslindale and Jamaica Plain - but nowhere else in the city.

City Councilor Rob Consalvo (Hyde Park, Roslindale), vowed to work with Audra Karp to change the regulations that now prohibit chickens in the two neighborhoods - they are allowed with a zoning special permit in other parts of the city. He said it seems to make little sense to have the zoning board, which normally deals with matters such as building heights and setbacks, to deal with animal issues. However, he acknowledged that could be a lengthy process, saying if this were a baseball game, we'd only be in the first inning.

Zoning board member Michael Monahan acknowledged a contradiction in city ordinances that says "pitbulls are OK, chickens are not," but he voted to deny a variance because the code is so explicit.

Karp got several chickens last fall, but city animal inspectors ordered them out, citing zoning for the neighborhood. She said the chickens are now at her father's place in hen-friendly Ashland.

"It was important for us to grow and raise our own food and know our food comes from," she said. Until the city ordered the birds out, she said they had a great life in Roslindale: Out in the morning to forage around the back yard, often under the admiring glances of neighborhood children enjoying the novel site. With no roosters, the coop was so quiet even Rebecca Gutman, who lives in a unit in the same building, said she couldn't hear them.

The board's vote came despite letters and petitions signed by a number of her neighbors and other people across the city. Consalvo said he reluctantly opposed their request for a variance only because he always opposes allowing anything expressly forbidden in the zoning code. He said he was unsure why Roslindale's zoning regulations had an anti-chicken proviso added when they were updated within the past few years.

One neighbor said she was concerned about hens as disease vectors and that they attract predators, including raccoons and opossums (Ed. note: Yep, opossums). Karp, however, said avian flu is just an issue for migratory birds and large commercial flocks and that people only have to worry about salmonells from factory-raised eggs, not from small flocks like hers. She said ten chickens produce less waste than a 40-lb. dog - and that their manure makes excellent fertilizer. Predators? Roslindale already had raccoons and coyotes, she said, adding the chicken feed was kept in special containers to keep rats out.

Ken Phillips of Greening Rozzie, said the chickens exemplified everything Mayor Menino wants in his effort to make Boston "the greenest city in the country." The mayor's office, however, joined Consalvo in opposing a variance because of the way the zoning code is now written.



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oh boy.. why does this sound

By on

oh boy.. why does this sound like a NIMBY issue? And why do I get the feeling that this sounds similar to the women in Detroit who is going to jail because she planted a garden in her front yard.

I'd LOVE to see someone try to have poultry in the BackBay or Beacon Hill. They'd be run out of town faster than you can say "Whole Foods".

Totally NIMBY

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Why can't a person raise their own eggs? Makes no sense. If she has room, keeps the place tidy, and doesn't bother anyone, then what harm is she doing? I can see if she were a messy person and the birds started spreading some disease.

Fact Check

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I think that chickens ARE allowed in Beacon Hill ... I bet people have them.

oh noes, not pitbulls!

By on

"pitbulls are OK, chickens are not,"

Not face licking, tail wagging, and ball chasing! Won't someone think of the children?


By on long as it's not ball licking, tail chasing and uh...face wagging?....well like Mr. Loaf sang, "2 outta 3 ain't bad."

Michael Monahan is gonna get a nastygram

from this pit bull owner. What an asshat.

How weird that two of the most suburban-like parts of the city are the only ones excluded from keeping hens. That's really freakin' bizarre. I would have granted the variance- who was it gonna hurt?

Same Thing Here

By Kenny on

Yes, the same thing is happing where I live. I have a couple chickens and I got a letter in the mail that they are going to try to ban chickens from my city. I don't really understand why it is such a big deal. I also like to know where my food is coming from and how it was raised.

I thought the whole point of

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I thought the whole point of a variance was to make an exception for something that is forbidden by zoning.

Did anyone complain about the chickens? What can initiate a city action against a zoning problem other than a citizen complaint?

"Consalvo said he reluctantly opposed their request for a variance only because he always opposes allowing anything expressly forbidden in the zoning code."

Contrast that with Cambridge, where they didn't allow chickens even though there's no law against them.

He said he was unsure why

He said he was unsure why Roslindale's zoning regulations had an anti-chicken proviso added when they were updated within the past few years.

Yeah - I'm sure he has no idea. The text jumped into the regulations on its own.

Someone with pull in City Hall got their poultriphobic hate speech written into law.

