Backyard fowl may take their place alongside furry friends in homes in unincorporated Hillsborough County as commissioners consider allowing hens on residential property.

By Brad Stager

Unincorporated Hillsborough County has changed dramatically in recent years, evolving from predominantly rural to notably suburban as housing tracts replace farms, but one feature of country living may be coming home to roost on a cul-de-sac near you.

A revision to the county’s land use code allowing hens on residential property is under consideration by the Hillsborough County Commission. The proposed ordinance would allow in total up to five caged hens and pullets to be kept in a backyard. Roosters would not be permitted.

Besides the companionship chickens can offer, supporters of the ordinance tout the food value backyard fowl can provide, especially during an emergency situation. However, slaughtering the birds or selling their eggs on-site are among the recommended restrictions.

The proposal applies to unincorporated Hillsborough County, but for residents living in communities controlled by deed restrictions, what the county ends up allowing still has to fly with local homeowner associations, according to county officials, who cite the authority that HOAs have under Florida law.

“Therefore, the county’s allowance of chickens in residential districts would not prevent HOAs from prohibiting them, through their governing documents and rules, within HOA communities,” reads an emailed comment from the Hillsborough County attorney’s office provided by the county’s media relations office.

The proposed revision is being guided by Commissioner Sandra Murman, who represents District 1. She said having a few chickens around a home has become a beneficial lifestyle trend and that residents in unincorporated areas should have a chance to enjoy it.

“During this time when the commission is dealing with public safety issues, I felt it was a good time to improve the public morale and allow residents to have easy access to eggs that are in high demand. Backyard chickens can provide many benefits to residents, including food security, pest control and companionship,” Murman wrote in an email.

Public hearings about allowing backyard chickens will be held on Thursday, July 23 and Thursday, September 24 at 6 p.m. as the county revises its land development code. Locations and methods (in-person or virtual) for the hearings will be determined closer to the meeting dates due to COVID-19 restrictions.

You can stay informed about meeting updates, including agendas and how to comment, by visiting hillsboroughcounty.org.