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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: http://www.denverurbanhomesteading.com/new_page_3.htm



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Applied for permit but it got lost in the cracks!

Report from Denverite June 13, 2009I am a Spanish language translator for the courts.  Often I translate cases where the Mexican or Latin defendants were busted for having chickens.  They are totally unable to comprehend why it would be a problem to have chickens.

Report for Denverite June 12, 2009: I called 311 a year ago and asked if I could have chickens.  The agent at 311 told me that in my zone district I could have up to ten chickens without a permit.  I got the chickens and a year later got busted when an Animal Control officer happened to come in the yard when our dog got out.

Report from Denverite June 7, 2009:  A woman who works at the Zoning desk told me that I must get a new permit every time I move my chicken tractor.  [A chicken tractor is a small coop on wheels that is moved, usually daily, so that the hens can scratch, eat grass and insects and fertilize a different section of the lawn every day.  It is essentially a sustainability machine.]

Report from Denverite on May 24, 2009:  We are four families whose backyards join, and we all agreed to get chickens and keep them so we could all have access to them and their eggs.  We called the city and were told we could only have chickens in agricultural zones our near DIA.  Then we called again and got a different answer.  Finally we figured it out and we applied to Animal Control in March, and their inspector came out to the site.  Two months later, having heard nothing, we tried to contact them but they never return phone calls.  Finally we found out that they lost our paperwork and we have to apply all over again!

Report from Denverite May 14, 2009: I got approved through Animal Control and then went on to Zoning.  Zoning wanted a minor change to the Animal Control approval letter.  Since Animal Control never returns phone calls I had to go down there and they said that they do not change their approval letters.  I begged and pleaded but they said no.  I was caught in a bureaucratic nightmare!  Even Zoning couldn't get them to change the letter.  Finally, sensing my exasperation, Zoning relented and accepted the letter.

Report from Denverite May 9, 2009: I applied to Animal Control for chickens in January and they told me I must now wait for Zoning to contact me.  Oh, what, you mean Zoning is not going to contact me and I have to contact them?  [Said this woman after speaking to James Bertini of this website.] Darn, I wasted four months due to this misinformation.

Capitol Hill Chicken Owner - Busted!

Last spring I was working at a house up in Golden that had a small chicken coop with four hens in the backyard.  I couldn't believe it, right there in the middle of town.  By the time I left that house, the idea of raising chickens at our Capitol Hill home was firmly planted in my mind.  Every spare moment of the next few months were spent reading about how to properly raise city chickens.  I understood that some type of permit was going to be necessary but my attempts to find accurate information on the process were generally answered with an "I'm not sure" and that I needed to call a different department who would then tell me to call the department who referred me to them the first time.  No one seemed to know or care to help out with the process.   I later met a family in a nearby neighborhood with a few chickens and knew of several other households who also had unpermitted chickens.  They proudly referred to themselves as the Underground Chicken Society.  So against our better judgment, we decided to go ahead and get three one week old chicks and see how it went. 

While the chicks were living in our house we began making the hens' outdoor living arrangements.  We wanted to make the best possible environment for the birds, and also wanted to be sure it was as nice to look at as it was functional.  The coop was modestly sized and carefully painted, and we constructed a cedar pergola to enclose the coop for a nicely sized run.  By now most of the neighbors were excited to see the chickens move into their new home.  Unfortunately it was only "most" of the neighbors, not all of them.  I soon learned that it only takes one unhappy person to drown out the voices of support from all the others.  Emails from the owner of the house two doors down began to roll in, expressing concern over "infectious disease," "airborne illness" and the threat the chickens pose to the "life savings of everyone in the neighborhood" implying there would be diminished property values.  Forwarded articles cited rampant disease from the manure of chickens, problems with out-of-control dust carrying viruses and the widespread slaughtering of infected poultry in Hong Kong.  I attempted to reason with her, explaining the odds of catching bird flu in a small backyard set up is virtually non existent and that the reason we were setting up this backyard organic farm in the first place was to remove ourselves from the industries that lead to the conditions she described.

