To help support food security in the Halifax Region, you can now keep hens in your backyard. If you are interested in the keeping of hens or already have hens, please review the information below carefully. This page contains information on the land-use rules for keeping hens in residential settings, information on the care, health, safety, and animal welfare, and voluntary registration. If you are new to keeping hens, please review the information below PRIOR to getting hens.
- Review the rules for keeping backyard chickens
If you live outside the Regional Centre Plan Area the land-use rules for keeping your chickens are as follows:
• The maximum number of hens permitted is based on lot area as follows:
o a maximum of 10 hens on lots less than 4,000 square metres in size;
o a maximum of 15 hens on lots 4,000 square metres and over but less than 6,000 square metres in size;
o a maximum of 20 hens on lots 6,000 square metres and over but less than 10,000 square metres in size;
o a maximum of 25 hens on lots 10,000 square metres or greater in size;
• The hens must be adults - chickens cannot be raised from chicks on-site;
• Hens must always be contained within a coop or fence;
• The coop or fence must be
o located in a rear yard;
o setback a minimum of 20 metres from watercourses;
o setback a minimum of 1 metre from property lines;
o meet any other regulations for accessory structures in the local land use by-law
• Roosters and other types of birds are not permitted; and
• Selling eggs, meat or hens and slaughtering on-site are not permitted.
If you live inside the Regional Centre Plan Area the rules for keeping your chickens are the same with the following exceptions:
• A maximum of 10 hens are permitted per lot regardless of size;
• There is no required setback from property lines; and
• The sale of eggs and meat is permitted, subject to provincial health and safety requirements.
This list is for information purposes only. Before acquiring hens, you must review the detailed requirements in your local land-use By-law. You may use Explore HRM to help determine your lot area based on your address or Property Identification Number (PID).
- Caring for the health and safety of your backyard hen
After you have read the land-use By-law requirements, it’s now time to learn how to care for hens. We recommend the following materials :
• Getting Started: Chicken Care Info Sheet
• How to prevent and detect disease in backyard flocks and pet birds
• Small Flock Poultry in Nova Scotia
• The Five Freedoms: Humane Considerations
• Other Links and Resources
Please note that while selling eggs and meat is permitted within the Centre Plan area, a Public Market Vendor Permit is required from the Province of Nova Scotia by any person selling eggs and by any person selling meat at a market. Meat processing must be done by a licensed abattoir. View Small Flock Poultry in Nova Scotia for more information.
Consider taking a free workshop on chicken keeping. Halifax Chicken Keepers are a non-profit chicken keeping group in the Halifax area offering a free, one day workshop on backyard chicken keeping. The course includes the following introductory topics:
-Day-to-day care of a flock;
-Essential elements of a chicken coop and run;
-Keeping your flock safe from predators;
-Health and safety;
-Local By-laws regarding the keeping of chickens
Please note this course is NOT provided by or affiliated with the Halifax Regional Municipality.
- Development Permits
While a permit for the chickens is not required, a development permit is required for an accessory structure – this includes a chicken coop. If the accessory structure is less than 20 square metres (215 square feet) only a development permit is required. If the structure is more than 20 square metres (215 square feet) a construction permit is required.
The accessory structure must meet the accessory building requirements of your local land-use By-law and be setback 1 metre from property lines if you are outside the Regional Centre Plan Area. Please contact 311 if you need assistance with understanding the regulations. You can now apply for permits online.
- Register your hens
A permit or license is not required to keep chickens, but the municipality asks that you voluntarily register your hens. Registration is fast, easy & free! Why take the time to register your hens? It helps the municipality track the number of hens, facilitates information exchange and informs future By-law amendments.
Register Your Hens: Backyard Hens Registration Form
- Where are hens permitted and why?
Hens are permitted in all parts of the municipality as an accessory use to residential uses. This is based on the growing interest in hen-keeping, and to support local food security.
- How long do chickens live? How long do they lay eggs? How many eggs do they lay?
Chickens typically live about as long as a dog – roughly 12-14 years. They begin laying eggs at 6 months old, peak at 18 months and decline thereafter with age. The older the hen, the fewer eggs they will lay until, eventually, they will lay none. During peak production, they will lay about one egg per day.
- How much does it cost to raise chickens?
A detailed cost breakdown is difficult to provide given each situation will be unique. But consider the following costs when setting up for your backyard flock:
• Coop: building materials and startup costs, maintenance, tools, cleaning, equipment, heating/cooling, nets, food storage, scale, fencing, locks, lighting
• Supplies: food, bedding, supplements, treats, cleaning supplies
• Care: veterinary costs including exam fees, diagnostics, travel, medications and illness or injury. When the birds die or must be euthanized the fees can be high to properly dispose of them.
Include these items in a cost estimate when preparing for your backyard flock.
- What is the time investment? What are the implications for my vacation and travel?
Budget a minimum of 1 hour per day taking into account the tasks required to care for the chickens such as coop cleaning, parasite control, grooming, time to purchase supplies, construction, coop repair, medications, feeding and water and collecting eggs.
Hens must be cared for at least twice daily with water replacements, feeding and any other care.
The time investment must be carefully considered in the context of travel, such as vacation time or business trips. Consider who will look after your chickens when you are away. Consider important contacts they will need to have in case something goes wrong, and information they may need such as medications.
