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Can You Keep Chickens in Your Backyard?

Chinese Rooster

I’m sure you’ve seen the odd chicken or two crossing Honolulu’s roads!

Happy Lunar New Year All!

If you’ve been following me, you may recall I did a blog post on my old website (also found here) celebrating last Lunar New Year’s animal, the monkey. It was a post about “Can You Own a Monkey in Hawaii?” Keeping with that theme this post discusses the laws of the City and County of Honolulu related to this Lunar New Year’s animal, the Rooster. Or more precisely, chickens.

Can You Keep Chickens?

This post is limits discussion to the jurisdiction of the City and County of Honolulu (the island of Oahu).  Additionally, the post focuses on residential areas only. If you are raising chickens for commercial purposes you have compliance issues regarding zoning and permitting, which is a different discussion then today’s post.

Nuisance Law

When keeping chickens, the law is not related to the animal itself, but more has to do with the City government’s ability to regulate nuisances. Old English common law had it that when some type of action by a defendant was either causing a substantial and unreasonable interference with people’s use and enjoyment of the land (private nuisance) or the action had a materially affect the reasonable comfort and convenience of life of the people (public nuisance). Flash forward to today, our city government has the ability to regulate nuisances, in our case for this post, Animal Nuisances. You can find it in Chapter 7, Article 2 of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu.

So the laws approach to the situation is to make it unlawful to own poultry, which includes chickens, pigeons, turkeys, geese, ducks and peafowl so long as they are an “animal nuisance”.  See Sec. 7-2.3.

Short answer: yes, you can keep chickens if you are in Honolulu.

Slightly longer answer: yes, you can keep chickens in Honolulu, so long as they are not a nuisance. If they are a nuisance, then you cannot keep them.

So What’s an “Animal Nuisance”?

Article 2 also defines “animal nuisance.” There are three (3) definitions, but I’m going to focus on the first two definitions which is:

  • Makes noise continuously and/or incessantly for a period of 10 minutes or intermittently for one-half hour or more to the disturbance of any person at any time of day or night and regardless of whether the animal, farm animal or poultry is physically situated in or upon private property;
  • Barks, whines, howls, crows, cries or makes any other unreasonable noise as described in Section 7-2.4 (c) of this article;

See Sec. 7-2.2.

So it is clear that a chicken making noise continuously for 10 minutes or intermittently over one-half hour (30 minutes) is a nuisance, but what is that second definition about?

Again, we are now defining another concept, which is what constitutes “unreasonable noise”. Sec. 7-2.4(c) says that:

Noise is unreasonable within the meaning of this article if considering the nature and the circumstances surrounding the animal nuisance, including the nature of the location and the time of the day or night, it interferes with reasonable individual or group activities such as, but not limited to, communication, work, rest, recreation or sleep; or the failure to heed the admonition of a police officer or a special officer of the animal control contractor that the noise is unreasonable and should be stopped or reduced.

What does this Mean for an Owner of a Rooster that cock-a-doodle-doos at 11:00 p.m. in an Apartment Building?

If we consider the nature and the circumstances: (a) it is a building where everyone is close by; (b) the rooster’s noise is at night; and (c) that most people are sleeping at that time; and (d) that the neighbors would likely call the police or animal control personnel. Then the likely outcome is those officials would instruct the owner to have the animal stop. If the owner did not stop the problem, then it would be deemed as “unreasonable noise.” See Sec. 7-2.4. This turns into an “animal nuisance” and then the owner would be prohibited from keeping the rooster.

What Could Happen if you Violate the Law?

Generally, a monetary fine. If you keep stacking offenses within a certain time frame you actually be imprisoned. Additionally, you can be ordered to go to a training program or retain a contractor to help you train the animal to stop the nuisance. Further, such training programs or contractors are paid for by you. See Sec. 7-2.10

How Many Chickens can I Have?

Sec. 7-2.5(d) states that for chickens and peafowl: “The number of chickens or peafowl shall not exceed two per household.”

So yes, while you can keep a couple of chickens in Honolulu residential areas, they better be quiet chickens!

How do I Handle Chicken Noises Bothering Me?

If you have an animal noise complaint for Oahu, then contact the Honolulu Police Department or the Hawaiian Humane Society. The Hawaiian Humane Society recently has started responding to chicken noise complaints: http://www.kitv.com/story/34311091/hawaiian-humane-society-now-responding-to-chicken-noise-complaints

If you want to find more about Honolulu’s Animal Nuisance law, click here.

Thanks again for stopping by and I hope this is a fortuitous and good year for you!

-RKH

DISCLAIMER: This post discusses general legal issues, but does not constitute legal advice in any respect.  No reader should act or refrain from acting based on information contained in this post without seeking the advice of  an attorney in their relevant jurisdiction.  Hew & Bordenave, LLLP expressly disclaims all liability in respect to any actions taken or not taken based on the contents of this post.

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