City Hall to consider urban chickens once again

Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print
Elliot Hughes
August 14, 2015

JANESVILLE -- Janesville is again considering allowing chickens to join the ranks of dogs, cats and rabbits as inner-city backyard fauna.

Janesville City Council members Sam Liebert and Kay Deupree are sponsoring an ordinance proposal that would allow individuals living on a single-family residential property to raise up to six chickens in a coop or run.

The proposal will begin working its way through city government when the plan commission considers it at 6:30 p.m. Monday, followed by the Sustainable Janesville Committee at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, both at City Hall.

The proposal comes more than five years after the council last considered a similar, but less detailed, proposal that drew a large, vocal turnout from the public at City Hall, including one supporter dressed in a chicken outfit.

When the proposal first appeared on the city council agenda in late July so it could be referred to the two committees, several eager members of the public showed up to speak their positions.

But Liebert isn't expecting as much commotion this time around.

“Half a decade has gone by, and a number of communities have done it successfully,” he said.

He supports the idea as a sustainable practice and for the educational opportunities it offers to 4-H members.

“I think ultimately it will pass,” he said

The regulations the proposed ordinance set out include:

-- Individuals living in a single-family residential property could construct a chicken coop or run in the rear yard area of a residential dwelling. A newly-built or installed coop could not exceed 24 square feet, while a run could not exceed 40 square feet or 1 percent of the yard area, whichever is greater. In no instance could the run exceed 100 square feet.

-- Those interested in housing chickens in a coop or run would apply for a “residential chicken premises permit” and pay $50. If an applicant is not the property owner, the owner would be required to sign the application, certifying approval.

-- A household could keep up to six hens but no roosters. Nobody could slaughter chickens in the city, other than a licensed meat processing facility.

-- A coop would have to be at least 10 feet from the rear wall of the residential building. Neither the coop or run could be within 10 feet of any property boundary or within 18 feet any principal structure located upon any adjacent property. It would have to be maintained as a clean and humane environment for the chickens.

-- An inspector could enter the rear yard of a residential lot at any reasonable time to determine if a property is in compliance.

The proposed ordinance contains almost three times as much text as the one that circulated City Hall in 2010.

Under the 2010 proposal, up to four chickens could be kept on any kind of property, as long as the coop or run was 25 feet away from all other buildings, other than the one owned or occupied by the interested party.

It also did not define any kind of application or permit process.

“I think anybody who's serious about wanting to do this, they're going to have to be serious because of the way this particular ordinance has been written,” Deupree said.

In 2010, the city's plan commission unanimously voted against recommending the ordinance, and the city council voted 5-2 in opposition. Only one person from that time, Kathy Voskuil on the plan commission, will be around to consider the new proposal.

City officials passed on the 2010 proposal because some felt:

-- Chickens kept in poor conditions would emit a fowl smell and possibly attract vermin.

-- Inspections may create a burden to city staff.

-- A city is not an appropriate place for poultry.

According to city documents from 2010, officials did not find any evidence that chickens would impact property values.

Urban farming has become more popular across the country in recent years as some consumers become more aware about where their food comes from and wish to take a more self-sustaining approach.

Other nearby communities, including Madison, Stoughton, Delavan, Whitewater, Darien, Jefferson, Fort Atkinson, Beloit and Cambridge, allow residents to raise chickens, according to past Gazette reports.

Share on Facebook Comments Comments Print Print