The Cambridge City Council amended the city’s zoning ordinance in November 2023 to make henkeeping legal in Cambridge. As part of the zoning ordinance, regulations were promulgated by the Cambridge Public Health Department to govern the practice of henkeeping. View the regulations

The Cambridge Public Health Department requires all persons intending to keep hens to apply for a permit. Permits will be issued and renewed annually.

The purpose of the regulations is to ensure that persons involved in the keeping of hens meet minimum standards to maintain health of hens, prevent transmission of avian-borne disease, and exclude pests. 


Anyone who would like to keep hens in Cambridge—or is currently keeping hens—must apply for a henkeeping permit from the Cambridge Public Health Department. The permit application requirements include:

  • Name and contact information
  • Drawing or diagram of the lot as proposed (hand-drawn or digital)
  • Description of the hen house and hun run structures
  • Manure and pest management plans
  • Signed consent of the property owner
  • Documentation that abutters have been notified of intent to keep hens
  • The proposed number of hens to be kept


Massachusetts has been dealing with an ongoing outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A (HPAI) H5N1 virus since early 2022. This same virus, commonly known as bird flu, is affecting wild and domestic bird populations in other states across the country. Henkeepers should take steps to protect themselves and their flock from exposure to HPAI and other infectious agents spread by poultry. 


Updated: May 28, 2024