skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

San Diego City Council Approves Backyard Chickens, Goats and Bees

Aired 2/1/12 on KPBS News.

The city has become the latest of many nationwide to pass land use laws meant to promote food production in urban areas.

— On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to allow chickens, bees and goats as backyard pets, making San Diego the latest of many cities nationwide to pass laws promoting urban agriculture.

Advocates asked the Council to allow the animals so residents could supply their own food - eggs from chickens, honey from bees, milk and cheese from goats.

The council also allowed two new types of businesses: produce stands and small neighborhood farms where owners can grow and sell produce on site.

Dan Joyce is the city planner who drafted the law changes.

"Access to local food is important to the city," he said. "It's important for stabilizing our food resources, it's important for cutting down on our carbon. There are so many benefits that can come from having local sources of food."

But if you're worried your neighborhood will be overrun by farm animals, you can take solace in a few rules.

On most properties only two beehives are allowed. Roosters are banned. Only miniature goats are allowed as long as they're de-horned. And you can have no more than two goats, but no fewer either. Goats are social creatures, and they can get a little destructive if they get too lonely.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | February 1, 2012 at 12:35 p.m. ― 5 years ago

I am all for local food being available on our streets.

One of the things I love most about some of the foreign countries I have travelled is the carts and stands of fresh produce on the urban sidewalks.

I would love to see this downtown.

It would be fantastic to be able to walk out of my building and buy a small amount of fresh produce instead of having to walk into a gigantic alberstons of Ralph's and stand behind people buying enough food for a nuclear winter when all I want are some fresh items for use the same evening.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'YGalindo'

YGalindo | February 1, 2012 at 2:48 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Good to see these changes. One question regarding chickens. The city already allowed chickens (no roosters) with some restrictions such as having the chickens a certain distance away from your home or your neighbor's house. Did the city change these rules or is the news that they now also allow goats and bees? Thanks for any additional information.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'UrbanFarmGirl'

UrbanFarmGirl | February 2, 2012 at 2:37 a.m. ― 5 years ago

City changed the set-back distance requirement. Used to be 50 feet from lot line which eliminated most lots. Now 15 feet set back, but number of birds still limited (would still be plenty for a family's egg use).

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ChrisZ'

ChrisZ | February 2, 2012 at 10:02 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Actually, the old rule was 50 feet from any residential structure, including your own, and yes, this eliminated most lots since most of our lots are nowhere near that size.

The new rule applies to lots 5000 sq ft or larger (most lots in San Diego are at least this size, unless they were split in the past), and allows 5 hens if they are kept outside the "setback" area, which varies a bit in different neighborhoods, but is generally only 4-5 feet from the property line. You may keep up to 15 hens if they are kept (cooped) at least 15 feet from the property line. And if you do have a gigantic lot, the old rules allowing up to 25 hens with 50' distance will still apply, with the exception that your own residence is no longer a factor in calculating distance. The new rules still require proper predator proof coop, sanitation, etc.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'YGalindo'

YGalindo | February 2, 2012 at 2:21 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Thank you UrbanFarmGirl and ChrisZ. I can add to my chickens now.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'AnniesDad'

AnniesDad | February 2, 2012 at 5:52 p.m. ― 5 years ago

So if you have less than a 5000 sq ft lot what are the limitations on chickens,goats and bees?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'AnniesDad'

AnniesDad | February 2, 2012 at 8:38 p.m. ― 5 years ago

When does this go into effect?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ChrisZ'

ChrisZ | February 3, 2012 at 8:24 a.m. ― 5 years ago

The city determined that lots under 5000 sq. ft were just too small to accomodate chickens/bees/goats. The new changes will be official after they are signed by Mayor Sanders, in about 3 weeks from now.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | February 3, 2012 at 10:23 a.m. ― 5 years ago

2 and only 2 goats? This seems a little strict. Is there more to the law than has been reported?

When one dies are we required to purchase a second?

