Friday, July 17, 2009

Mankato Chickens

Published August 25, 2008 11:09 pm by the Mankato Free Press - A proposal to allow city dwellers to raise chickens drew little immediate reaction from the Mankato City Council.

Council largely mum on chickens
Advocates propose allowing residents to keep up to six fowl

By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer


Chickens, Becky Rossow and the rest of the Mankato Chicken Coalition believe, fit just as well in the backyard as they do in the farmyard.

But the Mankato City Council, when given the chance to weigh in Monday night, well, chickened out.

“I’m looking forward to the discussion,” was all Council President Mike Laven would say.

Two notable exceptions: Charlie Hurd, who prefers chickens to cats or dogs, and Vance Stuehrenberg, who fears goats, pigs and sheep would follow chickens into the city.

The flightless fowl, long consigned to the barn in the public imagination, have become something like a standard bearer for the local food movement. Cities across the state and country are crafting ordinances to explicitly allow chickens.

The movement’s Mankato incarnation is asking the City Council to allow up to six chickens to be allowed within city limits. Roosters, they say, can be banned unless the homeowner gets written permission from neighbors.

In some cities, at least, few are crying fowl.

In Winona, where an urban chicken ordinance was passed earlier this month on a 5 to 1 vote, no one spoke at a public meeting against the ordinance, City Manager Eric Sorensen said.

“Surprisingly, therewasn’t any real public opposition,” he said.

There were, however, myriad opportunities to crack wise.

“And it’s beyond ‘Why did the chicken cross the road,’” he said. “There’s some pretty sophisticated stuff out there.”

Duluth chicken advocates had a rockier road but ended up with an ordinance after a 6 to 3 council vote on Monday night, resident Marian Syrjamake-Kuchta said. She was twice reported for having chickens in the past, and had to send them on “vacation” in the country.

The City Council there repeatedly tabled the vote, and the planning commission deadlocked at 4 to 4 on the proposal. There are also some conditions — such as a ban on using chicken manure for compost — that she finds outlandish, but they’ll endure.

It will likely be months, if ever, before Mankato families can tend their own flocks.

The city, though, was prepared for the coalition’s proposal and the task fell to a planning intern to research similar ordinances in seven other Minnesota cities.

The report found wide variations in the law, with four cities allowing roosters and three not. Permit costs ranged from $20 to $200, and one city banned slaughtering, while the rest didn’t specify.

The fluctuation reflects in part the varied motivations in the Mankato coalition, which is made up of about 10 people.

Some emphasize the environmental and health benefits of eating locally and others want to educate their children or practice breeding.

Rossow would like to teach her four-year-old daughter that food doesn’t come from a supermarket.

“They’d be fun, and eggs are a bonus,” she said.

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