This past Saturday, the Baltimore Food Makers held their monthly potluck in Northeast Baltimore at the home of an urban chicken farming couple. Our hosts distilled a lifetime of farming know-how into a short tour of their backyard chicken coop, and fielded questions about their three hens, poultry health, nutrition, and productivity. Apparently, three hens can produce about seven eggs a week this time of year. When asked how their neighbors liked living near chickens, they said most were agreeable. One neighbor was leery of living near chickens, but after receiving eggs as gifts he apparently changed his tune and now wants to bird-sit when they are away on vacation.
I was excited to see some of my Baltimore neighbors obviating the poultry industry by raising their own hens for eggs. As this was my first encounter with urban chicken farming I wanted to learn about the Baltimore City ordinance allowing chickens, which reads:
[Baltimore City Health Code, Title 2, 2-106; Title 10, Subtitles 1 and 3]
1. No person may own, keep, or harbor any chickens without:
a. Obtaining a permit from the Bureau of Animal Control; and
b. Register with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Domestic Poultry and Exotic Bird Registration Division.
2. No more than 4 chickens of the age of 1 month may be kept.
3. All chickens must be confined at all times to a movable pen.
a. No pen may be closer than 25 feet to any residence.
b. Each pen must be kept clean, free of all odors and materials that can attract rodents.
c. Each pen must be moved frequently to minimize turf destruction and the build up of manure borne pathogens such as coccidiosis and roundworm.
d. Pens with feed boxes and nest boxes must allow 2 square feet per hen.
4. The chickens must be provided with shade during warm weather.
5. Potable water and proper feed must be made available.
6. All chickens must be provided with access to a well-constructed shelter that provides suitable protection from inclement weather.
7. All chickens must be afforded veterinary care if they are known or suspected to be sick or injured.
For more information about urban bird farming in Baltimore, visit the Charm City Chickens, or for general information see any of the great blogs/web sites (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc) dedicated to this endeavor.
— Dave Love