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Raise food, bees and hens in town.


The city of Charleston now has more than a dozen community gardens, sponsored by neighborhood groups, churches and agencies. Some are individual-plot gardens, others raise food to feed food pantries and soup kitchens. Photo: Kate Long


Hens – not roosters – are now legal within the Charleston city limits.

In 2013, Charleston’s city council passed an urban agriculture law that makes it legal for people to grow gardens and keep honeybees and hens (not roosters) within city limits.

“Believe it or not, it was definitely illegal before,” said Jessica Pollitt, coordinator of West Virginia’s Youth Garden Support Network. “Laws forbidding gardens, chickens and animals were passed in the early 1900s in coal mining communities in part because they didn’t want the miners to be self-sufficient.”

Charleston’s law lists reasons why urban agriculture is a good thing:

  • increases access to fresh, locally grown, wholesome foods for all residences
  • encourages programs and policies that improve access to healthy food in underserved neighborhoods
  • contributes to the local economy by generating living-wage jobs, sales of food at farmers markets, grocery stores, and on-site farm stands and offering the opportunity for resident entrepreneurship in creating food-related small-business;
  • improves the city’s quality-of-life by reducing the negative impact of vacant lots, buildings and unused rooftops
  • at a residential scale, provides a valuable supplement to a family food budget
  • on a community scale, provides an invaluable opportunity for students to learn about nutrition and where food comes from; and,
  • Involves new technologies for growing food, including indoor growing technologies such as aquaponics and hydroponics as the basis for new opportunities, partnerships and research.

The law says “the use shall not create a nuisance due to noise, smoke, electrical interference, dust, or obnoxious odor,” and forbids roosters and hens in front yards.


Interested in an urban agriculture law?



High-tunnel greenhouses offer a efficient way to farm in an urban area.

  • Here’s Charleston’s ordinance. Bill_7579 – Urban Ag Bill
  • Here are some stories about the debate over Charleston’s law, also known as “the chicken law.”:

Read about people who are keeping chickens i town in this Charleston Daily Mail article.

Keep up on developments in urban agriculture – and the annual urban agriculture conference – at the urban ag facebook page.

Here are sites for organizations and businesses that benefitted by the law:


Charleston’s KISRA program offers community garden space. (photo courtesy KISRA)

And here’s an interesting Web site: Helps you get started with your own city chickens.


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