A chicken in every backyard?A half dozen volunteers met Tuesday to begin the process of trying to come up with a new city ordinance that would allow chickens inside city limits.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
When Planning Commission member Julie Kainu told the half dozen people gathered in the library meeting room that Tuesday’s meeting was more about gathering ideas and “getting their Ts crossed,” local chicken activist Diane Lambert couldn’t resist.
“Don’t you mean ‘all our ducks in a row?’” she asked, grinning. “Although I guess we’re not talking ducks here.”
Indeed. The only poultry on Tuesday’s informal agenda was chickens, specifically chickens raised for laying eggs – rather than for slaughter – and no roosters because of the noise (besides, they don’t lay eggs).
Girls only in the coop.
Coincidentally, it was women only at Tuesday’s meeting, which was the first committee meeting held since Lambert approached both the Cloquet City Council and the Planning Commission about changing the city ordinance forbidding farm animals on residential lots less than 10 acres in size.
Lambert, who raised chickens growing up on a hobby farm near Esko, has been researching how other Minnesota cities handled the growing demand for chickens inside city limits. Other Minnesota cities that have passed so-called “chicken ordinances” include Minneapolis, Brainerd, Maplewood, Rochester, Burnsville, St. Paul and Duluth, among others.
Why would city residents want to raise chickens?
Lambert said it shouldn’t be to save money on eggs, because the expenses normally outweigh the savings. Nor could eggs be sold legally, because they would not be pasteurized.
One of the women at the meeting admitted to the others that she already has a coop within city limits, and said her neighbors have embraced her chickens.
“They can have all the free eggs – ranging in color from yellow to chocolate brown and green – they want, plus the kids love to come down and look for the eggs,” she said, telling how she sometimes will go out and hide eggs she’s already gathered if the kids call in advance. “[Chickens] are just so personable, too,” she added. “All my girls have their own personalities.”
Kainu said she would like to see a “Chickens 101” class offered every spring, something Lambert and Spears said they would be willing to help teach. One way to attract students would be to offer $5 off the city license fee for people who had completed the class.
The lady with chickens (who asked not be identified in this story) said she would have a license if they were available, and hopes the city will give her – and the many others in town who already keep chickens on the sly – a chance to legally keep their feathered friends.
“I would love to have a license,” she said. “I don’t like to keep this a secret.”
Raising a small number of chickens for eggs is a growing trend in urban areas of the United States.
Of the cities that allow chickens, Lambert said Duluth has the most licensed coops, approximately 30. The licensing fee in Duluth is among the lowest, at $10. Maplewood was the highest, at $75 for the first year.
Kainu said she thought between $20 and $30 seemed like a fair price for licensing in Cloquet, because a coop would have to be inspected to make sure it met code requirements, plus the city would also have to pay for any other code enforcement efforts – which brought the group to probably the biggest problem with changing city code: the fact that Cloquet doesn’t have its own animal control officer. Instead, the city contracts with the Friends of Animals Humane Society for animal control services.
Other possible issues were waste management – chicken poop can be bagged and thrown away or composted (if done properly) – and vermin being attracted to unsecured coops or loose food.
All of those concerns could be addressed in the city code, Kainu said. Rather than starting from scratch, the group decided to base the proposed Cloquet code changes on Duluth’s, for the most part.
Some of the potential rules for chickens included the following, although nothing is definite yet:
+ A maximum of five chickens per coop, per property;
+ Chickens have to be provided a secure and roofed shelter that meets code requirements;
+ There would have to be a minimum of three feet of space allocated per chicken;
+ Chicken food would have to be stored in a fireproof container;