Hey, NW, lay off Rob...

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he helped me analyze the traffic flow around Readville Station when I complained to him that crossing on W. Milton street was like taking your life in your hands (and actually one or two people were killed there plus our car got rear ended by a hit and run driver at the same spot.) He helped get the crosswalk lines painted again (they were almost non-existent when I originally complained) and he helped install pedestrian crossing signs. Plus, now, we have a four way stop a Sprague Street bridge which helps stop the crazies that like to zoom at break neck speed over the bridge.

He was very attentive, answered my emails promptly and took my phone calls.

I'm sorry to be so politically incorrect

By on

But I don't care what part of the city it is, there is just something really low class about raising chickens at a residence in the city. What is this, the Beverly Hillbillies? I live in the city and I absolutely would not want to live next door to a chicken coop. The city is no place for it.

Why is it 'low class' to raise livestock

especially in parts of the city (JP and Roslindale) with enough green space to be suburban in character? Do you similarly object to beekeepers, who also are in the city?

The Beverly Hillbillies?

By on

No. It's Green Acres, Lisa Douglas. Now shut your trap and slop the pigs.

Next thing you know

By on

they will want to hang their laundry out to dry on clotheslines!!

hens are beautiful

By on

Perhaps you don't have any experience of what a chicken coop can be like .. perhaps you don't know how quiet and peaceful chickens can be, with proper care and love. On the other hand, perhaps you do know and you just don't have much tolerance for anything outside your comfort zone. My neighbors were playing some bad metal music the other day .. perhaps that should be banned. Other neighbors were playing some salsa music .. perhaps that should be banned. Other neighbors have a silly dog that chases a red ball all day long .. perhaps we could ban that. They all slightly annoy me. Perhaps something you like to do will slightly annoy me too, and then we could ban it. While we're at it, let's ban bike riding in the city, and maybe dancing. Let's ban farting .. nobody likes farting, so let's pass an ordinance ... etc.

How quiet chickens can be?

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Oh you think so? For a number of years I worked not far from the live chicken establishment in Chinatown. I would not call it a quiet place. Nor was it a great smelling place, especially in the kind of weather we are currently experiencing. Didn't strike me as particularly sanitary either.

And, as for bike riding in the city, I have my little moments, mind you, when I wish it was banned when I see the behaviour of some cyclists who seem to have a great sense of entitlement because they are riding bikes. Some are quite reckless also, such as bike messengers.

Well, i guess i see what kind

By on

Well, i guess i see what kind of person you are...

I ride a bike every day .. i have many moments when i imagine how beautiful the roads would be without *cars* .. I ride conscientiously. I know some bikers are jerks and run through intersections, but i see an equal number if not more of car drivers who are jerks.

My chickens -- seven -- are very quiet .. never a sound .. and do not smell .. very peaceful. I'd invite you over but you'd report me.

Oh, and you know what is

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Oh, and you know what is really noisy and smelly -- much more than any seven hens?


I think we need to ban lawnmowers .. and gas-powered weedwhackers .. and backhoes. Those things are all quite a nuisance to me. They ruin my quiet enjoyment of my land.

What the Zoning Code actually says

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The overall Boston Zoning Code lists as conditional -
"As an accessory use subject to the limitations and restrictions of Article 10, the keeping of poultry, pigeons, rabbits or bees *Provided that every enclosure therefor is at least fifty feet from every residential building on another lot; and provided further in a S, R or H district, that not more than twenty-five birds and rabbits in the aggregate or more than three colonies of bees are kept on the lot at one time, and that every enclosure is more than fifty feet from the nearest street.
A condition of this use shall be that if on another lot a residential building is erected within fifty feet of an enclosure, the use of such enclosure shall cease, and such enclosure shall be removed."
(section 8-7, table item #76 (pages 46-47))

Conditional use means that "The granting of a permit for any use so marked may be authorized conditionally by the Board of Appeal acting under the provisions of Article 6, subject to the requirements set forth in the use item column."

However, neighborhood districts can have special zoning that trumps the general Boston Zoning.

Neighborhood Districs.
Zoning regarding "Accessory keeping of animals other than laboratory animals" (From Table A)



















Wow. Thank you for this good

By on

Wow. Thank you for this good research. The original zoning makes a lot of sense .. the neighborhood forbiddences make no sense at all. What is the history of the neighborhood bans? Who got those in there and when?