Domestic chickens of different breeds in the villa
(Getty)
  • Johannesburg residents can have no more than 10 chickens in their backyard, as long as they are kept in a sound poultry house and are not a nuisance to neighbours.
  • Cape Town residents are allowed to have five hens without a permit, and will need a permit if they keep a rooster or more than five hens.
  • Under most cities' rules, poultry houses should be at least a few metres away from neighbouring properties, or any building inhabited by humans. 
  • The eThekwini Municipality has not stated how many chickens one can keep in your backyard – but you aren't allowed to keep poultry in your house.  
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The poultry industry in South Africa has ample room for growth and holds business opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs in the farming sector. But if you are thinking of starting small in your backyard, you might want to familiarise yourself with the bylaws of your local municipality.   

According to the rules in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and eThekwini Municipality, private property owners can have a limited number of chickens, as long as they do not cause a nuisance or pose health risks to other residents.

The bylaws also stipulate that those chickens should be kept in a sound poultry house.

This is how many chickens you can keep at home in South Africa's biggest cities.

Joburg 

In the city of Johannesburg, residents are allowed to keep no more than 10 chickens at a residential property.

All chickens are required to be kept in a poultry house with walls made of brick, stone, concrete or other viable material – with a smooth surface.  

The minimum aggregate floor area must be four square metres. For poultry houses that have walls, they need to be at least 2.4m high. 

Floors also need to be made of concrete or other suitable material and brought to a smooth finish. If there's a poultry run, it needs to be enclosed with wire mesh or other durable material. 

A poultry house or poultry run cannot be placed within three metres of a neighbours' property, any place where foodstuffs are stored or prepared for human consumption, or the nearest boundary of any land.  

In addition to ensuring that the chickens do not intrude on other residents, owners need to always keep the premises free of flies, cockroaches and rodents. They also need to prevent bad odours arising from the poultry on the premises.

Cape Town

In the City of Cape Town, residents can keep five chickens without a permit. Any number over five will require a permit, including if you want to keep a rooster.

Relevant authorities may require detailed plans and specifications of structures where residents will keep poultry in order to determine whether or not to grant a permit.  

For council to accept an application to have chickens in your backyard, a poultry house needs to be at least:

  • 1.5m away from any boundary of a residential piece of land, and
  • 1.5m away from any dwelling, servants quarters, inhabited outbuilding and shop or building where food is processed, sold or stored.

A major requirement for the poultry house is that it be no higher than 3.5m.

See also: Cape Town wants you to register most – but not all – of your pets, by law

KwaZulu-Natal

The eThekwini Municipality does not limit the number of chickens residents can own. 

The rules do, however, state that no poultry house or shelter is permitted to be within 7.5 metres of a door or window of any building people live in. A poultry house may also not be near the wall of any building, or be within two metres of any boundary of the owner's premises.  

No resident will be allowed to accommodate poultry in their actual house, the city says. 

You'll also need to look out for bird flu

With some parts of South Africa facing an avian flu outbreak, domestic chickens need to be protected. According to the KwaZulu-Natal health department, here's how domestic chickens can be protected during an outbreak.

  • Keep chicken separated from ducks and other birds that run around free.
  • Keep poultry in a closed place, away from wild birds and other animals.
  • Keep poultry away from water that may have been contaminated by wild birds.
  • Clean compound/homestead and coops daily to remove droppings and uneaten feed.
  • Burn or bury feathers and other bird waste far away from the farmyard.
  • Avoid bringing chicks, ducklings and piglets from one yard/compound/homestead to another.
  • Be careful when buying poultry because some people may sell sick birds in order not to lose money.
  • Avoid hunting wild birds in an area where outbreak has been confirmed as wild birds may carry the virus.  

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