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Much ado about clucking, chicken fans flock to city meeting

Staff writer

Chicken supporters flocked to Monday’s city council meeting to crow about the benefits of keeping chickens, before council members debated an ordinance that would have limited chickens to six and the location of their housing on Marion property.

For weeks, council members have grappled with the issue of keeping chickens in city limits. The debate began after a citizen appeared a month ago to complain about his neighbor’s property and the mess made by the chickens there, as well as dogs running loose. Two weeks later the neighbor came to answer for the condition of his property and pointed out that city ordinance permits keeping the number of chickens he owns.

Current city ordinance has been reviewed, debated, amendments proposed and debated, and sent back to the city attorney for further amendments.

Monday night, as the again-amended ordinance was on the agenda for review and action, the room was packed with spectators, several of whom had a thing or two to point out.

Jeremy Ensey told council members his family of five also has chickens on their half-acre lot.

“My daughter every morning goes out religiously and feeds them, waters them, and collects the eggs,” Ensey said.

Ensey said the family keeps 10 chickens near the back of the property – two per person. The only issue that has arisen is that a chicken got out and was scratching in a neighbor’s garden, and the family promptly resolved the problem.

“It depends upon how you manage your chickens,” Ensey said.

Ensey cited chicken ordinances in larger communities where the size of the household flock is permitted to be larger than Marion’s recent proposals for six chickens.

“Here’s these urban areas that are moving towards chickens, and here we are, a rural area, and considering not allowing them,” Ensey said.

“I cannot believe you would not allow good things like chickens,” said Margaret Wilson.

Wilson said she’s involved with Circles of Marion County, which tries to teach people self-sufficient ways to live. Neighbors of hers found themselves raising five grandchildren.

“They need those chickens to feed their family,” Wilson said.

Margo Yates, city parks and rec director, suggested removing three clauses from the proposed ordinance to resolve the issue.

Sharon James said that a chicken is no different from any other animal.

“It’s about how you manage that animal,” she said. “On the farm, we used to butcher 100 chickens a year along with ducks and geese.”

Rocky Hett told the council that he lives in a neighborhood where chickens are kept, and he likes them.

“I like the chickens, especially when I get eggs,” Hett said.

Mayor Todd Heitschmidt said the council needed to pass something to settle the issue.

“Maybe too often the minority ruins things for the majority,” Heitschmidt said.

He moved to amend the ordinance to read that a family can keep no more than 20 chickens that must be housed no closer than 50 feet from other residences or buildings and in the back of the owner’s property.

The motion passed by unanimous vote.

Last modified May 12, 2016

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