Backyard Chicken Laws in Maryland

backyard chicken

Backyard chickens are are a lot of fun! They are great for healthy, fresh eggs. Backyard chickens make fun pets, are great for reducing food waste, and can help with gardening.

Backyard chicken laws in Maryland have been changing, and more and more counties and cities are allowing backyard chickens.

If you are interested in getting your own backyard chickens, here you can find out if your area allows them and what you have to do to follow the laws.

Maryland Chicken Laws

While whether you can keep chickens depends on your county and city ordinances, the Department of Agriculture in Maryland also requires that you register your chickens.

On the MDA site, they go into more detail about how to register, how to notify them if you have a sick bird, and how to sell eggs or poultry.

Registering your flock is important to help limit the spread of poultry diseases in Maryland. You may only have a few chickens, but you don’t want to endanger others.

Maryland doesn’t prohibit backyard chickens, but your county and city that have the final word. Start with your county codes first, then see if your city is on board as well.

County and City Chicken Laws

Every county in the Baltimore Foodshed has some stance on backyard chickens. Attitudes and laws have been changing lately, often for the better. If you aren’t allowed backyard chickens, work to change the chicken laws in Maryland.

Where I live, with my lot of 16K square feet, I can have 6 hens. A few years ago the laws said just 4. And a few years before that, it was none unless I had at least 40K square feet.

If you don’t like what you learn about chicken laws in your area, look for others in the community that are trying to change the laws. You may find like minded people that you can work with!

Anne Arundel County Chicken Laws

Anne Arundel County allows backyard chickens for residents that have lots that are at least 10,000 square feet in size (0.23 acres). They have a comprehensive pdf that outlines who can have chickens, and what you have to do to comply and get your chicken license.

If your yard is less than 10K square feet, no chickens for you. But 10-15K can have 4, and 15-20K can have 6 hens. Once you have 20K square feet of space, you can also have ducks, or up to 8 hens.

For your backyard chickens, AAC requires they be secured in a coop and run area, and the coop must be 25 feet away from lot lines and dwellings.

You must get your chicken license before getting your chickens, and no roosters are permitted. The permit is $30 and valid for 3 years.

Annapolis has it’s own set of chicken laws, distinct from Anne Arundel’s. Their permit application is a bit more intensive but there are no rules about how big your property has to be to have your backyard chickens.

In Annapolis, you have to get neighbor approval and pay $100 for the inspection and permit fee. Their municipal code says you can have up to 5 chickens regardless of lot size.

Baltimore County Chicken Laws

If you don’t have at least 40K square feet (nearly an acre) of land, you can’t have chickens in Baltimore County. However, as with other Maryland counties, there has been a push to change the rules.

If you live in Baltimore County, the tide may be turning just as it has in other counties in the last few years. Talk with your neighbors and see what you can do to change your chicken laws. If the city is so generous with their chicken laws, why isn’t the county?

Baltimore City Chicken Laws

Baltimore City has some very liberal chicken laws! None of that 10K square feet for them. Nope, if you live in Baltimore City, you can have 4 hens if you have less than 2K square feet!

In fact, you can have up to 10 hens if your yard is bigger. They add 1 hen per 1000 square feet of land over 2K. If you are an urban agricultural enterprise, you can get a permit to have more chickens.

Your coop must be 15 feet from any residence. You need a permit ($80), and must register your birds with the Maryland Department of Agriculture. No roosters.

Carroll County Chicken Laws

Carroll County does not have clear chicken laws available as the other counties do. The best I could find was the county code and a 2010 declaration on chickens by the head of the zoning office.

It looks like houses on lots of 20K square feet or more are allowed agricultural usage, based on county codes. Though agricultural usage is not defined for poultry in particular, it does say “poultry husbandry”.

The final page of this document is the 2010 declaration of the current zoning administrator of Carroll County.

It indicates that lots of less than 1 acre can have up to 6 chickens. It sounds like as long as your neighbors aren’t complaining, you should be fine to keep chickens. Keep your neighbors happy!

Frederick County Chicken Laws

Frederick County does allow chickens, as long as you have at least 2,500 square feet of land. For every 500 square feet, you can have 1 chicken, up to 6 in total. No roosters.

You must have a single family home or a duplex, as townhomes or multifamily dwellings cannot have chickens.

Keep your coop 10 feet away from your property line, and only free range your birds if you have a 4 foot fence to keep them in.

The City of Frederick has the same rules as the County. However, they require a chicken license as well. Everything is clearly spelled out as to what you need to do to get your chicken license.

Harford County Chicken Laws

Harford County, like Carroll, doesn’t have a clear stance on chickens. However, what I could find was negative. The county itself says only ag use when you have 2 acres or more of land. And some news articles show that people have lost chickens in Bel Air and Aberdeen.

Though currently Bel Air says no farm animals for lots under 2 acres, as of 2015 they are trying to change the laws.

Aberdeen has recently changed it’s stance on chickens, which may help push Harford a bit. As of August 2020, backyard chickens are allowed in Aberdeen. No more than 6 chickens for lots up to half an acre in size.

Aberdeen has rules about coops on their site. Chickens are allowed for zones R1, R2, R3, and RO, meaning lots with at least 5,000 square feet can have chickens.

Howard County Chicken Laws

Howard County allows chickens, as spelled out in the municipal code, 128.0.D. If you have a single family detached house with a lot of 10K square feet or more, you can have up to 8 hens.

The code further spells out where you must put your coop (15 feet from lot lines, 50 feet from a neighbor’s house). Chickens must stay on the property. No roosters.

Montgomery County Chicken Laws

Montgomery County doesn’t ban chickens at all, just roosters. They do tell you to keep your coop 25 feet from lot lines and 100 feet from neighboring houses. However, cities in Montgomery County have more rules.

Rockville says you can have only 5 hens at a single family home, and no roosters. You can’t have chickens if you live in a townhouse. You must have a permit to keep chickens.

Gaithersburg says your chickens must be 30 feet from houses, 5 feet from lot lines, and no more than 6 chickens unless 200 feet from neighboring homes.

There are a lot of towns and cities in Montgomery County. Though the county may be chicken friendly, you should check your local ordinances before getting chickens!

Prince George’s County Chicken Laws

PG County is not at all clear on chickens. Though interestingly, the municipal code does spell out whether you can keep racing pigeons or not.

The City of Bowie summarizes what the code says for PG. Basically, if you have a lot of 20K square feet or less, you need a special permit from the County Planning Board.

In 2020, Hyattsville started working on a measure to allow chickens. They admit it would be a legal gray area because PG restricts chickens to lots half an acre in size or more, but would petition the county to change the rules.

Perhaps soon we will see PG County allowing chickens, or at least a clearer stance on backyard chickens.

Chicken Rescue

One of the fun things found when searching for chicken laws in Maryland was information about rescuing chickens rather than buying them.

Annapolis’s chicken site links to rescue sites and other places that adopt out chickens that need a home. Though chickens may not lay as many eggs as they age, they may still be a great fit for your home!

Conclusion

If you want to get chickens, learning more about your County’s stance on them is a great place to start. Depending on where you live, you may want to look at your local town or city’s laws as well. And, of course, if you live in an HOA neighborhood you may not be able to get chickens either.

Even if chickens are legal for you, keep your neighbors happy! Keep your coop and chicken area clean and smelling good. Offer up some of your eggs. The happier your neighbors are, the more likely other municipalities will start allowing chickens.

Chicken laws in Maryland are not uniform, but at least more and more municipalities are legalizing backyard chickens.