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

The Board of County Commissioners in September approved changes that allow people to have backyard chickens in residential neighborhoods. According to Hillsborough County’s Todd Pratt, the chickens must be kept in enclosed coops at all times, a maximum of five hens are allowed and roosters are not permitted. There are restrictions on the height and size of the coop and on-site slaughtering and egg sales are not permitted.

“The changes do not supersede deed restrictions,” said Pratt. “So if a neighborhood has deed restrictions that don’t allow chickens, you still can’t have chickens in those neighborhoods.”

Original story printed July 2020.

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.

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.

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