San Diego Urban Livestock Farming Regulations and Tips

Urban Farming in San Diego with livestock

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Ever dreamed of having chickens and goats in your backyard? If you're aspiring to be more self-sustainable with the food you put in your body, you'll be excited to learn that urban farming in San Diego is something you can do if your property meets the right restrictions. 

Updated Ordinance Makes Urban Farming Attainable

Urban farming is the term coined to refer to raising a small farm of produce and livestock in your own backyard in a residential area. In 2012, San Diego passed an ordinance that makes it much easier for residents of the city to start their own urban farm with animals, but many San Diegans still aren't aware this option now exists. Prior to the new regulations being passed, there were strict setback laws that made it impossible for most homeowners to raise their own livestock. Setback laws dictate the distance the enclosures for livestock (chicken coop, goat pen or beehive) must be from any property lines or residences, including the owners.

New Livestock Setback Laws for Urban Farming

Now the distances for setback laws have been decreased and the new guidelines for urban farming are as follows:

  • Chickens: Want daily fresh eggs? Those who live on a lot zoned as a single-family home in San Diego can now own up to five chickens with no setback requirement from the onsite house, though the chicken coop must be five feet from any property lines. The chicken coop must be well-ventilated with room for the chickens to easily move around. Residents with larger properties who can keep the chicken coop 15 feet away from property lines can have up to 15 chickens. Residents may only have hens; no roosters.
  • Goats: Residents who live on a single-family home lot can have two de-horned miniature goats on their property in order to make their own milk and cheese. Regulations deem that all owners must have a pair of goats since they are companionable animals. If males are kept, they need to be neutered. The goat's enclosure must be a minimum area of 400 square feet and fencing must be five feet tall. The enclosure has to be built to protect from predators and be watertight and draft free. In addition, the goat pen needs to be ventilated and a minimum of five feet from side property lines and 13 feet from the rear property line.
  • Bees: Those looking to make their own honey can now own up to two beehives on single-family homes as long as they're 30 feet away from any offsite residences and facing away from the residences. The beehive must have a six-foot-tall screen that keeps the hive protected plus provides protection for any members of the public who come within proximity of the beehive. Specific properties in San Diego may have different setback rules, so check your address for zoning requirements before starting.

Why Become an Urban Farmer?

People are rapidly adopting the urban farming lifestyle due to the health benefits. Knowing exactly where their produce, eggs, and milk come from puts many at ease in regard to what they're putting into their body. For those concerned about animal conditions, it can put their mind to rest knowing that the products coming from their animals are truly free-range and organic. Families with children also see urban farming as a way to teach young children responsibility and the joys of farming -- a way of life most children today don't otherwise get to experience.

Where to Start

Proper planning is necessary for urban farming to make sure the setback requirements and other regulations are met. If you're unsure where or how to begin and need extra help, the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute is a great resource and offers courses and workshops. To obtain your livestock, look into auctions and local breeders that specialize in farm animals. Check the San Diego Reader and Craigslist for breeders and be sure to ask for references before adopting any animals.

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