Township committee passes backyard hen ordinance

Residents can apply for one of 30 licenses now available

At its meeting early last month, the Voorhees Township Committee passed an ordinance that allows residents to apply for licenses for backyard hens on their properties, something not previously allowed in all areas.

According to Emily Morgan, board chair of the Hen Advisory Board, the township previously allowed residents in some areas to own chickens if they owned a minimum area of land. The new ordinance widens license access.

According to information provided by Voorhees Township, 30 hen licenses are now available once residents apply. Each one costs $10 and lasts one year, after which a reapplication is necessary. Residents who are granted licenses are precluded from having roosters and must have a maximum of eight hens at one time.

Morgan believes greater support for an ordinance in recent weeks is in part due to residents who want to grow their own food in some capacity. While backyard gardens have become a hot topic in recent years, the ability to have your own eggs is also an appealing aspect..

“I think because of COVID-19, people are looking to be able to secure their food in different ways than they may have been able to in the past,” Morgan explained. “Voorhees took a very progressive stance on allowing this change to be made to the ordinance.”

As board chair, Morgan and the other members of the Hen Advisory Board will review all applications and will also receive and review complaints and standards for those who  have licenses throughout the year.

In order to receive a license, residents must attend a class by Camden County Chickens. After registration, they can then apply for the license with the township.

Due to COVID, the classes are currently virtual and license applications are still being finalized. As a result, Morgan is unsure when applications can be filled out.

Anyone seriously interested in owning backyard hens should register for classes at as quickly as possible.

“At this time, we’re unsure when people can start applying, but the first thing people should do is sign up to attend the chicken class, because that’s one of the main criteria to get the license,” Morgan said.

Further information on backyard hen requirements, including hen accommodations and what spacing will be permitted from neighbors’ yards, can be obtained from Voorhees Township.