- Where should chicken coops be located on a lot?
Coops should be in a spot where the chickens can choose between shade and direct sun at different times of the day, it should have good drainage and consider wind patterns and runoff into neighbouring properties. Locate coops a minimum of 20 metres away from wells and other potable water sources. Review your local land use By-law for setback requirements.
- Will the chickens attract other animals?
Yes. It is vitally important that feed be properly stored in sealed in animal-proof containers and ideally be kept indoors. Mice and rats are attracted to feed. Coyotes, racoons, foxes, cats, and other predators will attempt to gain access to the coop. Even humans may tamper with a coop. Ensure it is properly built to withstand their attempts. Locks are recommended for coop entrances.
- How do I transport chickens to the vet? Can I leave chickens in the car?
You can transport chickens much in the same way you would a cat or small dog. A medium-sized pet carrier will do. To reduce stress, offer a moist treat such as cucumber or greens. Just as you wouldn’t with your children or pets, do not leave chickens in a car in the summer. The heat stress can kill them, and it is inhumane to do so.
- Should I quarantine new hens?
Yes. If you intend to add new hens to your existing flock it is recommended to quarantine them away from the other hens for a minimum of 14 days, and up to 30 days, to ensure no diseases are introduced. Monitor new hens for signs of infection.
- How do chickens typically behave? Are chickens social? Do they need companions?
Chickens spend time grazing, looking for food and relaxing. Hens will sometimes nap on the ground in a shallow depression if they are comfortable with the area. When the weather is fair, they will spend daytime outdoors, and return to the coop around dusk to roost. If a tree is present within their enclosure, they may try to roost in the tree. They play, dig holes, take dust baths, and clean one another.
Chickens are social animals and can become depressed without companionship. It is recommended a minimum of two chickens are always kept together for this reason. They are intelligent and can form lifelong bonds with each other, other animals and humans, and can recognize one other.
- Where can I take my chicken for veterinary care?
There are a limited number of veterinarians within HRM and the surrounding communities that care for chickens. Given the limited capacity for veterinary care, it is recommended that you conduct research on which vets can accept chickens before purchasing your flock. Forming a relationship with your vet to maintain regular care of your chickens is advised.
- How can I slaughter my chickens? What should I do when a chicken dies at my property?
Slaughtering and euthanizing chickens is not permitted on your property. Contact a licensed abattoir for slaughtering and preparation services. Sick or injured chickens can be euthanized by a veterinarian.
If a chicken dies from natural or other causes while at your property it can be taken to certain veterinarians in HRM that can dispose of it, or a pet crematory. Chickens are considered “non-collectable waste” and cannot be collected in the garbage, green bin, or blue bags.
Ensure you know where to dispose of a dead chicken, or how to slaughter chickens off-site before you begin your flock.
- How can I find the size of my lot? How many chickens can I keep?
You can find your lot area using ExploreHRM by searching your address. Once you know your lot area, you can determine the amount of chickens permitted by checking your local land use By-law or refer to the municipality’s hen website for information.
- Do these rules apply to me if I live in a zone that already permits fowl, or other animals?
Any residential property is eligible to have hens as an accessory use. Properties already zoned for agricultural uses, such as keeping fowl, may continue to use those permitted uses and follow the requirements of those zones. These changes do not impact zones that already permit hens.
- I rent my property. Can I keep hens?
Yes, but consult with the property owner prior to acquiring any hens.
- Can I sell meat or eggs on my property?
Selling meat or eggs is not permitted outside the Regional Centre Plan Area.
Please note that while selling eggs and meat is permitted within the Regional Centre Plan Area, a Public Market Vendor Permit is required from the Province of Nova Scotia by any person wishing to sell eggs and by any person selling meat at a market. Meat processing must be done by a licensed abattoir. Please see Small Flock Poultry in Nova Scotia for more information.
- I already have more hens than allowed by the accessory hen provisions – what do I do?
If you are in a zone that permits agricultural uses, and you meet the requirements of the zone, you may keep your existing chickens. If you do not live within a zone that permits agricultural uses, but you have a valid permit for your hens, you may keep them. If you live in a zone that does not permit agricultural uses, and you do not have an existing permit, you will have to meet the requirements of the accessory hen provisions and reduce the number of hens you keep.
- What can be done about noise or chickens-at-large? What about smells and mess?
Noise is regulated under the noise By-law. Chickens must be always kept in a coop or fenced area and are not permitted to roam or “free range”. These items can be enforced by the municipality – call 311 to report noise or chickens-at-large.
Smell and mess could fall under “dangerous and unsightly premises” to constitute an enforceable offence but would typically need to be quite serious. In most cases, it is best to discuss these concerns with your neighbour. We encourage these concerns to be reported through 311 for potential action and to inform future By-law changes.
- Do I need to register my hens?
Registration is not required. However, the municipality asks that you register your hens to assist us in assessing the impact of permitting hens in residential areas and for future By-law changes and improvements. This will also allow communication between the municipality and hen keepers for future By-law changes, or information sharing.
- I want to ask a question or report a concern.
Please call 311 with questions or concerns. Animal welfare concerns are the jurisdiction of the SPCA and should be reported to them directly.