Chicken Laws in Wisconsin Cities

last updated 11-11-2011
credit: Corinne Swatzina (Prescott, WI)

Allouez, Village of, WI

population: 15,200
contact person: Sherry

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • no more than 4 hens
  • covered enclosure and fenced
  • 25ft away from other residential structures
  • permission from adjacent neighbors
  • permit required
  • health check submitted on all hens
  • daily cleaning required

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • no complaints
  • 2 permits issued

Altoona, WI

population 6,7000
contact person: Cindy

Current Ordinance:

  • minimal ordinance
  • meshes with animal ordinance regarding sanitary conditions and humane care

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • no complaints

Balsam Lake, Village of, WI

population 3,000
contact person: Lori Duncan

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • chickens allowed on lots larger than an acre
  • up to 24 chickens
  • privacy fence required
  • coop must match house’s exterior finish
  • 100ft from off-premise structures

Complaints, Procedure, Comments:

  • no complaints
  • ordinance in effect since 3/2/2009
  • guessed that one family had chickens

Baraboo, WI

population 11,200
contact person: Gordy Ringaelstetter & Allison Goetz, Community Service Officers

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • 6 chickens allowed
  • coop requirements, not less than 2 square feet per chicken, waterproof, predator-proof, floor covering requirements, etc.
  • no slaughtering
  • Permit required; permit process is complex:
    1. Submit a request with the treasurer’s office with a written plan.
    2. Treasurer’s office sends permission letters to abutting property owners. If someone marks “no” the CSO’s try to solve the disagreement. If all neighbors agree then…
    3. Owners construct a structure.
    4. CSO’s come out to inspect and approve or have the owner fix the problem.
    5. OK is sent to treasurer’s office and a permit is issued.

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • No “real” complaints. (Complaint by resident of clucking noise, but not taken seriously due to this person calling about non-issue noises, etc.)
  • Enforced by CSO’s who are also certified Humane Officers.
  • Regarding chicken complaints or stray chickens: “They would go out and figure out who the chicken belonged to or call another chicken owner in town to help out.”
  • “We avoid issues because of our strict structure requirements that well lessen the possibility of escape”, per Officer Ringaelstetter.
  • It’s been a positive thing for the community.

Ellsworth, WI

population 6,250
contact persons: Chief of Police Place & Dawn

Current Ordinance:

  • No ordinance. However, citizens can apply in person with the humane officer (currently the Chief of Police) for approval to have poultry (chickens or ducks).
  • no roosters
  • $50 fee
  • a picture of the building is required

Complaints, Procedures and Comments

  • no problems or complaints recently
  • 2 permits issued right now
  • a permit for ducks was issued in 2000
  • “It’s been years (since a complaint). People call now to find out what they need to do to keep them.” Chief Place.

Jefferson, WI

population 7,800
contact person: Susan (police dept.)

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • single family dwelling
  • no slaughtering
  • covered enclosure, fenced area at all times
  • 15ft from property line

Complaints, Procedures, Comments

  • no complaints in 21 years
  • officer thought I was joking in regards to concerns about enforcement

Medford, WI

population 4,000
Chief of Police: Ken Coyer

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • up to 4 chickens
  • no slaughtering
  • notification of abutting property owners
  • no inspection
  • permit required, $15/year
  • not allowed in mobile homes or condominiums
  • housed in the backyard 25 feet from abutting residence
  • coops ventilated and roofed; 4 sq ft per chicken for coop enclosure
  • coops shall have a clear open space to allow chickens to walk on the ground or concrete slab

Complaints, Procedures and Comments

  • no complaints
  • the city shall revoke a permit to keep chickens in the event that 3 or more violations occur within a 6 month period
  • ordinance in place since May 2010
  • 2 permits given out so far
  • “I haven’t heard ‘boo’ about it since we passed the ordinance.” Chief of Police
  • If an incident of neglect or abuse should arise, the Chief responded, “We’d either work out something with our humane shelter or one of the chicken people… it’s something that I’m not worried about.”
  • Medford received a lot of bad press during the approval process.

