The Birds and the Bees: Coastal Virginia Ordinances On Keeping Critters

In recent years there has been a flurry of changes in local ordinances thanks to backyard hobbyists who want to tend critters that yield delicious dividends. Among the most popular are chickens and honeybees, and Coastal Virginia’s outlying counties generally permit these pastimes. For those with an eye for urban homesteading, though, there’s good news, too—the region’s eight cities have come around in recent years.

Always check the ordinances where you live because there are lots specific rules governing the types of animals in your care. For instance, cities often permit hens (female chickens, which lay eggs) but not roosters (males, which crow at the crack of dawn). And in many cases, homeowners’ association regulations banning these animals trump more lenient city codes. But as the list here shows, Coastal Virginia cities are, by and large, chicken and bee-friendly.



-Bee hives are permitted in the city’s rural areas, along with single-family and two-family residential districts.

-Most residents in residential areas may keep six or fewer hens with a well-maintained coop.



-Hampton’s municipal code is mum on beekeeping, suggesting it’s a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.

-Hamptoners in residential areas may keep up to six hens after obtaining a permit from the city.


Newport News

-Beehives are allowed in single-family residential districts as long as the beekeepers aren’t running a commercial operation.

-Homeowners with smaller yards can apply for a permit to keep six hens, while those with larger properties have no such limits on numbers or gender.



-Norfolk joined Chesapeake in 2013 in allowing beehives on residential property.

-Residents with at least a 5,000-square-foot lot can be granted a permit from the city to keep up to six hens.



-Portsmouth’s city code is silent on the subject of bees, meaning that a well-maintained home apiary probably wouldn’t create unwanted buzz.

-Like in neighboring Norfolk, residents with 5,000 square feet of property or more can get a permit to keep six hens.



-Beehives may be kept anywhere in the city, including in residential zones.

-While chickens are fine to keep in Suffolk’s vast rural stretches, residents of the neighborhoods of the northern part of the city can’t have them at all.


Virginia Beach

-Bees aren’t addressed with great clarity in Virginia Beach’s city ordinances, and the prevailing wisdom is that they’re considered much the same way pets are, meaning if poor stewardship allows them become a nuisance for neighbors, officials will get involved.

-Unfortunately, citizens living in residential areas are still not permitted to keep chickens, although there have been reports of renegades secretly running “afowl” of the law.



-Williamsburg's city code is silent on bees, and many hobbyists keep them for honey in the historic city.

-Chickens are permitted within city limits as long as they are confined in a well-kept coop.

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