With the growing trend of greener, healthier living and self-sustainability, backyard mini farms are becoming much more popular. While those living in urban settings are finding new, creative ways to grow fruit, vegetables and greens, the popularity of backyard chickens is also on the rise. This is forcing municipalities to look at old ordinances regarding keeping chickens in smaller, urban spaces. In response to the popularity and public interest, many cities are choosing to modify or amend previous ordinances to support those wanting to raise backyard chickens.
Nebraska City, Neb.
The idea for backyard chickens in Nebraska City came from a student researching ordinances for a school project. “The idea for changing the ordinance pertaining to chickens was presented to the city council by an ambitious 10-year-old girl who wanted to raise chickens for a school project,” Randy Dunster, the city’s clerk-treasurer, stated. “But realized as she began her research that she didn’t have the required 100 feet of property to keep chickens in her backyard as required by the existing ordinance.”
In her research Tiger Lily Weaver, the ambitious 10-year-old in question, studied other city ordinances and presented the city council with suggestions for modifications to the existing ordinance, which would allow residents to raise chickens in a smaller space. As the original ordinance only allowed the resident to keep chickens if the enclosure was a minimum of 100 feet from any dwelling, the city council organized a committee to explore their options and draft a possible revision to the ordinance.
“Initially the requested number of hens allowed was six or seven to follow Ashland, Neb.’s, ordinance, but Commissioner (Vic) Johns thought that would be too many to start with and suggested a maximum of two hens,” Dunster explained. However, another citizen informed the council of the pecking order in flocks of chickens and warned them of potential dangers to introducing a young chicken to a flock. Dunster continued, “With that consideration, Commissioner Johns amended his motion to allow a maximum of four hens and made the statement that, if there was enough demand for the limit to be increased, the council would entertain amending the ordinance in the future.”
The required three readings were completed for the modified ordinance on backyard chickens and was passed on Jan. 7.
“The new ordinance maintains the prior requirements but makes an exception with restrictions for families to raise a maximum of four hens, no roosters, as long as the hens are enclosed in a backyard coop with specified dimensions and can be kept a minimum of 40 feet from the neighbor’s dwellings and 10 feet from the property line,” Dunster described. “They must also obtain a backyard chicken license from city hall for $10 a year and abide by the requirements of the ordinance.”
Tiger Lily was presented with the very first backyard chicken license. While this license does not require inspections, code enforcement will investigate any complaints. If the owner is not following the ordinance requirements, they can be cited for code violations. Dunster reported, “Since the passage of the ordinance, we have sold three licenses and haven’t had any issues or complaints to date.”
Continue on Page 2…