Chickens have come to roost in Houston. "They are treated as pets, and then some," admits chicken-owner, Kathryn Pait. "They are spoiled rotten."
Pait, a Woodland Heights resident, is one of a growing number of Houstonians who are spreading the eco-gospel of urban chicken ownership. They describe chickens as a fun and feathery part of an environmental, self-reliant lifestyle: the eggs produce food, the manure makes wonderful fertilizer and helps in composting, and the birds provide pest control and companionship.
Yes, it is legal to keep chickens in Houston, if you follow the rules.
The coop must be at least 100 feet from the nearest neighbor's house. The chickens must be enclosed by a fence; they cannot run around loose. And 30 chickens is the limit, unless you have an unusually large lot.
Yet even as the new converts build coops for their Ameraucanas or Rhode Island Reds, other Houstonians are finding that chicken-ownership is under siege. Conflicts over chickens seem to be growing in Houston, even as more residents are proclaiming the multiple benefits of backyard flocks.
"It is a culture clash with a lot of people who are used to a more rural lifestyle," says Vincent Medley, an operations manager of the city's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care.
"People who are moving in are clashing with the older residents," says Kent Robertson, chief of BARC. "The noise is definitely the thing that gets them busted."
Poultry enforcement in Houston is strictly complaint-driven.
Last year, BARC logged more than 800 complaints about chickens — almost triple the number of complaints from a decade ago.