Friday, July 17, 2009

City of Baraboo to Allow Chickens!

Taken from the Baraboo News Republic
July 17, 2009

Chickens scratch out a living here: Baraboo City Council has a change of heart

By Brian D. Bridgeford / News Republic

A permit is required and neighbors can veto coops in some circumstances, but a city ordinance allowing up to six backyard chickens won preliminary approval Tuesday with three alderpersons voting in opposition.

Local chicken advocates Lydia Scott and Maia Persche appeared before the Baraboo City Council to make their case for a proposed ordinance allowing people in single-family homes in the city’s R-1 and R-1a zoning districts to raise chickens in their backyard. The ordinance requires urban chicken farmers to have a predator-proof, city-approved coop and space for the chickens to run. Owners cannot have roosters and their crowing on the property and cannot slaughter chickens in the residential zone, the ordinance states.

An unusually large crowd of about 40 people packed the City Council Chambers and it appeared most of them were there to support the girls and their chicken crusade.

"Chickens provide a great source of eggs, local and organic, and maybe even meat if you choose to have your chickens butchered," Persche said. "Daily collection of eggs does remind owners that food comes from the earth or animals, not stores."

Persche added that chickens in the garden feed themselves on bugs and young weeds,

Scott said with an insulated chicken coop there are hardy breeds of chickens which do quite well through Wisconsin winters.

"Chickens are wonderful pets," Scott said. "They are quiet, require little attention and can be quite clean if properly cared for."

Several people spoke in support of the proposed ordinance.

Baraboo resident Liz Nevers displayed to council members two plush chicken dolls she said were about the size of the poultry local residents would be using. She said she lived on a farm all her life and loved raising chickens to have fresh eggs and meat.

"Having raised hens I can say they are very quiet," she said. "Six hens will be quieter than my dachshunds,, either one of them. You don’t have to worry about rabies. You don’t have to worry about chicken bites. ... Or any of the problems you have with dogs and cats," Nevers said.

International Crane Foundation veterinarian Barry Hartup said small flocks of backyard chickens do not represent a threat of disease to the public. He noted the rare avian flu that has flared up from time to time in Asian countries has not been found in the United States.

"The current ordinance, I believe, poses little risk of disease to owners, neighbors or other pets," he said. "The threat of unusual diseases is more likely with animals kept at higher densities, such as commercial farms, than the few chickens proposed in this ordinance."

When it came to debate in the council, Alderman Phil Wedekind said he can remember back to the 1930s when chicken coops were common in Baraboo backyards and it was not all good.

"They were messy and people had chicken coops that were lean-tos on buildings and chickens in their basements," he said. "I don’t know if I want to go back to that."

Wedekind noted a provision of the ordinance that prohibits a person from getting a permit for chickens if 50 percent of neighbors notify the city they oppose the permit. He suggested the owner of any property that shares a lot line with the person wanting to raise chickens should have a veto on the permit.

Before the final vote on the ordinance Wedekind’s proposal for an absolute veto by an adjacent property owner was considered, then defeated.

Aldermen Tom Kolb and Brett Topham both said they originally had a lot of questions about whether Baraboo should have backyard chickens. However, after communicating back and forth with the two young advocates to hash out some compromises, they felt the ordinance should go ahead.

"They seem to be responsible people," Kolb said. "We’ll also have animal control officers going in there and inspecting."

"I honestly do believe that the concerns my constituents have been expressing have been put to rest," Topham said. "I believe we need to give this a shot."

The chicken ordinance won approval with Wedekind and Alderwoman Karla Vale voting in opposition.

Vale said she was disappointed there were not more people who spoke against the proposal. She said she has concerns that range from chicken feathers sparking allergy flare-up for some neighbors of coops to more foxes being attracted into Baraboo to youngsters losing interest and abandoning their birds.

"Most of the people I have talked to are against it for the reasons that I have said, the allergies, the disease, foxes, the lack of interest," she said. "I got to do what my people in my area are voicing to me."

Because it is a change in city ordinances, the permit allowing chicken coops must win approval at a second council meeting, likely at the next meeting July 28.

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