Keeping Chickens in the City of St. Louis
Chickens are some of the most common farm animals in urban areas. They can be raised for their fertile manure or eggs. Raising chickens can be rewarding, fruitful, and fun for the whole family, but certain aspects must be considered before starting your flock.
Board Bill 52, which was sponsored by Alderwoman Cara Spencer and Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, was passed by a vote of 22-3 and signed into law by Mayor Lyda Krewson in July 2017. Ordinance 70608 now allows residents in the City of St. Louis to possess up to eight chickens depending on the size of their property. The previous ordinance only allowed up to four animals per city parcel, including dogs, cats, chickens, and rabbits.
More than a year’s worth of engaging residents and compiling data by the St. Louis Food Policy Coalition (STLFPC) contributed to the policy change in the city. The STLFPC urban agriculture survey found that residents wanted a minimum spatial requirement for various reasons, including animal welfare, public health and cleanliness, which was incorporated into the new ordinance.
Below you can find some frequently asked questions about backyard chicken ownership and Ordinance 70608.
Learn more about the ordinance here or click on the image to the right.
Frequently Asked Questions
Read the FAQ’s below to learn about how to care for your chickens, the rules about owning chickens, and any questions you might have about your neighbor’s chickens.
Because the sex of chicks cannot be determined, it is encouraged to buy pullets or chickens, so as to avoid requiring the killing of growing roosters.
When you are buying chicks, avoid unknown sources as the chicks may not have been vaccinated. McMurray’s Hatchery, Fenton Feed Mill, O.K. Hatchery Feed & Garden Store (Kirkwood), and The Chicken Whispers are good options for St. Louis region residents. If you would like to try raising chickens before making a commitment to getting a flock of your own, The Easy Chicken provides coops and chickens for rent. Most reputable breeders ensure that their chickens have been vaccinated against common avian syndromes (Marek’s disease, Newcastle disease, and infectious bronchitis). When raising chickens from chicks, it is the choice of the owner whether or not to vaccinate chicks to prevent diseases. There are many avian vets in the St. Louis area who you can go to when your chicken falls ill.
These costs are approximate. You can save money by building your own coop, brooder, waterers, and feeders! These materials can be purchased at most local hardware stores.
One chicken is permitted for every four square feet of indoor enclosure and 10 square feet of outdoor enclosure, up to a maximum of eight chickens. The coop needs to be predator-proof and thoroughly ventilated, designed to be easily accessed and cleaned, and of sufficient size as determined by the Health Commissioner to permit free movement of the animals, not to exceed 50 square feet inside the coop.
It is recommended that chickens spend at least an hour outside of their coop per day. Regardless, the chickens must have access to an outdoor enclosure, which may or may not be the lot in its entirety. The outdoor enclosure shall be adequately fenced to contain the chickens within the enclosure and to prevent access by dogs and other predators.
No coop may be located in a front yard, or closer than 1.5 feet to a property line without a solid fence to separate the lots, or 10 feet from a dwelling on another lot with a solid fence to separate the lots. It is generally good practice to place coops and cages in the backyard and not immediately adjacent to the property lines.
A thriving flock requires regular coop maintenance. Coops provide shelter, protection from predators and a place to nest – all essential in keeping chickens content and productive. Chicken owners must regularly replace bedding, ensure a coop is properly ventilated, and provide a feeder, waterer, perch, and a nesting box to lay eggs.
Chickens must be fed. The general suggested rations are 3-6 oz. of feed per chicken per day. To provide variety and other nutrients, owners can also supplement this diet with vegetables and bread. Feed should be kept in a rodent proof container in a cool, dry environment in order to extend its shelf life. Chickens are hardy birds and can survive a St. Louis winter, but it is recommended to feed chickens more during winter months to facilitate natural insulation. They should also have constant access to clean, lukewarm water, as just a couple hours of deprivation can cause dehydration.
Owners of aging chickens might consider giving their animals up to a sanctuary, such as Longmeadow Rescue Ranch in Union, Missouri. If your chicken dies, it is against the law to bury your chickens on St. Louis land. Dead chickens should be disposed of through the St. Louis Refuse Division at (314) 647-3111.
What are some of the health concerns that come along with raising chickens and how will they be addressed?
Although there have been some health concerns over keeping backyard chickens, ensuring the health of chickens and their owners is simple as long as certain precautions are taken to prevent disease. In order to protect you and your birds from disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing hands with soap and water after handling poultry or related materials such as food and water dishes or cages. Disease can also be prevented by wearing gloves when cleaning cages and coops. Owners can prevent disease by keeping living spaces clean for chickens, monitoring for signs of sick birds, and contacting professionals for help if they believe a bird is infected. For more information and resources on disease and recommendations, check out this web page.
Chickens, like dogs and cats, may become sick or injured and require veterinary care. Illness in chickens can be caused by fungus and dust spores left as a result of old food or dusty bedding—an important reason to keep chicken coops clean! Signs that your chicken may be ill include: feather discoloration, eye discharge, hunched posture, drooping tail, ruffled feathers, and weak legs. This is not to be confused with molting, when chickens replace their feathers for winter.
