Fenton Hatches Proposal to Allow Keeping Chickens
Council debates number of hens and roofing outdoor pens; Planning Commission and city attorney to review proposed ordinance.
Fenton is hatching a new ordinance that would allow chicken keeping in some residential areas of the city. Council discussed a proposed ordinance at Monday's work session, and the proposal will now go to the Planning Commission and city attorney for their input, City Manager Lynn Markland said.
Zoning Administrator Brad Hissong said he's been in business for 40 years, and it's the first time he's dealt with chickens. He and city planning consultant Carmine Avantini, with the city attorney's review, developed a proposed ordinance.
Other Michigan cities have ordinances allowing the keeping of chickens, Avantini said. Fenton's proposal would allow chicken keeping for detached single family houses, in single family residential areas. In addition, the chicken coops would be at least 25 feet from neighboring homes and 10 feet from property lines.
Most lots in Fenton are 60 feet wide and 120 feet long, said Councilman Les Bland.
In response to a resident's comment about some people not being able to keep chickens, Councilman Ben Smith said the proposed ordinance does prohibit some people from having chickens. Smith lives on a corner lot, for example, and couldn't keep chickens because they couldn't be hidden from view.
A few residents who attended the work session said they favor allowing people to keep chickens. Karen Price said she was upset when she moved to Fenton, because she couldn't take her chickens. Her favorite chicken, Reba, took naps with her on a hammock.
Price was excited to hear the city might allow chickens, and wants to be a voice of encouragement, she said. She finds chickens delightful, and she'd rather deal with chicken feces to keep her garden fertilized than dog feces on the sidewalk in front of her house.
Resident Malissa Bossardet has asked city officials to allow her to keep her chickens, on South Adelaide Street. The animals supply fresh, organic eggs for her family, Bossardet has said. In February, council asked city administration for a proposed ordinance on the keeping of chickens in certain residential areas. If the ordinance is approved, those who would like to keep chickens will need a building permit from the city, said Hissong. This will ensure people build their chicken coops from materials that blend in with the neighborhood, and not car tires and doors, for example, he said.
The number of chickens allowed, amount of distance from neighboring homes and property lines and whether to place roofs over outdoor chicken runs are key issues council discussed. The proposed ordinance suggested three chickens. In addition, it said outdoor areas for the chickens to run in must have a roof overhead, to prevent rain from washing chicken feces into the soil. This would avoid any odor issues, Hissong said.
Bossardet said she disagrees about the solid roof over a chicken run. It would be cruel not to allow the birds to have sunlight. In addition, she said chickens are very social animals and like to flock, so it would be more reasonable to allow five instead of three.
Her daughter, Olivia Bossardet, said the Tractor Supply Company in Fenton, which sells baby chicks, sells them in groups of six. That's because the chicks need others to keep them warm.
Council members differed in their opinions. Mayor Sue Osborn and Mayor Pro Tem Cheryl King each said they support allowing three chickens, with a covered run. In addition, King said the city does not allow people to sell eggs from their chickens.
Bland said he isn't in favor of covered chicken runs, so the chickens can feel the sun. He supports allowing three to five birds.
Councilwoman Patricia Lockwood said she supports three chickens, because the ordinance is new. It should be a little restricted in the beginning, she said. And she believes the runs shouldn't be covered.
Councilman Brad Jacob said he supports allowing at least five chickens. Smith said he believes three isn't enough, so four or maybe five is right. And a covered run doesn't make sense to him. Councilman Michael Piacentini said five chickens and an uncovered run are his preferences for the ordinance.
Osborn said the proposed ordinance was set up to allow residents to have chickens while making sure their neighbors, who might not want chickens, are protected.
The proposed ordinance, as originally written, says:
* A maximum of three chickens.
* No roosters.
* No slaughtering.
* A minimum of 4 square feet of coop per chicken.
* Clean, dry and odor-free.
* No coops in a side or front yard, and at least 25 feet from any neighboring home and 10 feet from any property line.
* For single family detached homes, in single family residential neighborhoods.
* Chicken owners would obtain a permit annually from the city, to ensure continued compliance. Any private restrictions, such as neighborhood association by-laws that prohibit chickens, apply.
Source: City of Fenton