Plano residents are one step closer to legally owning backyard chickens after the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a change to city zoning regulations at an Aug. 16 meeting.

The change will align zoning ordinances with city code and is a necessary step in allowing City Council to vote on allowing hens in residential backyards.

Changes made to the city’s residential zoning ordinances include:

  • A minimum square footage of chicken coop and exercise yard based on the number of hens kept;

  • A requirement that chickens coops comply with accessory building code requirements;

  • A requirement that chickens coops comply with the city’s animal enclosure rules, which include distance provisions from neighboring buildings; and

  • The allowance of backyard hen permit-holders to sell their hen’s eggs if owners comply with federal, state and local regulations.

Hens are currently permitted on agricultural properties of at least 1.95 acres in size, according to the city’s Director of Animal Services Jamey Cantrell. Birds, such as peacocks and ducks, would still be prohibited within the city’s residential zones, Cantrell said at the Aug. 16 meeting.

Homeowners associations would still be allowed to forbid chickens in the neighborhoods they regulate, Cantrell said, and roosters would remain prohibited. Determining the gender of a chick could be an issue for residents, he added.

“Unfortunately, you really can't tell the difference between females and males when they're younger. So, a lot of times when people buy what they think are hens, [they] turn out to be roosters later,” Cantrell said. “That creates a whole other issue for us. We will deal with that as we come to it.”

The debate over backyard hens dates back to June 2020, when Cantrell presented an informational report on the potential impact of backyard hens on Animal Services operations. In September, council tabled the discussion until the 2021 budget season.

City staff said a final decision on allowing backyard chickens in Plano will be presented to City Council at a future meeting.