Chicken done right in city limits will offer fresh eggs, an opportunity for children to raise pets, and a reduction in unwanted bugs among other benefits, proponents of an urban agriculture ordinance told Casper City Council on Tuesday.
Chickens will be no more of a problem with their odors and noise than dogs and cats, they won't burden city agencies such as Metro Animal Services, and they won't attract any more predators than are already here, they said during a public hearing.
Bullfeathers, critics said.
"We live in the city limits," Bonnie Foster said. "If I wanted chickens, I'd live in the county."
City council approved the proposed ordinance on a 5-2 vote. Those voting in favor were Mayor Charlie Powell, Vice Mayor Daniel Sandoval, Shawn Johnson, Robin Mundell and Bob Hopkins. Steve Cathey and Craig Hedquist voted no. Council members Kenyne Schlager and Ray Pacheco were absent.
Before the public hearing, City Manager John Patterson told the council that changing the ordinance about certain birds including chickens and turkeys came as a result of a citizen-driven initiative.
If approved on third reading, the ordinance would limit the number of only hens to six on a residential property, generally ban roosters and hybrids, require enclosed and predator-resistant coops no larger than 60 square feet, require cleaning, prohibit butchering, and not override covenants of homeowner associations.
During the public hearing, Sharla Norvelle said chickens won't fly onto roofs, and the limited number allowed by the ordinance won't cause problems. They like to be picked up and held. And they offer children who want to raise them for a 4-H project the opportunity to learn responsibility.
Norvelle acknowledged some people won't care for chickens like they should, she said. "You're always going to have bad pet owners."
Debbie Reddy, who has been working for five years for a chicken ordinance, said she contacted animal control departments in cities in the Rocky Mountain Region to learn about their experiences.
In Denver, Reddy said the city received 36,000 complaints about animals and only 13 were about chickens.
But Foster wasn't persuaded by the arguments.
She grew up on a farm that had 30 to 40 chickens and knows about the smell they create.
Foster also cited the ongoing effort to allow bees
within city limits. "Bees, then chickens. What's next? Pigs?"
Chicken critic Mike Reid referred to the proposed ordinance itself that states, "when properly regulated, the keeping of chicken hens does not cause a public nuisance to any greater extent than the keeping of other domestic pets...."
The ordinance would regulate the number of chickens, the size of the coop and the necessity of keeping it clean, and other matters, Reid said. "Who's going to check all that?"
Hedquist agreed, saying no one will be checking on chickens.
Reid said getting the city to respond to dog problems takes a long time, and adding chickens will make the response time to complaints even worse.
Patterson responded that city departments respond to issues on a complaint basis because it cannot afford to patrol neighborhoods for problems.
"You go where the need is," Patterson said.