Two days later, I got a knock on the door from a city code enforcement officer.  He checked out the chickens and told me that the city's laws are a little vague and he would have to get back to me after he had a chance to figure it out for himself.  A few days later he contacted us with how the situation would have to play out.  He first said that it could be legal to have chickens and that he would help us to get the proper permit but the chances of it being approved were slim based on the fact that the complaining neighbor would likely interfere and I would be probably be better off saving my money.  I knew there was no chance of reasoning with my unhappy neighbor so I told him that I understood and would make arrangements to find the chickens another home.  He finished by saying that if I really wanted to keep some birds, I could have up to 25 pigeons with no permit required.  I was tempted, however, as spiteful as I felt toward my neighbor, I really didn't want to keep pigeons.  We were lucky to find a home for the chickens quickly through the owner of the Front Range Feed & Supply store in Louisville where I had been buying my supplies.  Now all that remains of our chickens are the pink plastic flamingos that stand as a memorial.  I know we'll never have chickens of our own as long as the city's regulations remain as they are, but as the movement grows perhaps the opinions will change and we can all have our own, legal, backyard farms.  In the meantime I'm glad to report the Underground Chicken Society is growing and there's even a small flock just a block away with no signs of avian flu, dust bowls or diminished property values to report.


City says site plan required for chicken coop!

James, I will be happy to help with your chicken law efforts. Yesterday I was able to file for my zoning exception and I have the big neon pink sign to post. I was pleased to see that the sign only has to be posted for 10 days ( with 30 days allowed for written protests). I am planning on a chicken ark that we are going to move around our garden beds. When I was at zoning, I had to file a "site plan" showing exactly where the chickens would be kept and I was told that officially, every time I moved the chickens, I would need to come and file a new site plan. Yikes!-Really, for a 4'x8'x42" structure? Eventually, I'd like a more permanent and larger coop as well as more than 4 hens but I figured I'll wait until we get the regulations changed.

I did get letters of support from my abutting neighbors and one neighbor was excited and offered to help build the coop and babysit the hens when we're gone. We have one busybody in our neighborhood who lives in the next block who may raise a fuss but I don't really think she has much of a case. She's the main reason that I'm bothering with the whole permitting business because I'm sure she would report the hens once she found out about them.

I have emailed Sundari a couple of times and she's been helpful and I've followed your posts on the backyard chicken forum. Our yard could certainly be considered both a back and frontyard farm as we really don't have any grass and the front yard is usually used to grow tomatoes or squash. I am working on getting bees and should have a hive active by this summer. I don't know how much you talked to my husband but he is very active in Slow Food Denver and their school garden efforts and the farm to cafeteria project which I think ties in nicely with your efforts.

I look forward to working with you and please let me know when you're having meetings.


cell-303 xxxxxxxxxxx -better to email me first or text, I'm a surgeon and often during the day I can't answer the phone.

PS-Your Earthdog park looks really interesting-we have a Portuguese water dog who I think would love some time in the pool. We'll have to check it out once the weather gets warmer.


Family with permitted animals forced out of Denver!

 (Constructed from interview with James Bertini March 27, 2009)

My name is Susan and I lived with my husband Kevin and our two small children in Denver.  I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband is a financial planner.  In 2003 we applied for a permit to have two potbellied pigs.  In order to get the permit, we needed to obtain the approval of our neighbors and we got it.

More than a year later, after the pigs were part of our family and our children were attached to them, one of our neighbors had some kind of issue with my husband.  This neighbor called Animal Control to complain that our pigs were over the 60 pound weight limit imposed by our permit, which was not true and the neighbor had no way of knowing this.

An officer from Animal Control came to the house and said he had to weigh our pigs based on a complaint.  But he had no scale and did not weigh the pigs.  However, he looked at them and judged them to be below the limit and he left.

And then, EVERY SINGLE MONTH the same thing happened.  Each time an officer with a uniform and badge came to the house to inspect the pigs.  I had to explain to my small children the reason that these officers were coming to the house to check on the pigs.  Naturally the kids worried that someday the officers could take the pigs away.

Finally, my husband and I decided this continual harassment was a quality of life issue and we sold our house and moved to Lakewood.

Last changed: 01/19/12

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Last updated: 01/19/12.