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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

Innovation. Collaboration. Practical Solutions.

Phone: 503-823-7700

Curbside Hotline: 503-823-7202

1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 7100, Portland, OR 97201

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Answering the most frequently-asked questions about urban animals and bees, gardening, food purchasing and other popular topics.

Raising backyard animals and bees in Portland

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:

Do I need a permit for my animals?

  • You do not need a permit if you 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, 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.

How do I apply for a permit?

Obtaining a permit is a relatively easy process; you just need to follow a few steps before turning your application in to the County:

  • Let your neighbors know! The permit requires notification of all property owners and residents within 150 feet of your property lines.
  • Make sure that you meet the specified animal facility requirements. These requirements are meant to ensure you have the infrastructure to care for your animals and keep them in your yard (minimize wild goose chases around the neighborhood).

You are in great shape if your planned facility:

  • is in good repair.
  • won't disturb neighbors.
  • has absorbent ground cover (that can be replaced as often as necessary to suppress odor).
  • has a secure enclosure.
  • provides your animals with adequate lighting and ventilation.
  • is 15 feet from residential buildings (not including your own).
  • feeding practices won't attract unwanted rodents.

Additional County recommendations:

  • For hoofed or louder animals your facility should be 50 feet from residential buildings.
  • The county suggests that you work with them on the permitting process before building your facility (if it isn't built yet) to minimize repair costs.

Permit Fees

  • Specified Animal Facility Permit is $31.
  • The fees are non-refundable and payable by check made out to Multnomah County or by money order.
  • Take a breath, the hard part is over. You are almost ready to submit your form. Your permit application should be filled out and signed. All that's left are permit fees. These are one-time only fees.

Mail or drop off application:

What about bees?

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:

For bees:

  • Notify all neighbors within 150 feet of the hive or proposed facility. 
  • Proposed hives must be a minimum of 15 feet away from "any public walkway, street or road, or any public building, park or recreation area, or any residential dwelling" (not including your own).
  • Hives that are also less than 150 feet from any streets, parks, houses, etc. must be "protected by a six foot hedgerow, partition, fence or similar enclosure."
  • Specified Animal Facility Permit for Beehives is $12.00. Send in your application and check/money order to Multnomah County Health Department Vector and Nuisance Control 
  • If you would like five or more hives on your property you also must register them with the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

What is not allowed in Portland city limits?

  • 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).

What do I do once I have sent in my permit application?

  • Before welcoming your animals to their new home, you must wait until your permit is actually approved. Multnomah County Vector and Nuisance Control will contact you and come by for an inspection. They will either approve of your permit or let you know any adjustments you need to make.

I have received my permit, now what?

  • Once you receive your permit in the mail, you are ready to embark on your urban farm adventure. Remember to maintain your animal facilities. The County won't conduct any further inspections unless they get a complaint, so keep it clean!

Check out these online resources for tips and ideas of how to raise your urban animals:

Where can I find the original City of Portland code on animals?

Do you have any animal resources that you think would be helpful for other city animal stewards?

I want to start a food cart business? Where do I go for information?

You'll find a buffet of information at:

I'm on a budget. What produce is most important to buy Organic?

Different fruits and vegetables retain pesticide residues differently. Learn what produce is safest to buy conventional and what produce is worth splurging on organic:

What are sustainable options for purchasing dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood?

Certified Humane Raised and Handled

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 (search for "certified humane")

Organic (eggs, dairy products, and meat)

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.

rBGH-Free or rBST-Free (Dairy Products)

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."

Free Range, Free Roaming, Cage Free, Pasture Raised, Grass Fed (Eggs and Meat)

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.


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.