Blacksburg Chickens: What’s the (s)COOP?

If you haven’t heard yet, chances are, you will: backyard chickens are now allowed in Blacksburg. A committed contingent has lobbied for years and is finally seeing an ordinance passed, Ordinance 1888.

If you aren’t among that small group of fowl fanatics, you might be wondering ‘why’? It’s a fair question, but for many people it scratches that itch to become a bit of a farmer, while still maintaining close proximity to your local Kroger. It’s also a great way to get your kids involved in a laid-back hobby the whole family can enjoy. For the most part, chickens are tame farm animals that just want to be left to peck around their run. They also help keep bug counts down, as well!

Backyard chickens aren’t a new concept. In fact, many localities both near and far have allowed them for years. Like Little Free Libraries and quaint farmers markets, it all works to add some togetherness to our community.

If you’re worried about home values hurting from your neighbors flock, I wouldn’t. Cities like Seattle and Denver have allowed backyard chickens for years and have robust and growing markets. Adding a little livestock hasn’t really put a hurt on many markets, and I wouldn’t expect any problems here, either.

Blacksburg chicken rules were modeled closely after Christiansburg. They’ve allowed chickens for a few years, with a similar permit and fee process. For chickens in Blacksburg, flocks are allowed in R-4, RR-1 and RR-2 zoning districts. R-4 specifically covers a wide array of Blacksburg neighborhoods. Don’t know your district? Just ask me and I’ll help you find it.

You also need to be in a single-family home. Townhouses, duplexes, triplexes, and apartments are not covered. Sorry, can’t cry fowl here.

If you’re zoned for it, great! Be warned, though: we don’t really know how HOAs are going to deal with chickens. It’s best to ask your HOA–and your neighbors–how they feel about chickens before making up your mind on that beautiful home with the HOA. I suspect that, in coming years, homeowners associations are going to have to take this issue on and determine whether they’re going to continue the prohibition. Fun fact – I live in a neighborhood that doesn’t allow chickens, but I CAN have as many as two horses. Horses?!

It’s important to read through these new ordinances carefully to make sure you apply correctly and pay the $30 fee. You also need to re-up yearly. And for those illegal chicken owners wondering, no, you aren’t grandfathered in.

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A typical backyard flock.

Once you get a healthy dose of bureaucracy out of the way and pay the fee, the fun begins! There are countless tutorials online from budding urban farmers out there, but one good resource is Modern Farmer. You can also purchase pre-built coops but many of them don’t meet the town’s requirements for size, so make sure you know what you need.

With chickens in your yard, caring for them is pretty easy. Feed them, give them water, clean up after them, and let them exist. They don’t ask much in exchange for some eggs and happy ambiance in your backyard. And they come home to roost every night, which is amazing in and of itself – try getting your teenager to be in the house before it gets dark outside!

Will backyard chickens change the local landscape in a big way? Probably not. Many people who were committed to it had them all along but don’t be surprised if your neighbors end up with some hens, either.

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