Trying to Get Answers
We have heard a lot of hearsay and rumors about keeping Chickens and Bees in Miami-Dade County and no one seems to know the full story including Miami-Dade County Employees.
Chickens and Bees in an Urban Backyard
Anyone who has grown up in Miami, has more than once seen chickens and roosters crossing the roads in the middle of the city. So much so, that Miami had to reinstate the Chicken Busters after they had been "eliminated three years ago in a round of budget cuts".
But when I dared ask about the legality of keeping chickens, everyone I asked had a different story:
- You can have up to 15 Hens
- You can have up to 4 Hens but no Roosters
- You can't have them at all
The stories for keeping bees aren't much clearer. Most reactions run the gamut between fear and awe.
Recently, I was advised to call 311 and get to the bottom of the story ... and so the odyssey begins.
When the phone was answered, I started with a polite "Good afternoon" as I expect I will get further being nice than by being rude. I must have unsettled the person on the phone. I continued and said "I am interested in getting more information on having Backyard Chickens". It's not a usual question so I wasn't surprised when she asked me to repeat myself. "I am interested in knowing the regulations for keeping chickens in your backyard"
"They're not allowed" she stated as if she was letting me know the sky was blue and I should have known.
"Well, I am getting contradicting information from different sources," I began to explain. "I have heard that you can have 15 chickens, or 4 hens as long as you don't have a rooster, or that you can't have them at all so I just wanted to get to the bottom of the story."
I think she took offense because she took a tone of exasperation and I assume pulled up the regulation which she read verbatim: "Tenants and homeowners that reside in a residential zoning district cannot raise or breed chickens, livestock or maintain beehives."
I continued to ask if this had changed recently as I had seen documents online that said they were allowed.
You can view the full document here.
She said she didn't know but did offer that Code Enforcement might know more and to call them at (786) 315-2552.
Before I hung up, I thought to ask if she knew anything about keeping bees and that if she knew about the recent Florida law, but again she directed me to Code Enforcement as they would have more information.
Calling Code Enforcement
I called Code Enforcement and was briefly kept on hold before an exhausted Miami-Dade County Employee answered the phone. Her voice exuded a lack of patience and interest that called forth pity rather than dismay.
I made a point of being as pleasant as possible as it sounded like she had suffered some terrible calamity as I began, "Hello, I am interested in knowing the regulations for Backyard Chickens?"
"Chickens are not allowed in a Residential Area" the technician stated dryly.
I continued, "Could you tell me when this changed because I found that ..."
I will assume we had phone issues and not that the technician from Miami-Dade County Code Enforcement, who is paid by my tax dollars to be available to answer questions and assist county residents, hung up blatantly in face.
Calling Code Enforcement, again
So I called again.
This time, I started by introducing my self and getting the persons name. She said that in the 20 years she had worked at Code Enforcement Chickens had never been allowed but to check on municode.com to confirm.
I continued to ask if she knew if homeowners could keep Beehives.
"If there is a beehive the homeowner has to have it removed" she replied.
"No, I mean like a beekeeper." I clarified.
"Like a business? Not if it's a residential area" she asked and answered.
"Not even under Cottage Law?" I pressed.
Keeping Urban Bees
She had not heard about Cottage Law so I explained that Florida Law allowed food sales out of the home as long as those sales did not surpass $15,000 in income.
I think I confused her because her story changed a little. "Like a home office, yes, that's allowed"
I asked her if we didn't find anything on municode.com if we should assume it wasn't allowed.
"... zoning ordinances in Miami-Dade are exclusionary codes, meaning if something is not permitted, as in this case of the single-family residential district zoning ordinance (Chapter 33, Article XIV of Miami-Dade ordinances), it is not allowed."
She said she had never heard of that, so I read her the above excerpt.
"Well there you go" she responded.
I thanked her for her time and let her go as I knew she would not be able to provide me the answers I am looking for.
I am no less confused and don't feel that anyone I have spoken to as of yet has held enough of an understanding or interest in my question to answer me fully.
I am now reaching out to our Commissioners about our illegal potted plants and trying to get answers about chickens in Miami and backyard beekeeping.