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Have Poultry? Make Sure You’re Registered!

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

By Ashley Ellixson

Two chickens in a coop (Photo by Edwin Remsberg).

If you are not already familiar with Maryland’s mandatory poultry registration regulation or unsure about the process, today is your day! As many of us in Maryland know, poultry farms abound in the state. What many of us do not think about are the small backyard chicken houses in our neighborhood or the turkeys kept next door. The mandatory poultry registration actually applies to those backyard chickens and pet turkeys as well. Today’s post will walk you through who this regulation applies to and explain the process.

Section 3-804 of the Maryland Agriculture Code states anyone who keeps or cares for poultry must register with the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA). The purpose of the registration requirement is to protect Maryland’s poultry from the spread of disease. Poultry, by definition, includes chickens, turkeys, ratites, waterfowl, game birds, and domestic/captive pigeons. Registration is not required unless more than 5 birds are housed for more than 120 days in a 12-month period. While exotic bird registration is VOLUNTARY, if the exotic birds are associated with high-risk activities such as showing, trading, or breeding, MDA recommends registration. Find the form to register here. For further questions or help, visit the MDA website.

In addition to the state law, counties may also regulate certain aspects of housing poultry, specifically chickens. Counties are permitted to regulate the number of chickens raised, the size of the premise, and how far a chicken house must be from a neighbor, among other conditions. Since each county has different ordinances, it is important that the owner check with the county where he or she lives. For example, Annapolis City Ordinance requires that a premise may not house more than five chickens, and no roosters.

There are different regulations depending on where the farm is located so make sure to check both your city and county ordinances in addition to registration with MDA. Being in compliance is important and will ensure healthy, and preventable disease spreading, within the state. This article is not to be construed as legal advice so please check with local regulators for laws that apply to your farm or backyard flock.

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