Here are a couple of veterinarians in the St. Louis area that see chickens:
- David J. Kersting, D.V.M., 132 Four Seasons Shopping Center (Woods Mill and Olive) Chesterfield, MO 63017, (314) 469-6661
- Tri-City Animal and Bird Clinic, 15646 Manchester Road, Ellisville, MO 63011, (636) 227-4041
- Bayer’s Garden Shop, 3401 Hampton Ave St. Louis, MO 63139, (314) 781-2314 (Feed, hay)
- Cackle Hatchery, 411 West Commercial St. Lebanon, MO 65536, (417) 532-4581 (Chicks)
- Fenton Feed Mill, 412 Water St. Fenton, MO 63026, (636) 343-7272 (2nd location in Grover, MO) (Feed, chicks)
- OK Hatchery, 115 E Argonne Dr Kirkwood MO 63122, (314) 822-0083 (Feed, shavings, feeder, waterer)
- Murray McMurray Hatchery, order pullets online here.
In the City of St. Louis, you may own up to eight total fowl on a residentially zoned parcel, and none of which may be a rooster. Before setting up a coop and flock, it is important to ensure you are in a residential zone. Those in nonresidential zones are not authorized to keep chickens by the new law. Check out this map to find your location’s zoning, or call the City of St. Louis Zoning Section to inquire about your zoning at (314) 622-3666. If you live outside of the City of St. Louis, visit The Easy Chicken for a list of municipalities and relevant ordinances.
In 2017, the St. Louis Board of Alderman passed Board Bill 52 (see Ordinance 70608), which amends, repeals, and enacts several ordinance provisions pertaining to the keeping of fowl in the City of St. Louis to better enable residents to keep fowl and to clarify related regulations and requirements. Board Bill 52 allows City of St. Louis residents to keep up to eight hens or other fowl, depending on the size of their yard.
The City of St. Louis allow residents to keep up to eight chickens on residential parcels, free of permit, so long as the following requirements are met:
1. No roosters are to be kept.
2. One fowl is permitted for every 4 square feet of indoor enclosure and 10 square feet of outdoor enclosure, up to a maximum of eight fowl.
3. A predator-proof coop is to be provided for all fowl, which must be thoroughly ventilated, designed to be easily accessed and cleaned, and of sufficient size as determined by the Health Commissioner to permit free movement of the animals, not to exceed 50 square feet inside the coop.
4. The chickens must have access to an outdoor enclosure, which may or may not be the lot in its entirety. The outdoor enclosure shall be adequately fenced to contain the small animals within the enclosure and to prevent access by dogs and other predators.
5. No coop may be located in a front yard, or closer than 1.5 feet to a property line without a solid fence to separate the lots, or 10 feet from a dwelling on another lot with a solid fence to separate the lots.
6. No fowl are to be unenclosed or able to enter streets or adjoining properties or otherwise be at large at any time.
7. Other minimum standards and regulations as established by the Health Commissioner governing the manner of keeping, raising, and sheltering of fowl are met, and adequate care given.
Your chickens will require a minimum standard of care to be kept, or else be deemed a nuisance or your care inadequate and potentially in violation of animal abuse statutes. The Health Commissioner will promulgate these standards. Expected standards include:
1. Keeping the coop and enclosure clean and sanitary, and maintaining it such that it is free of vermin and adequately protects and contains the animals.
2. Preventing inordinate abundance of flies and other pests around the coop.
3. Controlling odor from the coop and animals.
4. Properly containing and disposing of waste, such as by keeping waste in a fly-proof receptacle while waiting for disposal.
5. Proper disposal of sick or deceased animals through burial or incineration in accordance with federal, state, and local law.
Backyard chickens can provide a multitude of benefits for residents including fresh eggs, natural fertilizer, and pest control. In addition, increasing urban agriculture puts St. Louis on the map as a leader in developing local food systems by supporting residents in growing and/or raising food for themselves and their community.
Minneapolis, Seattle, Dallas, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, and many more cities have passed similar policies. In addition to the City of St. Louis, Missouri’s own Kansas City and Columbia permit keeping backyard chickens.
If you wish to keep more than eight chickens, you must own at least 20,000 square feet of contiguous land and apply for a Small Farm Animal Permit annually, requiring the submission of the name of the applicant, the address for which the permit is sought, the address and telephone number at which the applicant can be contacted, the maximum number of animals which the applicant proposes to keep, a $60 inspection fee, any additional information requested by the Health Commissioner, and submission to an inspection by the Health Commissioner. If approved, the Small Farm Animal Permit allows for an additional chicken per 1,000 square feet of property, up to a maximum of 20 chickens.
It is not permitted to keep chickens in residential front yards (Section 4 Subsection A). This way, birds will be out of sight for neighbors and passers-by. According to a survey research study in the Land Use Policy Journal, 87% of chicken owners had not received any complaints from their neighbors about their birds.
Chickens, as long as they are well-maintained and clean, do not smell any more than any other animal. As long as owners follow basic sanitation and maintenance practices, smell should not be a problem. In addition, chickens tend to be fairly quiet animals compared to barking dogs, noisy traffic, and other typical city sounds.
If a citizen notices a neighbor that is out of compliance with the above sanitary or spatial guidelines, you can call the City of St. Louis Department of Health as violations of this code are considered a public nuisance. Their phone number is (314) 612-5100.
Raising Chickens in Urban Environments. – Hermes, J. Oregon State University, 2013.
Backyards Chickens has more information on coops, feed, and all matters related to raising chickens.