New Berlin, City of, WI

population: 38,000
contact person: Corlis Tischler, Code Compliance Officer

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • up to 4 chickens and/or ducks
  • no slaughtering
  • kept in a secure enclosure
  • 25ft away from neighboring dwellings and 5ft from property line

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • Two complaints about the same rooster. Owner gave the rooster back to where he got it (as an egg).
  • Ordinance has been in place since “early last year”.
  • No permit, but guessed that 4 or 5 families have them.
  • “Non-issue for us,” per Corlis Tischler.
  • When asked what she would do if there was a stray chicken captured, she said, “…roasting is preferred.”

Neenah, WI

population: 25,000
contact person: April, Sustainability Committee of Neenah co-chair
Chief of Police: Kevin Wilkinson

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • no slaughtering
  • up to 4 hens
  • ducks ok
  • registration required, but no fee
  • complaint driven ordinance… no inspection
  • covered enclosure and fenced area required
  • 25ft away from any residential structure on adjacent lot

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • One complaint that the Chief could recall, “…but it was no big deal.”
  • For chicken-related complaints “we’d go out and figure out whose chicken it is and have the owner take care of it.”
  • 13 permits issued
  • NOTE: Neenah promotes chicken keeping via the town’s sustainability committee and conducts classes on a regular basis.

Onalaska, WI

population: 16,800
contact person: Mary, City Clerk

Current Ordinance:

  • Poultry allowed in agriculturally-zoned district, or by special use permit.
  • No permits have been issued.

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • no complaints

Oshkosh, WI

population: 65,000
contact person: Jodi, Administrative Assistant to Chief of Police

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • permit required
  • Many structure requirements, eg: predator and rodent proof, insulated, roosting requirements, ventilated, 3 sq ft per chicken, one nest box per 2 chickens…
  • kept in rear of yard
  • up to 4 chickens
  • written permission from abutting property owners

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • 1 complaint due to non-compliance with the ordinance – owner gave chickens away
  • 3 permits
  • “Not a lot of work or time is involved with this, ” per Jodi. “It’s a lot of work to have chickens in Oshkosh: I think most people don’t want to do it. People aren’t taking advantage of this.”

River Hills, Village of, WI

population 1,641
contact person: Barb

Current Ordinance:

  • minimal ordinance: “No person may keep chickens that cause any unhealthy conditions or interfere with the normal use and enjoyment of human or animal life of others, any public property or property of other.”

Complaints, Procedures, Comments

  • no complaints
  • at least one person keeping chickens (a board member of the Village)

Shorewood Hills, Village of, WI

population 1,700
contact person: Carla

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • 6 chickens allowed
  • no specifics on coops

Complaints, Procedure, Comments

  • no complaints
  • when asked what they would do if a chicken was lose, “Well… we’d find the owners and have them take care of it.”

Stoughton, WI

population: 13,100
contact person: Barb, Stoughton Police department

Current Ordinance:

  • no roosters
  • 4 chickens
  • permit required
  • drawing of the structure must be submitted

Complaints, Procedures, Comments:

  • no complaints
  • ordinance has been in place for one year
  • When asked what they do if they had a stray chicken, “Well, we’d probably take it to our vet and they’d probably take it to the local farmer.”
  • Police handle complaint calls and would handle noise or structure complaints as they do with other ordinance restrictions.


Given the information in this report, one could conclude that:

  • Though much hoopla comes with defending the right to keep poultry, few people actually do.
  • A good ordinance creates good neighbors and few complaints.
  • Police, acting as animal control officers, find enforcing their poultry ordinances to be a task that involves very little time and effort.
  • Keeping of a small number of poultry in an urban setting is not a cause for alarm and will not increase noise, odor, complaints or increase police enforcement calls in towns with positive poultry ordinances.

The experience of the towns in this report has demonstrated that the keeping of a few small poultry is compatible with an urban environment. Towns of all sizes have allowed the keeping of a limited number of chickens or ducks without incident.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. I really tend to agree with almost everything that has been put into writing inside “Chicken Laws in
    Wisconsin Cities City Peeps Appleton”. Thanks a lot for pretty
    much all the info.I appreciate it-Michelle


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