When they reproduce what happens to the kids?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | February 3, 2012 at 12:02 p.m. ― 5 years ago

What if you have two goats and the female gets pregnant?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'AnniesDad'

AnniesDad | February 3, 2012 at 5:12 p.m. ― 5 years ago

Thanks ChrisZ

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ChrisZ'

ChrisZ | February 3, 2012 at 10:40 p.m. ― 5 years ago

The city is not going to conduct random surprise inspections re your goat code compliance - they will only show up, as in the past, when one of your neighbors complains about you - then the city has to go through the motions. That is their legal duty because they received a complaint.
It was never the city reps themselves that wanted to crack down on chicken or goat owners - its your neighbors. That is why we went through this process for regulatory relief - protection of your property rights

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Limet8'

Limet8 | February 4, 2012 at 8:23 a.m. ― 5 years ago

ChrisZ and UrbanFarmGirl I am wondering where you got this information because I just want to verify

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Meniskos'

Meniskos | February 4, 2012 at 10:57 a.m. ― 5 years ago

Does this mean we lucky San Diegans might get a newly created City of San Diego Department of Agriculture?

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ChrisZ'

ChrisZ | February 4, 2012 at 8:16 p.m. ― 5 years ago

I am the attorney that drafted the original proposal re urban chickens last June that was presented to all the city's local planning commissions. The final amendments for all the urbanag amendmnents approved Jan 31 are here:

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ChrisZ'

ChrisZ | February 4, 2012 at 8:48 p.m. ― 5 years ago

You can view the webcast of the council hearing here and get the full details. The urbanag docket #333 is near the end of the webcast

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'AnniesDad'

AnniesDad | February 10, 2012 at 4:07 p.m. ― 5 years ago

So anything under 5000 sq/ft is not allowed any of these animals/bees.If a neighbor does try to keep any of these with under 5000 sq/ft do you still call NCC to report a violation?I was told that even if you have pygmy goats.You need to have special flooring and pens in order to maintain cleanliness.Kind of like the chicken requirements. Thanks for answering our questions.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'ChrisZ'

ChrisZ | February 10, 2012 at 11:22 p.m. ― 5 years ago

AnniesDad - I personally would never call anyone to "report a violation" - to me that smacks of Germany in 1936 - the spirit behind the new law is to stop people from being able to report their neighbors out of spite when the animals in question are beneficial, inoffensive, and not causing any harm whatsoever to adjacent property owners. The San Diego city council in adopting these new standards last week were quite proud in declaring this "regulatory relief", ie getting government off your back. Think freedom

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'SDpygmies'

SDpygmies | March 4, 2012 at 8:03 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

I breed registered Pygmy goats in north San Diego only buy registered otherwise they may not be true pygmys and you may be fined. Visit my website I have babies mostly year around :) thanks Breanna

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'AnniesDad'

AnniesDad | March 23, 2012 at 8:38 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

You probably never lived next to goats.They smell and attract flies that sting,etc. They wake you up before sunrise.I am speaking from experience.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Bellessed1'

Bellessed1 | March 26, 2012 at 8:02 p.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Hi Everyone, I have a question. When they say that the Chickens would have to be "15 Feet from the Lot Line" Does this mean that they would basically have to be housed right in the center of my yard to be at least 15ft from every neighboring fence? I have a great sized back yard, but housing them right in the center doesn't seem very logical. I hope I am just simply not understanding this correctly. I would like to put them in the far right back corner (Which naturally, would touch Two neighboring fences, Back/side neighbors) Any help is much appreciated. Thanks! :)

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Kentizatfa'

Kentizatfa | April 2, 2012 at 5:52 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

ChrisZ, I live in Tierrasanta. How does the San Diego City Council's vote on Chickens affect me? Hopefully it trumps my CCR's. I live on a corner lot with plenty of room for a handful of bantam hens. I am more than 50 feet from any residential structure (except my own, but that Freedom to choose to have hens or not seems fundamental).

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'frogman'

frogman | May 31, 2012 at 10:46 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

seems crazy that in a country where you have the right to bear arms it's so difficult to keep a few chickens, goats or bees.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'dirtloving'

dirtloving | July 7, 2012 at 12:41 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

ANNIESDAD:, sadly you have a BAD neighbor who is a a BAD PET OWNER (which can be true for any pet). if you keep them clean & fed, they are fine.
BENZ72- if one dies you will NEED a second (so the remaining one does not get too lonely). as for the babies, you MUST breed to get milk (like any mammal). most ordinances limit the number of ADULT animals (same with cats & dogs), so you are good until they are weaned, is my best guess.
there are also other breeds of "miniature" goats, like Nigerian Dwarf (which are KNOWN as dairy goats).
HOA/CC&R's would rule, which is why you are required to read, agree & sign before the sale of the property completes...
would be great to see some legislation like this, in OC!

( | suggest removal )