Allowing chickens in residential backyards in cities such as Hazel Park and Madison Heights hasn’t raised much of a squawk, and Ferndale may be next with a new fowl-friendly law.
The city Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing Sept. 14 on a revised ordinance that will permit residents to keep up to three chickens, but no roosters.
The issue in Ferndale has been marinating since earlier this year when Laura Mikulski and some other residents began pressing city officials to allow chickens and change an existing ordinance that requires chickens be kept at least 150 feet from the nearest neighbor’s property.
Given the size of residential lots in Ferndale, the current ordinance effectively bans chickens in 90 percent of city neighborhoods.
But that prohibition may soon head south.
City officials say they have been talking with their counterparts in other communities where chickens are allowed as they consider whether to allow them in Ferndale.
“I’ve spoken with Ypsilanti and Madison Heights,” said Derek Delacourt, Community and Economic Development director in Ferndale. “Each community had between 10 and 20 permits pulled (to keep chickens) and they have had few, if any, complaints.”
Ferndale is considering an ordinance that will reduce its current distance limits on chickens from nearby property owners and introduce requirements for coops to be kept in rear yards. Concerns about cleanliness, odor and attracting vermin are covered mostly by existing city laws.
Backyard chicken advocates say the birds are a natural, low-cost way to have fresh eggs and fertilizer for gardens. Keeping chickens in urban areas is a somewhat popular trend and over the past several years has cropped up in New York, San Francisco and cities in between.
“It’s a new trend and is becoming more popular,” said Ferndale City Manager April McGrath, who began her job here last month after working in Ypsilanti municipal government.
Ypsilanti changed its ordinance to allow chickens while McGrath was there in 2009.
“We went through a lot of open meetings and there were people concerned the chickens were going to be loud and dirty,” she said. “But there were about 20 people who got permits (to keep chickens) since the ordinance was changed. There were not a large amount of people wanting to do it, and there were not many complaints.”
Mayor Dave Coulter said he has been talking to people on both sides of the issue in Ferndale.
People who want to keep chickens for fresh eggs are opposed by others who worry about cleanliness and noise from the birds, he said.
“So far what I’ve discovered is that a lot of their worst fears have not come true,” Coulter said of city officials he has talked to in cities where chickens are permitted. “It seems to be working well in other communities.”
Any changes the Planning Commission makes in the city ordinance controlling fowl will ultimately have to be approved by the City Council.
Source: The Oakland Press