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The State of NoVa
Posted at 05:01 AM ET, 04/21/2011

Prince William creates chicken district

“But I want to live in Manassas. Why can’t we live in Manassas?” (YUSUF AHMAD - REUTERS)
This may surprise some, but it is currently illegal to keep chickens or other fowl on any property in Prince William County which is mainly used as a residence, even if it’s zoned for agricultural use.

No longer.

After more than a year of public meetings, markups, amendments, proposals and votes, the Prince William Board of Supervisors on Tuesday created the Domestic Fowl Overlay District, inside of which certain property owners can keep a reasonable number of “bird units.”

Plenty of people want to keep chickens for various reasons, according to, ranging from Vic Cole, who said he liked to farm his own eggs, to Talib Waheem, who said he wanted to recreate the atmosphere of his boyhood home in Pakistan.

So Prince William devised a boundary line known as the “rural crescent,” basically a crescent-shaped zone which starts at the Fauquier County line to the west, encircles/eliminates a large area from Haymarket to Manassas and also excludes the southern half of the county. If your land is an acre or more and zoned agricultural or semi-rural within or near the crescent — now officially known as the Domestic Fowl Overlay District — you can have a designated number of bird units. Ten-acre agricultural lots anywhere in the county are also now bird unit-eligible.

If you’ve got 10 acres or more of land in Prince William County, you can now stage a chicken 'laughing' contest, like this one in Makassar, Indonesia. About 1,600 chickens were involved in the contest, judged for the most melodious crowing, which according to the event organizers sound like human laughter. I did not make any of that up. (YUSUF AHMAD - REUTERS)
Brentsville Supervisor Wally W.S. Covington wanted to amend this plan to allow land of any size within the fowl district to have bird units, and agriculturally zoned land to have birds regardless of size too, according to InsideNova. That had been recommended by the county’s planning commission, and was supported by many public speakers at the hearing, but was shot down by a 4-4 vote.

So the amended plan devised by county staff, which also includes a special-use permit fee that will likely be $100 or more for semi-rural landowners, was then approved. And Vic Cole can farm his eggs, Inside Nova reported. But Talib Waheem, whose land didn’t qualify, cannot.

And a “bird unit”? That’s 20 pigeons, doves or similar birds, OR 10 chickens, OR 6 ducks, OR 4 turkeys or geese, OR 1 emu or ostrich. Per acre. At five acres, you get three bird units per acre. If you’ve got ten acres or more, you can go nuts. Unlimited bird units.

You can read the entire 56-page board item here. Or you can read Kipp Hanley’s much more concise report here.

By  |  05:01 AM ET, 04/21/2011

Categories:  Prince William County | Tags:  chicken district, Virginia

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