Hayward citizens fight over chicken rights


Ian-James Vitaga,

Last month, Hayward City Council members met to discuss a proposed ordinance that would make it easier for residents to keep and maintain chickens and other livestock on their property.

Raising backyard chickens is not entirely prohibited. It is something you can apply for if you can meet certain requirements and pay the $500 permit. Livestock need to be kept in a shelter 40 feet away from neighboring houses and 20 feet from your own property line.

The city notifies all neighbors within 300 feet and the Code Enforcement Division currently enforces laws concerning chicken restrictions in Hayward.

The standards to keep livestock on private property are very broad and have been refined numerous times, according to Hayward City Assistant Planner Michael Christensen.

“This has been an ongoing battle for 10 years. The law does not differentiate between keeping huge animals like horses versus keeping chickens,” Christensen said.

The Aug. 18 city council meeting was a small push in what Christensen calls “an urban agricultural movement” that supports producing your own food, also known as urban farming.

Urban farming refers to but is not limited to gardening your own vegetables and fruits, harvesting your own beehives for honey and raising your own hens for eggs in a city environment.

More than 25 Hayward residents who are already raising chickens in their backyards attended the meeting. The desired ordinance would lessen the requirements to raise hens but keep the restrictions on roosters because of noise.

“The number of chickens have not yet been decided,” Christensen continued. “Generally, we want around three or four maximum. Roosters still won’t be permitted.”

Generally, we want around three or four maximum. Roosters still won’t be permitted.

There are two options being considered. One would not require a permit and owners would not have to go through the City of Hayward, but would be required to feed, provide adequate care for and maintenance of the chickens without affecting neighbors. The second option would require a less complicated permit from the City of Hayward that could also be cheaper. Residents would still have to be educated on how to take care of chickens.

Citizens were able to voice opinions on Sept. 15 before the city council and Sept. 17 before the planning commission.

For the ordinance to pass, city council members must approve and adopt a formal proposal.