It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but is the definition of a ‘pet’ also in the eye of the beholder?  Associations are now faced with that question when it comes to whether Owners are allowed to keep free range chickens on the property.

It is becoming more common for individuals in urban areas to keep free range chickens. Some people keep them as pets, and others keep the chickens for the perceived benefits, such as free range eggs.

The real question becomes whether the Association’s governing documents allow the Owners to keep the chickens (Associations should also check applicable local ordinances). It really will depend on the specific provisions of the governing documents.  Many governing documents (especially older documents) state that no poultry shall be allowed to be kept/bred on the premises. However, the more difficult question is what happens if the Declaration just states Owners may have ‘household pets.’ Does a free range chicken qualify as a pet? 

A myriad of factors could be taken into account to reach that determination as to whether a free range chicken is a pet; however, absent a specific listing in the Declaration of certain animals that are permitted, it will be difficult to come to a consensus regarding what qualifies as a pet.

Being from rural Missouri, a chicken was most certainly not a pet; rather, a chicken was a farm animal people kept to make a livelihood, and to make dinner.  In fact, many local farmers where I grew up kept free range chickens well before it became trendy, and before the term ‘free range’ was even coined. Moving to Phoenix has not changed my perception of a chicken; however, other people disagree and really consider the chickens to be pets. 

If there is a dispute in your Association regarding chickens, it is best to consult with an attorney to look at the exact language of your governing documents.  However, even if your Association allows chickens, that is not to say the chickens are given ‘free-range’ in the Association (yes, I now recognize that was a bad joke). However, in seriousness, Owners still must adhere to other provisions in the governing documents.  For example, if the chickens make excessive noise or produce strong odors, that could violate the Association’s nuisance provisions.  Additionally, if Owners sell the eggs, that could violation a provision regarding conducting a business from the home.   

While this article may have created more questions than answers, it shows the issue of free range chickens may be more complicated than what was initially thought.  The Firm would be happy to go over your Association’s governing document in more detail to help navigate this issue.

On behalf of the Firm, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. In light of Thanksgiving, I had been thinking poultry and my Thanksgiving turkey (not free range), which was the inspiration for this post!