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Answering the most frequently-asked questions about urban animals and bees, gardening, food purchasing and other popular topics.
Once sequestered to the pastoral landscape, chickens (and bees and even goats) are coming home to roost in the city. In exchange for fresh eggs, honey or milk, urban animals can be rewarding and relatively easy to keep. They just require some planning, commitment and care. Portland's rules for keeping animals are enforced by Multnomah County. It tends to make things a bit confusing, but if you are interested in turning your backyard into an urban barnyard, here are some things you should know:
You do not need a permit if you keep can keep a total of three or fewer chickens, ducks, doves, pigeons, pygmy goats or rabbits. You can mix and match however you like, as long as you do not exceed the total of three critters.
If three is just not enough, and you want more animals, it's time to apply for a permit (see next section on how to apply for a permit).
If you are interested in keeping turkeys, geese, doves, pigeons, peacocks, cows, horses, burros, sheep, llamas or bees, no matter how many of these animals, you need to apply for a permit. Bee and pigeon permits include additional procedures along with the standard animal permit. See below for details.
Obtaining a permit is a relatively easy process; you just need to follow a few steps before turning your application in to the County:
You are in great shape if your planned facility:
Additional County recommendations:
Send everything in, or drop it off at:
If you plan to keep four or less hives of honey bees (not including mason bees) and/or four or more pigeons, you have to follow some additional steps:
Pigs or other swine, unless the pig is a Vietnamese Miniature Pot-Bellied Pig with shoulder height 18 inches or less and weighs no more than 95 lbs. No more than three pigs can be kept at any one address.
Roosters (male chickens)
Check out these online resources for tips and ideas of how to raise your urban animals:
More information on animal issues and regulations can be found by contacting or visiting the website of:
Do you have any animal resources that you think would be helpful for other city animal stewards?
You'll find a buffet of information at: http://www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/52798
Different fruits and vegetables retain pesticide residues differently. Learn what produce is safest to buy conventional and what produce is worth splurging on organic: www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php
This label is a third party certification of humane treatment and can be found on eggs, dairy products, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and turkey. Growth hormones are prohibited and animals are raised on a diet without antibiotics. Animals are provided with clean and sufficient water, shelter, resting areas, and adequate space for them to move naturally. Managers and caretakers must be thoroughly trained, skilled and competent in animal husbandry and welfare and processors must comply with higher humane slaughter standards than those required by federal standards.www.eco-labels.org (search for "certified humane")
The USDA's organic certification program requires certain standards be met for animals used for meat, milk, and eggs. All feed must be 100 percent organic and animals may not be given hormones to promote growth, or antibiotics for any reason. Animals must have access to the outdoors, including access to pasture for ruminants (cattle and sheep), and cages are not allowed for egg laying hens. These guidelines assure higher humane treatment standards than conventional industry standards but are not as stringent or comprehensive as the Certified Humane Raised and Handled guidelines.
The genetically-engineered hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone-also called rBST-is given to dairy cows to increase milk production. Concerns about the negative effects of rBGH include increased health problems in cows and the resulting increase of antibiotic usage, and detrimental effects in humans and the environment from hormone and antibiotic residue. Many countries, including Japan, Canada, and much of Europe have chosen not to approve the use of rBGH. In the United States, milk, or milk products, that are produced without growth hormones are often labeled "rBGH-Free" or "rBST-Free."www.sustainabletable.org/issues/dairy
Unfortunately, the use of "free range" and similar labels on eggs and beef is unregulated. The USDA regulates the use of these labels for poultry, but it approves the use of "free range" even in cases where birds have as little as five-minutes of open-air access each day. It is therefore necessary to contact the manufacturer (or local farmer or rancher) who produces the meat, poultry or eggs, to determine whether the animals are truly "free roaming" or not.
www.eco-labels.org (search for "free range")
The Monterey Bay Aquarium produces a consumer's guide to sustainable seafood listing what types of fish are sustainable and what fish should be avoided due to over-fishing or environmentally harmful fishing or farming practices. A free pocket-sized Seafood Guide can be downloaded from the Monterey Bay Aquarium website.
The Northwest is well-known for its salmon and there are many organizations involved in preserving salmon habitat and increasing severely diminished salmon populations.