Club seeks to make backyard chickens legal in Winter Garden

The Winter Garden Chicken Club wants to make backyard chickens legal in Winter Garden and hopes to dispel foul perceptions of the egg-producing birds.

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  • | 1:00 p.m. February 25, 2016
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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WINTER GARDEN Two years ago, a student in Julia Ugartechea’s kindergarten class stumbled across a picture of a peach in a book she was reading. The girl asked Ugartechea what it was a picture of, and Ugartechea told her it was peach. 

“Don’t those come in plastic cups?” was the girl’s response. 

The incident made Ugartechea realize the importance of teaching children about the origins of their food.

“In children’s minds nowadays, unless they’re taught or told from experience where food comes from, they just think it comes from Publix in a plastic container,” Ugartechea said. 

The hope to educate people, especially children, about where their food comes from is one of the driving forces for the Winter Garden Chicken Club, started by Jessica Stone and her three children — Emily, 6; Madelynn, 9; and Dallas, 2. The group hopes to make it legal to keep backyard chickens — sometimes referred to as urban chickens — in Winter Garden. 

Neither Stone nor Ugartechea grew up raising chickens, but that doesn’t lessen their desire to raise them now. 

“I just think it would be really fun and educational for my kids,” Stone said.

She became interested in raising chickens when she moved to a home in Winter Garden that was not in a homeowners association. When she began to explore the ordinances in Winter Garden, she found she could not raise chickens in her backyard, because the coop could not sit 100 feet away from other buildings. 

Recently, she and her family met someone who has backyard chickens. When her kids asked why they couldn’t have chickens, she couldn’t come up with a good explanation, other than the city doesn’t allow it.

She would like to raise hens rather than roosters, who get the reputation for being loud. 

She created the Winter Garden Chicken Club  and plans to attend an upcoming commission meeting to present the idea. The commissioners currently are looking into ordinances from cities that allow backyard chickens. 

Stone and Ugartechea took a class on raising chickens through the UF Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences extension office in Orange County. The Stone children also have researched facts about chickens. Chickens eat weeds in grass, slurping up grass like spaghetti. And they are comforting, just like other pets. 

“They’re soft and feathery,” said Madelynn, who is working on writing a letter to the city of Winter Garden, expressing her interest in raising chickens. 


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].


The Stones like to visit Phyllis, the chicken at the Winter Garden Feed & Seed.
The Stones like to visit Phyllis, the chicken at the Winter Garden Feed & Seed.

Cities around America are starting chicken-keeping programs. Many of these programs allow homeowners associations to supersede city rules if they do not want chickens in their neighborhood.  

Maitland has an ordinance designed to allow residents to keep backyard chickens. 

Here are the basics of the program:

  • Residents can’t raise chickens without first receiving a permit.
  • The city will grant up to 50 permits throughout the city on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • City staff will perform follow-up inspections but must provide 48-hour notice to permit holders. 
  • The lot must be single-family residential.
  • Those interested in receiving a permit must submit a building permit site plan to the community development department. It must include a scaled drawing of the proposed chicken coop and fenced pen area.
  • The coop and pen must be no more than 100 square feet. 
  • Maximum of four chickens on a lot.
  • The coop must be located in the backyard.
  • The coop must be set back at least 7.5 feet from the side and rear lot lines and a minimum of 20 feet from any side street. The coop and pen area must also be at least 25 feet from any residential structure on an adjoining lot. The setback requirements do not apply if the coop and pen abut an opaque wall that is at least 6 feet high and is on the property line. 
  • Applicants must complete the Orange County Agricultural Extension Service class on the care and raising of chickens.


West Orange County includes several municipalities, so make sure you know your ordinances before setting up your coop.

UNINCORPORATED ORANGE COUNTY: Backyard chickens are not allowed. To raise poultry, your lot must be more than 100 feet from residentially zoned districts. 

WINTER GARDEN: Chickens raised within city limits must be in a sanitary, escape-proof enclosure and more than 100 feet from the nearest building, church or house. However, the city is looking into Maitland’s ordinance, as the city has a program that allows residents to get permits to have backyard chickens. The discussion will continue at an upcoming commission meeting. 

OCOEE: You can have chickens; however, chickens, as well as fowl and other barnyard animals in residential areas, must not be a nuisance. If you receive three separate complaints from the city, the city manager or the police department in a 30-day period, the chickens are considered a nuisance.

OAKLAND: To raise chickens in a single-family residential district, you must receive a special exception from the Town of Oakland. Chickens must be securely fenced in and have a setback of 100 feet between any property lines and the building used to house the animals. The lot is required to be a minimum of 10 contiguous acres in order to keep chickens. 

TOWN OF WINDERMERE: Poultry is prohibited in all districts.



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