Massachusetts law about backyard chickens

Laws, regulations, and web sources on raising chickens in your backyard.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.129, § 26B Hatching eggs; baby chicks or live poultry; restriction on sale, transportation or importation

MGL c.272, § 94 Possessing, breeding, training, exhibiting, or selling fighting animals

MGL c.272, § 95 Aiding or being present at exhibition of fighting animals

Massachusetts regulations

330 CMR 5 Poultry

330 CMR 35 Regulations implementing the Act to Prevent Cruelty to Farm Animals

City and town bylaws

Mass. urban poultry regulations: Updated May 2020 (Scroll down to “Local Chicken Regulations”)

Provides a listing of town bylaws about poultry; including roosters, chickens, permits, and the required distance the coop has to be from a property line. If your city or town is not listed, see our City and town bylaws to look up the regulations for your location. If your town’s bylaws regarding poultry are not listed online, call your local town clerk.

Selected cases

Grigg v. LeClair, 100 Mass. App. Ct. 1124 (2022), 2022 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 121, WL 468159

This is a dispute over the terms of a written agreement to purchase residential real estate. The plaintiffs, the intended purchasers, wanted to raise chickens on the property and included a contingency in the purchase and sale agreement to ensure that they would be able to do so. After a title search revealed a covenant prohibiting the use of property in the subdivision for that purpose, the plaintiffs asked the defendant seller to return their $97,500 deposit. The defendant refused, claiming that the protective covenant did not apply to the residential lot the plaintiffs agreed to purchase, but only to an adjoining lot that was part of the purchase. The court disagreed, and ruled for the plaintiffs.

Web sources

Includes forums and articles about raising chickens, incubating and hatching eggs, chicken diseases and injuries, and more.

Backyard poultry, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Information from the CDC regarding illnesses that can be spread from backyard poultry, and how to prevent them. How to keep yourself and your poultry healthy.

Chicken ownership and adoption, MSPCA Angell.
Provides a list of feeding, housing, and handling necessities to consider before you adopt backyard chickens.

Poultry program, Mass. Department of Agricultural Resources.
Includes valuable information for backyard poultry facilities, including management practices, health issues, and more.

Protect your chickens from black bears, Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Raising backyard poultry without ruffling too many feathers: how to comply with local regulations and bylaws and keep your neighbors happy, Kristen M. Ploetz, Esq.
Summarizes a variety of bylaws and regulations about backyard chickens with suggestions on how to handle complaints from neighbors.

Read this if you keep backyard chickens, Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Provides tips on how to protect chicken coops and other backyard poultry from bears.

Print sources

"Debating over backyard chickens," by Barak Y. Orbach & Frances R. Sjoberg, 44 Connecticut Law Review CONNtemplations 1 (Winter 2012). Available through document delivery service.

"Enforcement of zoning ordinances and other legal requirements precluding keeping of livestock and other animals," by Colleen K. Sanson, 120 American Jurisprudence Proof of Facts 3d 253 (2011).

"How cities are responding to the urban agriculture movement with micro-livestock ordinances,"  by Jaime Bouvier, 47 Urban Lawyer 85 (Winter 2015). 

"Illegal fowl: a survey of municipal laws relating to backyard poultry and a model ordinance for regulating city chickens," by Jaime Bouvier, 42 Environmental Law Reporter News & Analysis, 10888 (September 2012).  Available through document delivery service.

"Of backyard chickens and front yard gardens: the conflict between local governments and locavores," by Sarah B. Schindler, 87 Tulane Law Review 231 (December 2012). Available through document delivery service.

"The symbolic garden: an intersection of the food movement and the First Amendment,"  by James Bouvier, 65 Maine Law Review 425 (2013). Available through document delivery service.


Last updated: April 6, 2023

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