San Marino considers rule to allow residents to keep chickens

Pam King’s San Marino home has solar panels, a drought-resistant yard and an urban farm. Now she’d like some chickens to go with it.

The city known as the wealthiest, quietest suburban enclave in the San Gabriel Valley doesn’t allow residents to keep farm animals, but that may soon change. This month King asked the San Marino City Council to allow chickens on residential properties, and council members ordered a staff report.

If San Marino goes to the birds, it would join Pasadena, South Pasadena and La Cañada Flintridge, which allow residents to keep fowl under strict guidelines.

In Pasadena the maximum number of chickens on a property is 10, and they cannot be kept within 50 feet of a property line. The city doesn’t allow roosters more than four months old.

South Pasadena residents have higher chicken limits, but if they have more than a dozen, the chickens must be kept at least 200 feet from the neighbors. Residents with fewer than a dozen chickens need only keep them 15 feet or more from the property line and 50 feet or more from a dwelling other than the resident’s home.

In La Cañada most residences are limited to three chickens, though people with larger lots can have more if they house the fowl appropriately. Roosters more than two months old are prohibited.

At the San Marino City Council’s direction, staffers looking into a law will pay particular attention to coop size and location, the number of chickens to allow, discouraging commercial gain and possibly requiring a permit.

King said she buys a lot of organic chicken manure for her garden and hopes to host up to six chickens in order to get a dozen eggs a week.

“I think it’s a positive step to grow my own food, not rely on trucks and shipping from all over the world and make sure the stuff we’re eating at this house is pretty organic,” she said.

King is among a growing number of city people who want a slice of farm life in their backyards. Websites including, and have sprung up to offer newbies advice on how to keep their fowl.

Lora Hall founded Los Angeles Urban Chicken Enthusiasts in August 2009 after she began keeping chickens at her Silver Lake home.

The group now touts 800 members who give each other advice online and meet to discuss urban farming.

Hall said there is spreading interest in creating legislation to allow urbanites to keep hens and roosters and to update old laws from the 1940s and ‘50s.

“They’re small flocks,” she said. “People aren’t looking for a commercial egg-laying operation. A lot of cities realize this and are making accommodations.”

Hall said a common mistake among chicken owners is failure to predator-proof their coops.

“Here in the city, we have a lot more wildlife than we see during the day,” she warned.

Ron Kean, a poultry advisor for in Madison, Wis., said members of the group considered themselves the chicken underground until pushing the city to legalize urban chicken ownership in 2005.

Kean said those who think they will be able to reduce their grocery budget are in for a surprise.

“I have not talked to anybody who did this who said it saved them money,” Kean said. Still, he added, “I would encourage it.”

Hall noted that a common question is what to do with a chicken too old to produce eggs.

“Do you keep it as a pet? Do you run a chicken retirement home?” Hall, who has six chickens, asked. “It’s important not to jump into it too fast.”