Pittsburgh Urban Farming Code Reform
These days, Pittsburgh is topping charts of all kinds. And across the city, organizations are popping up with the goal of making Pittsburgh more progressive. Urban forestry, biking lanes, revitalizing empty lots, beekeeping, schoolyard gardens. And chicken-keeping. But not everyone is on board with "greening up" our city.

While the keeping of livestock has always been going on in urban centers, it went out of style for awhile until the recent organic/local food movement. We new-wave urban chicken-keepers had been operating under the radar, being covered by existing animal and nuisance ordinances, until February 2010 when Pittsburgh City Council decided to create new ordinances related to urban agriculture - specifically chickens, bees, and market produce. When a restrictive and expensive draft of codes was announced, Pittsburgh urban-farmers flooded City Council in protest. Groups stepped forward to offer their help revise the language of the new ordinance. Grow Pittsburgh dealt with gardening. Burgh Bees took on beekeeping. And two new groups emerged to work on the poultry and larger-livestock codes. That's us! After submitting code revisions based on our collective expertise, the city passed the codes in February of 2011 without taking our input. To add insult to injury, they put out a press release announcing that the City of Pittsburgh "supports" urban agriculture. The code requires a yard of at least 2,000 square feet, which in Pittsburgh isn't easy to have. On a lot this size, only three chickens may be kept. With each additional 1,000 square feet, another chicken can be added. In addition, to have chickens, bees, or livestock, or to grow any fruits or vegetables destined for the farmer's market, you must apply for a variance, have signs posted on your property, attend a hearing, and pay over $275 in applications and fees. Of the urban farmers who have stepped up in good faith (and in complete compliance), most have been denied.

If the City started requiring people to get permission from their neighbors to keep a cat, charging homeowners $275 to plant daffodils, or increasing dog registration to $274, there would be an outrage. Yet, ironically, it is the improper care of these other animals that truly can cause noise violations and, on a weekly basis, send people to the hospital from bite injuries. Why should it cost $10 to keep an animal of leisure and $275 to keep an animal that is also useful? The idea that pets are okay and livestock aren't is based on an outdated prejudice against the agricultural class.

We are not against all regulations. On the contrary, we are a group who is concerned with the welfare of our animals. We want them to be healthy and happy and have space to roam. (In fact, reducing the number of hens kept in battery cages on factory farms is one of the main reasons many of us started keeping chickens!) And we want to avoid rogue spray-painted rooster situations like the one that happened on the CMU campus. But we feel that the pet, noise, and animal welfare codes that are currently in place are adequate. We in no way support the notion of applying for a variance to keep food-producing animals.

Keeping poultry is not a hobby for us. We are serious about wanting to ethically raise our own food. For a legislative body to deny its citizens their food sovereignty is nothing short of a violation of our rights.

As the codes come up for review, we will again be at the forefront of the debate. We ask for your support. Please contact your representative and tell them to stop holding back Pittsburgh's progress and to stop restricting our right to raise our own food.

Stay updated in our What's New section.

See the full code here - 912.07.B Urban Agriculture
More details here - Legislative Information Center
We do not recommend applying for the variance until the code has been revised.

*Where chickens are outlawed, only outlaws will keep chickens*

Pittsburgh's Urban Agriculture Ordinance Debate in the News

Some Suburbanites Battling for Right to Raise Chickens on their Properties
Pittsburgh Trib (July 10, 2013)


Urban Agriculture Zoning in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (2012)

New Law Makes Buffy-the-Wormslayer Legal, Lets Attorney Show Off $1,200 Coop with Auto Door-Opener
ABAJOURNAL (August 2, 2011)

City Establishes Rules for Urban Farms
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (February 8, 2011)

Pittsburgh Urban Farming Ordinance Passes City Council
The Allegheny Front (February 2, 2011)

Urban Agriculture Zoning Code
Grow Pittsburgh (February 1, 2011)

Pittsburgh’s New Agricultural Zoning Ordinance
Green Sinner (February 1, 2011) 

Down on the Urban Farm
Edible Allegheny


Urban Ag Zoning Ordinances for Pittsburgh
Local Food Systems (March 30, 2010) 

Pittsburgh Officials May Rein in Urban Agriculture
TribLive (March 1, 2010)

Proposed Zoning Ordinance Could Create Changes for Urban Agriculture
POP City (February 17, 2010)

Planning Board Hearing All Abuzz Over Birds and Bees
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (February 17, 2010)

Proposed Pittsburgh Agriculture Ordinance Ruffles Some Feathers
the Allegheny Front (February 10, 2010)

Ordinance Changes Bother Keepers of Bees, Chickens
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (February 8, 2010)

City of Pittsburgh Ag Zoning Hearing
yumpittsburgh (February 2010)

Public Hearing for Proposed City of Pgh Ag Zoning Ordinance
yumpittsburgh (February 2010)

A Couple of Examples of Common Sense Livestock Laws
Sedwick, Maine
North-Western Village in France
Cleveland Heights (though still too much procedure)

More Urban Farming Ordinances Resources
Examples of Other Cities' Ordinances (scroll down)
Land Stewardship Project
What Else We Do