So I wanted to take a moment to step back from talk of how, and why to do things and check in on something that can be a sticking point. CAN you do what you want to where you are? The lady of the house and I are fortunate that were we purchased the legal restrictions on what we can do are virtually non existent regarding what we want to do. We'd have to have a permit to have more than one unregistered vehicle on the property, and can't dump toxic waste. Shucks darn. That said where we live is considered a rural residential area and allows all agricultural, floracultural, and horticultural activities so long as they do not pollute the water supply. Our town is also kind enough to have all of the relevant information available to us on the town website. Not everywhere is so open, or so easy to find information about.
Why Bother? I'm Not Hurting Anyone!
I've heard people say that they don't see why they should have to worry about zoning for what ever they happen to be doing, because it's not hurting anyone. Alternatively no one will notice what I'm doing. Well, whether or not what you are doing is going to hurt anyone or be noticed, it's a good thing to know whether or not it is legal. Also, you'd probably be surprised if you haven't dealt with it before how much noise animals can make, and how much they smell if you are down wind. If your rooster or guinea hens start waking up your neighbors at dawn trust me, that counts as hurting someone, and people do notice the sound of even just chickens. In any case, know what and isn't legal. In many cases even if it isn't specifically ok in zoning you can get a special permit if you can show that you aren't going to be messing with the specific concerns of your town.
How Can I Check?
Start by checking your town's website. These days just about every town has a townname.gov website floating around somewhere. On some town websites you can find the town bylaws. They are not always up to date, but they are a good place to start. At the very least they tend to be fairly easily searchable. The website should also tell you where you can find and read the physical copy of the most recently approved town bylaws which is what you need to be reading to make sure you aren't in violation of anything.
I'd also recommend if things aren't clear and simple talking to the person in charge of zoning in your town. I've found that even if I don't know who to ask if I go into town hall on one of the few times it's open I can get directed to who ever I need to talk to easily. As I've said before, being polite gets you a long way with getting information.
Beyond The Permits
Talk to your neighbors. Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's a good idea to have roosters if your neighbors don't want to deal with it. You'd be amazed how far sound can carry. Telling your neighbors before you do something and working things out to be good neighbors can make a big difference. If you work with them even when you're within the law, then they're more likely to be on your side.