About Billings Backyard Hen Initiative

Hundreds of progressive cities across the United States (and Canada, and the UK…) have legalized “Urban Chickens” in the past few years… however, in Montana, where cattle outnumber humans 3 to 1 and there are less than one million citizens in the 4th largest state in the nation, Billings is still behind the times. Most of the time, we like it that way.

But with the rising costs of fuel, rising concerns over organic foodstuffs, and growing interest in sustainability, the issue of backyard hens has come up with increasing frequency in the Magic City.

The Billings Backyard Hen Initiative is a group of local citizens and families interested in changing current Billings city code and permit the responsible keeping of a limited number of backyard hens within city limits, and to help educate and support urban chicken keepers within the area.

We would like to see Billings join:

Bozeman ~ Kalispell ~ Missoula ~ Whitefish ~ Helena ~ Livingston ~ Manhattan ~ Havre ~ Anaconda ~ Miles City

and allow citizens to Get Our Hens On!! 

Won’t you join us?


10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Cynthia C. on May 24, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Oops! Thought I could justify my two hens as “pets.” Have had them for two years, in the city limits, and no complaints. I am concerned that I am only about 8-10 feet from the neighbor’s garage walls, so I might be subject to a distance requirement, even though the neighbors are supportive. Having moved from previous cities that allowed city chickens, I am in support of legalizing my brood. Thanks for the good work!


    • Hi there!

      The way the ordinance we are requesting states, the distance limitation only applies to occupied structures. A garage should be exempt! As long as your neighbors don’t mind, there should not be a problem.

      Thanks for your interest and support!!


  2. Posted by Lori on May 29, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I have had my hens for 3 years. No problems with neighbors. I am concerned that my set up won’t pass for a permit if coop has to be a certain distance from property line since mine is a permanent structure that is on cement slab. Only 3 feet from fence.


    • That’s great news about your lack of problems with neighbors! Obviously you’re doing everything right.

      Upon more discussion with people and hearing their concerns, we changed our request with the city of Billings to follow what Missoula’s ordinances require instead of the initial set of ordinances. Missoula adopted measures from Fort Collins, CO that worked very well for them, and those particular ordinances have become a model for other cities. Those ordinances do not require a property line distance. As many Billings homes were built with smaller backyards, lot-line requirements are onerous.

      I am reposting the requested ordinances this morning. Please consider joining the task force!! We would love to visit with you re: your setup! 🙂


  3. Posted by Dawn on May 30, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    Thank you for putting all of this together! My husband and I have been wanting to get some chickens in our backyard, but knew we weren’t allowed by city law. I hope they will consider the advantages of allowing chickens. Actually all the neighborhood dogs would be noisier than some chickens! Keep up the good work!


  4. Thanks, Dawn! Boy I hear you about the dogs! 🙂 It’s definitely going to take ALL of us getting involved… but I think we’re gaining some ground with support as more people find out about this. We would love to have you guys join us!


  5. Posted by Jamie on January 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I have 3 hens & may be transferring to Billings in the near future…I won’t be leaving my ladies behind! I helped pass our chicken ordinance here in Severance, CO. It took 2 meetings with the city council with no problems. Hope your luck changes soon! LMK if I can do anything from Colorado!


    • Sounds great! Please check out our Facebook page at Billings Backyard Hen Initiative. We’ve got another group in town, Magic City Hens, a non-profit 501(c)3 for education and support of urban hens – http://MagicCityHens.wordpress.com – we would love to invite you to get involved with either group! Sounds like you’ve got some valuable experience that might help us make this change to get Billings up to date. Thanks a bunch! ~TJ (“>


  6. Posted by Chuck McNeese on March 6, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    I am from Great Falls, and would love to see Billings adopt this, so Great Falls will be more likely to look at it in the future. People can own three dogs for each urban property. Believe me, chickens are much quiter than barking dogs. No roosters though cause they can and do cause a ruckus in the mornings!! I’m saying YES to Urban Chickens!! Chuck McNeese


    • Thank you, Mr McNeese! We are hoping we can convince Billings local government to recognize that we (and Great Falls, apparently) are behind the rest of the country in making this Urban Food Initiative happen for our citizens! Please feel free to use any of the extensive research we have done, including the Case for Backyard Hens document (it has it’s own page). We appreciate your support, and look forward to supporting your fight, as well!


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