Thinking About Backyard Chickens? What PA Law Requires

Thinking About Backyard Chickens? What PA Law Requires

Whether you’re new to backyard chickens or an experienced owner, how you keep chickens and what you do with their manure affects local water quality. Manure management plays a critical role in protecting streams.  

Incorporating chickens into backyards is growing in popularity in urban and suburban areas, and for good reasons. Keeping chickens promotes local and sustainable agriculture, offering fresh food, nutrient-rich fertilizer and fun pets.  

When deciding to add chickens to your own backyard, you may consider several factors: type of chicken, shelter, feed or protection from predators. Perhaps the last question you might ask is, “What’s going to happen with all that chicken manure?” 

What Does Pennsylvania Law Require?  

You may be surprised to know that Pennsylvania law requires all livestock owners, even those with just ONE chicken, to have a written plan to address their animal’s manure. While a single chicken can seem harmless, the potential impact of one chicken in everyone’s backyard would result in a high volume of unmanaged manure polluting waterways. The rule itself is part of the Clean Streams Law, which seeks to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution into streams and waters of Pennsylvania. 

Why Manage Manure?

On one hand, chicken manure is high in nutrients, making it desirable for farmers and gardeners. Chicken manure can deliver essential nutrients to plants and improve the quality of soil. However, unmanaged manure can wash into streams or water supplies where those same nutrients can be dangerous to humans and aquatic life. To prevent pollution, Chapter 91 of the Clean Streams Law requires all livestock owners to develop and use Manure Management Plans.

What’s in a Manure Management Plan?  

Think of your yard like a farming operation. Manure Management Plans consider natural resources, like streams or ponds, and help identify the best locations for chicken coops and manure storages or stacks.  

To prevent manure from running out of yards during storms, store manure 50 feet from streams and away from roads where nutrients can enter storm drains. Check with your municipality for other ordinances that require setbacks from property lines or the home itself. 

Another important part of a Manure Management Plan is disposal of manure. It is acceptable to utilize manure in your garden bed. Chicken manure is the best manure for nitrogen content, an essential plant nutrient. Other livestock owners choose to add manure to a composting system or have it removed from the site by a certified manure hauler.

Think you might need a Manure Management Plan for your backyard chickens? Allegheny County Conservation District can help you get the plan you need.

Contact ACCD