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Backyard Chickens FAQ

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Effective Aug. 1, 2015, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA) is requiring all poultry owners to register for a N.C. Farm ID number. According to the NCDA, all poultry owners are required to register regardless of flock size. NCDA states that this measure is necessary to adequately prepare, manage and control possible HPAI outbreaks. 

The following is a quick summary of the new Backyard Chicken Ordinance. If your question is not covered below or you have additional questions, please contact the Town of Cary at 311 or (919) 469-4046. 


At the Town Council meeting of Feb. 9, 2012, two council members sponsored an initiative to have staff revisit the issue of permitting residents of Cary to keep chickens in the back yards of single-family properties. On Aug. 23, 2012 Town Council adopted an amendment to the Land Development Ordinance (LDO) to permit backyard chickens in certain zoning districts and subject to certain standards.

How does Cary regulate backyard chickens?

Backyard Chickens are covered in Section 5.3.4 of the LDO. They are permitted as an “accessory use” to single-family residential zoning districts. This includes both the general use districts and similar residential districts in the Town Center, along with equivalent residential zoning in planned developments and mixed use areas.

If Cary allows me to have chickens but my homeowner’s association (HOA) does not, which rules do I follow?

Homeowner Associations (HOA’s) have private authority to regulate the structures and uses permitted within a neighborhood. Whether or not Cary permits them in your zoning district, if your HOA prohibits chickens, you are not allowed to have them. Or if your HOA has more stringent rules, then you must follow those rules instead. You should contact your association or Management Company for that information.

How many backyard chickens can I have?

In the R-80 and R-40 zoning districts, you can have chickens on your lot, subject to limited regulations and with no permit required. In the R-20, R-12, R-8, TR, PDD, MXD, TC-MDR, TC-LDR and TC-LDR-12 districts where the minimum lot size exceeds 6,000 square feet, you can have up to five hens with an approved Accessory Use Permit, subject to meeting certain standards. Roosters, however, are not permitted. To find out how your property is zoned, please feel free to visit our Property Information Map.

Is there a permit fee to have chickens?

To have chickens in the R-20, R-12, R-8, TR, PDD, MXD, TC-MDR, TC-LDR and TC-LDR-12 districts where the minimum lot size is 6,000 square feet or greater, an Accessory Use Permit is required. There is a one time $50 processing fee for the Accessory Use Permit. A copy of the permit application can be found here.

Can my chickens roam free in my yard?

No. Chickens must be kept in a coop and pen or portable chicken tractors, and such coops and enclosures may not include residential structures or garages. All chickens must be secured in the chicken coop during non-daylight hours. However, during daylight hours chickens may be located in the chicken pen. Chicken coops, pens and tractors (whether stationary or moveable) are only permitted in rear yards behind the line formed by the back wall of the residence. They cannot be located within 15 feet of any side or rear property lines and must be closer to the chicken owner’s primary living structure than neighboring living structures. Please see example. In addition, chicken coop, tractor, and/or pen must be properly designed and constructed to provide adequate security from rodents, wild birds, and predators; sufficient ventilation; and suitable shelter for the hens.

The Accessory Use Permit application must include a “plot plan” drawing that shows the location and dimensions of the chicken coop and chicken pen, and their distances from the applicable property lines.

Will I be required to have my property inspected by the Town of Cary?

No. An inspection of the proposed site for keeping of backyard chickens will not typically be conducted by the Town of Cary as part of the permitting process unless the review of the permit indicates the need to verify information. The Town will inspect and determine compliance with the ordinance on a complaint basis or if staff observation indicates that a violation may be occurring.

What can or can’t I do with my chickens?

Eggs, chicks, adult chickens and processed chickens are for personal use only and are not allowed to be sold. In addition, chicken manure and compost using chicken manure is not permitted to be sold or otherwise distributed.

The on-site slaughtering of chickens is strictly prohibited.

What special care requirements are there to have backyard chickens?

Chickens must have adequate access to feed, clean water, and bedding at all times. The chicken coop, chicken pen and surrounding area must be cleaned of hen droppings, uneaten feed, feathers and other waste, and must be kept in a neat and sanitary condition at all times to preclude odors and aesthetic nuisances. All chicken feed is required to be stored in a secure container.

In addition, chicken manure must be bagged and disposed of with household garbage or composted on site. All stored manure must be completely contained in a waterproof container. Any compost using chicken manure is required to be produced in an enclosed backyard composter and such activity must comply with the Town Code of Ordinances.

What do I need to do when a chicken dies?

If a chicken dies from causes other than slaughter, it shall be promptly placed into a plastic bag, which shall be closed securely and disposed of with your household waste. 

Who do I call to report if my neighbor has chickens without a permit?

The keeping of backyard chickens without an approved permit is a zoning violation. You can contact your local Zoning Compliance Officer (ZCO) or the Planning and Development Services Department at 311 or (919) 469-4082.

Where can I go to learn more about Cary’s new ordinance?

For more information on Cary’s new Backyard Chicken Ordinance, please feel free to visit the Land Development Ordinance (LDO) or contact the Planning and Development Services Department at 311 or (919) 469-4082.