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Urban farming: Everything you need to know about keeping chickens in New Zealand

Before keeping chickens it’s a good idea to know what the rules and regulations are where you live. It’s also a good idea to know the pros and cons (beyond free eggs) of keeping these animals on your property.
By · April 10, 2024
Urban farming: Everything you need to know about keeping chickens in New Zealand

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With the cost of living rising in New Zealand, many homeowners are looking at ways to reduce their food bills each week. Keeping chickens has always been popular in rural and small-town New Zealand, but what are the rules for keeping chickens when you live in a suburb or city?

Before keeping chickens it’s a good idea to know what the rules and regulations are where you live. It’s also a good idea to know the pros and cons (beyond free eggs) of keeping these animals on your property.

Is it legal to raise chickens if you live in a city or suburb in New Zealand?

Yes, raising chickens in most cities and suburbs around New Zealand is legal.

The most important thing to know is that each city has its own rules on how many chickens you can own and whether or not you need a license.

Auckland

  • You do not need permission to keep chickens in Auckland. However, there are limits on numbers. If you want to own more than 6 chickens on a small property, you’ll need a license.
  • You can keep hens in a residential area, but you will need permission to keep roosters.
  • You can keep 6 chickens on a property below 2,000 square metres.
  • You can keep 12 chickens on a property larger than 2,000 square metres.
  • There are no restrictions on the number of chickens you can keep on properties larger than 4,000 square metres.

Wellington

  • You do not need permission to keep chickens in Wellington. However, there are limits on how many you can keep.
  • You can keep hens in a residential area, but you will need permission to keep roosters.
  • You can keep up to 8 chickens in your backyard without council permission.

Christchurch

  • You do not need permission from the council to keep chickens in Christchurch.
  • There are no limitations on how many chickens you can own in your backyard.
  • You can keep hens in a residential area, but you will need permission to have a rooster.
  • While there are no strict limits on the number of chickens you can have they must not cause a nuisance.

Dunedin

  • You do not need permission to keep chickens in Dunedin. However, there are limits on how many you can keep.
  • You can keep hends in a residential area but you will need permission for roosters.
  • You can have up to six chickens without a permit. But they must not cause a nuisance.

Does this mean my neighbours can’t complain about my chickens in New Zealand?

Just because the local laws allow residents to own chickens without council permission doesn’t mean that your neighbours can’t complain.

Most councils state that chickens must not cause a nuisance. If you’re thinking of owning chickens, you’ll need to consider where you will keep them.

Hens can be noisy from time to time. They cluck and make noises for most of the day. For most people, this won’t be a problem. However, if your neighbour owns a dog, placing your chickens right next to your fence might encourage barking from your neighbour's dog.

Having enough space for each chicken can help reduce noise and fights. Feeling confined in their space can result in squabbles and fights, which, if persistent, can annoy your neighbours.

Where is the best place to keep chickens in a backyard?

Many councils have rules or recommendations about where you should keep chickens. For example, Auckland Council requires that chickens have access to at least three square metres of land (per chicken) if they are to be kept in an enclosure.

They also state that a chicken coop needs to have:

  • An enclosed area for protection from the rain and for sleeping and laying eggs

  • At least 30 cm of roosting or perching space per chicken

  • A surface for pecking and scratching (this means you can’t keep them on concrete. They need to have access to grass or dirt).

  • A secluded nesting area (a chicken coop or protected nest).

It’s important to note that your local council may have slightly different rules. However, the above guide is a great place to start to get an idea of what the minimum requirements may be. The healthier and happier your chickens are, the more likely they are to lay eggs.

It's also a good idea to keep your chicken coop away from your fence if they have a dog. And to keep them in a fenced-off area that isn't visible from the street. This will help prevent roaming dogs from seeing your chickens.

Does my chicken coop need planning permission?

No. Councils in New Zealand generally view chicken coops as low-risk construction work. This means you can build your own coop or buy one already made.

There are some requirements around size, use and construction, but most kitsets for sale pass these requirements.

What do my chickens need to be happy and healthy?

Space

Chickens like to roam, so the most important thing is that they have enough space to scratch in the dirt, make holes in the ground to sit in and generally walk around. The ‘three square metres’ per chicken rule is a great place to start. If you can give your chickens more space than that each, that’s also great.

A warm, dry coop

Most councils will require that your chickens have a coop. A coop is where your chickens will go to sleep at night and lay their eggs. Most places in New Zealand have fairly temperature climates, but it’s always a good idea to consider whether where you are placing your coop is too sunny or too exposed to the wind.

Protection from the elements

A coop should give your chickens the protection they need from the elements while they sleep, but most chickens won’t use their coop to hide from the weather. It’s important therefore, that you have a place they can seek shelter.

Companionship

Chickens and other poultry are very social animals. Having more than one chicken may make your feathery friends happier than if they live alone. One chicken can sometimes be noisier than two chickens as they may be more content with their company.

A clean home

Your chicken coop should be cleaned out at least once per week. This should include removing the old hay or wood chips from their sleeping area and replacing it with fresh materials.

Food

While chickens are a great way to get rid of your food scraps, you may also need to supplement their diet with chicken feed. Chicken feed just ensures they are getting enough food and can help them consistently lay eggs.

Where can I buy chickens in New Zealand?

There are lots of places in New Zealand where you can buy hens. It’s a good idea to have an idea of what breed of hen you want as some chickens are quieter and less smelly than others. Some breeds of chicken are more placid than others and enjoy human company more.

Some breeds that are good for backyards are:

  • Rhode Island Reds

  • Mottled Java

  • Barred Rock

  • Buff Orpingtons

  • Cochins

  • Brown Shaver

  • Ameraucanas

In New Zealand, you can buy chickens from:

  • TradeMe

  • RSPCA

  • Local farmers

  • Hen breeders

Just remember to ask questions about their breed and consider buying 2-3 chickens rather than just one.

Should I get a chicken feeder for my chickens?

Chicken feeders are great because they reduce the chance of rats and mice being attracted to the food scraps or chicken feed.

Chickens like to peck at their food rather than eat it, so you may find that leaving food or chicken feed it on the ground can be quite messy.

A quick checklist for owning poultry in New Zealand

  • Most councils do not require you to seek permission to own up to six chickens in an urban area.
  • You will need permission to own a rooster in New Zealand.
  • You should own 2-3 chickens as they are social animals and happier in small groups.
  • You'll need at least 3 square metres of space per chicken.
  • Your chicken coop must be dry, large enough for sleeping and perching and be cleaned at least once per week.
  • Some chicken breeds are quieter and less smelly than others. Do your research before you buy.
  • Your neighbours can complain about your chickens. It's recommended that you tell your neighbours before you get chickens.
  • Keep your chicken coop away from neighbouring fences and make sure they are fenced in. 

Livestock transport across New Zealand

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