Denver Backyard Farms


Channel 7, June 4, 2010   Denver Daily News, June 3, 2010   Face The State, June 3, 2010

The Atlantic Monthly, The Future of the City, May 21, 2010

Westword, March 6, 2009  Westword, May 12,2009 Westword, April 29, 2009

This website was created to campaign to change the chicken law in Denver.  The campaign succeeded and the law was changed in June

2011 to allow chickens and goats  For details on the current law click here:



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Denver Backyard Farms

   Denver Backyard Farms was formed in February 2009 to change the livestock laws in Denver.  We have been working on this campaign since then; another sustainable group joined the effort this year.

Update June 25, 2010  Animal Control refuses to release records showing what they do with chickens that are seized.  A Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request was made this spring tto which Animal Control responded several months later, and they refused to release the records showing the fate of these poor animals, mostly seized from poor people who do not have the resources to challenge the City.  Additionally, the CORA request I made sought the permits for existing chicken permit holders, but Animal Control released the permits with the names and addresses of the permit holders redacted (i.e. blacked out)!  THIS MEANS THAT ANIMAL CONTROL CONSIDERS THE IDENTITIES OF THE OWNERS OF CHICKENS TO BE STATE SECRETS. Needless to say there is no exception in CORA for withholding from the public the names and address of chicken owners.


Denver Backyard Farms is part of a movement that is springing up all across America.  This movement is about promoting agriculture in our backyards, our sideyards, our front yards, our vacant lots.  This movement embraces "sustainability," which in this context means using our natural resources wisely and renewably to the greatest extent possible.

More specifically, Denver Backyard Farms promotes the use of food-producing animals in Denver.  Current Denver ordinances allow ownership of chickens, goats, ducks and other animals more commonly found on farms.  However, in order to be permitted to keep these animals under the current ordinances one must follow a Kafkaesque routine of multiple visits to two city agencies, posting notices in your yard, getting approval from your neighbors, having your property inspected, and paying fees of $150.  Annual renewals cost an additional $70 and a renewal application can be denied if a new neighbor moves in who doesn't like you or your chickens or goats.  Consequently, these convoluted procedures present a huge barrier to anyone wishing to have, say, a small clutch of chickens for the eggs or a couple of goats for milk.  Not to mention that these animals make great pets and are fun for the whole family, neighbors, friends and kids all around.

Since we started this campaign we have met and heard from many, many people in Denver who want to help support themselves with the backyard resources they have and with the help of some fun animals.  We have met a few people who have endured the arduous process of getting a permit, and we have met many more who have not, people who are part of the "chicken underground."  We have even met people who have been busted for having chickens.  Just imagine: alcohol is legal, marijuana is (sort of) legal, but having a sweet, quiet, egg-laying hen that provides its owners and his or her neighbors with quality food and helps protect the environment can get you in trouble with the law.

Since we started this campaign we have also done a bit of homework on other cities that allow food-producing animals.  The results will shock you.  New York City, yes, New York City allows them.  Also, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle.  Closer to home there is Lakewood, Arvada and Colorado Springs.  Ft. Collins began allowing them since last year.

Raising food-producing animals in your back yard is desirable for the following reasons:

*    High-quality, fresh, organic (if desired) food supply raised without chemicals.

*    Sustainability: fewer trips to the store and fewer deliveries from agribusiness means less fuel used, less air pollution, and less traffic congestion, i.e. a lower carbon footprint.  Chickens and goats eat your leftovers.  Goats can clean up your weeds, and chickens can also remove weeds and insect pests out of your yard.

*    Fun, fun fun.  Chickens and goats are F-U-N.  Their antics amuse and delight their owners.  Neighbors all want to see them.  Kids love them.  Owning them creates neighborhood.

*    Animal welfare improved.  If you get all your eggs from a half-dozen hens who cavort in your backyard, that is six fewer chickens who will toil in tiny, windowless boxes until their value as producers is spent and they are killed for pet food, never having seen the light of day, a la the Matrix.

Last year, Denver's City Council wisely permitted small-scale beekeeping.  This year, the City of Denver has become aware of the importance of sustainability, and they have a great opportunity to embrace it.  Thus, what with the administration interested in these issues and our elected officials aware of its benefits, we think the time is right for a change in the law that will encourage, rather than discourage, Denver Backyard Farms.


Animals That Are Permitted and Prohibited In Denver

 Ø      You can have as many as three dogs of unlimited size and barking power.  And biting power.  Mastiffs can grow to 190 pounds; Great Danes reach 160 pounds.

Ø      You can have 1,000—or even 10,000—Boa Constrictors or Reticulated Pythons or Anacondas, as long as they are only six feet long.

Ø      You can have as many as 25 pigeons.  Many studies have shown that pigeons represent serious health threats to humans.  A few of the many reports:




Ø      You can have 50,000 or more rats or mice.  No limit whatsoever.

Ø      You can have zero chickens or goats!  A Nigerian Dwarf or African Pygmy goat averages around 18” tall and would be lucky to hit 60 pounds.  They do not bark or threaten passers-by.  But their milk is to die for.  Most standard-sized hens come in at between five and eight pounds and cannot bark, but they can (barely) fly.  But the eggs!!!

It could easily be argued that goats and chickens are far superior even as pets than are cats, dogs, snakes, etc.; it is a simple matter of preference.  But there is no subjectivity at all when such things as environmental impact, public health, safety, value of produce, etc., are considered.  The poop of a chicken is the very best natural fertilizer you can use on your lawn or in your garden.  The poop of a dog is disgusting.  Back yard chicken eggs are superior to anything you can buy in any store.  And they are also superior to pigeon eggs.

It is time to take a good, hard look at the keeping of animals in the City of Denver.  There is a complete lack of common sense and informed action.  We need to change this and stop making the keeping of wonderful, beneficial food producing animals with almost zero negative impact on the environment a criminal act.

Let’s be reasonable and fix this silliness!



From “The Hen: An Appreciation”
E.B. White, 1944

Chickens do not always enjoy an honorable position among city-bred people, although the egg, I notice, goes on and on. Right now the hen is in favor. The war has deified her and she is the darling of the home front, feted at conference tables, praised in every smoking car, her girlish ways and curious habits the topic of many an excited husbandryman to whom yesterday she was a stranger without honor or allure.

Hen with her chicks

Hen with her chicks

My own attachment to the hen dates from 1907, and I have been faithful to her in good times and bad. Ours has not always been an easy relationship to maintain. At first, as a boy in a carefully zoned suburb, I had neighbors and the police to recon with; my chickens had to be as closely guarded as an underground newspaper. Later, as a man in the country, I had my old friends in town to reckon with, most of whom regarded the hen as a comic prop straight out of vaudeville….Their scorn only increased my devotion to the hen. I remained loyal, as a man would to a bride whom his family received with open ridicule. Now it is my turn to wear the smile, as I listen to the enthusiastic cackling of urbanites, who have suddenly taken up the hen socially and who fill the air with their newfound ecstasy and knowledge and the relative charms of the New Hampshire Red and the Laced Wyandotte. You would think, from their nervous cries of wonder and praise, that the hen was hatched yesterday in the suburbs of New York, instead of in the remote past in the jungles of India.



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Last updated: 01/19/12.