The Common Law

Chickens, Goats, and Urban Ranches?

I just bought a house with an oversized lot in Austin city limits. I'm thinking about buying chickens or possibly even a goat or minicow. Can I keep livestock on my property in the city?

Yes, but only if you can comply with relevant city ordinances. In the spirit of keeping Austin weird, more residents are entertaining the idea of adding animals to Austin's urban paradise that are typically associated with rural settings. Raising chickens, for example, has grown in popularity over the past few years, fueled in part by the "eat local" movement seen in urban areas all over the country.

But before you rush off and buy your first goat or cow, you should get very familiar with relevant Austin city ordinances, especially chapters 3-1 and 3-2, which provide the basic framework for maintaining livestock in Austin.

Austin ordinances define livestock to include horses, mules, jacks, jennets, cows, bull steers, hogs, pigs, swines, sheep, or goats, other than a miniature breed. As a general rule, an enclosure used to keep livestock must be located at least 100 feet from adjoining residentially zoned property and at least 50 feet from a structure used for human habitation. There are some exceptions to the general rule that reduce the minimum distance from the animal enclosure to a structure used for human habitation. For example, an enclosure used to keep only one livestock animal weighing less than 200 pounds must be located at least 10 feet from a house. Similarly, an enclosure used to keep one or two female or neutered miniature livestock (defined as meeting the published breed definition of "miniature") also only needs a minimum 10-foot distance from the enclosure to a house.

Austin ordinances define fowl to include chickens, turkeys, geese, guinea hens, or ducks. An enclosure to keep two or more fowl must be located at least 50 feet from a residence or business, excluding the residence or business of the fowl's owner or handler.

Keep in mind that the provisions mentioned above are just a few examples of the requirements and restrictions for maintaining livestock in the city of Austin. Austin owners of livestock also have to be wary of noise (the animal can't make frequent or long, continued noise that is disturbing to a person of normal sensibilities) and must provide proper care (basic shelter, sanitary conditions, etc.). Be sure to read all the relevant city ordinances ( so you can determine whether owning livestock is a good idea under your specific circumstances.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Johns, Marrs, Ellis. & Hodge LLP,

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or

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